Composting 101: Beginner Composting Tips for Rookies
After leaving my parents’ home and going off to college, I have lived mostly in apartment buildings. However, these past two years I’ve had the opportunity to live in a teeny tiny yellow bungalow (hence the blog name…) with a backyard for Polly. This is Polly:
I’ve really loved having a backyard, because it has given me the opportunity to grow a small garden. I’ve had an apartment sized herb garden in the past, but my backyard has given me space to experiment a bit more with growing plants. I’m an absolute amateur when it comes to gardening but I’m enjoying learning as I go. (Side note: if you know anything about organic gardening, message me! I’d love to chat!) This year, I decided, to make my garden super extra special, I would try out composting for the first time. I thought how fantastic it would be to use fresh and natural homemade compost to provide nutrients for my plants to grow larger and stronger. It was also an added bonus that I wouldn’t have to spend money on expensive organic fertilizers.
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This year, I also started learning about the zero waste movement and realized that composting was a great way to begin reducing waste in our home. Honestly, the majority of our household waste is produce scraps from preparing plant based meals. There are a lot of different composting bin options out there, but I personally began with a tumbler composter. I was so happy when my mom bought me this tumbler composter for Christmas:
You can find this same composter on Amazon:
Which Composting System is Right for Me?
While I started composting using a backyard compost tumbler, there are many different composting systems.
You could try vermicomposting–composting with worms! I’ve always wanted to try this system. Vermicomposting will create compost more quickly, compared to a compost tumbler, thanks to our little wriggly friends.
Another option is bokashi. This is different than traditional composting. It’s basically using bacteria to break down your food scraps. This system works really well for indoor composting. You can also compost meat and dairy with bokashi, which you can’t do in a backyard tumbler.
If you have space in your backyard and the time to create a DIY compost bin, consider building a compost bin out of wood pallets. I would say the only downfall to this system is that you will need to turn your compost with a shovel regularly. If you’re not too strong, like me, this option might be a bit difficult.
Before starting my composting experiment, I read the book Let it Rot: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting (also gifted to me by my awesome mom) and checked out a couple of gardening blogs to get a handle on the proper methods for composting. I read that composting can be a bit finicky, because you have to get the proper balance of brown and green materials for it to break down and create nutrient rich soil. You want to have two thirds part brown material and one third part green material. Here’s a list of both brown and green materials you can compost:
Balance your Compost Browns & Greens!
- dry leaves
- hair/animal fur
- shredded paper bags
- cut up cardboard
- paper towels
- paper tubes
- vegetable and fruit scraps
- coffee grounds and filters
- plant trimmings
- tea bags
- egg shells
Best Composting Tips for Beginners
- Don’t compost meat, dairy products, diseased plants, fats & oils, or animal waste.
- Be sure to chop your compostable materials into small scraps for quicker decomposition.
- Turning your compost will help quicken the decomposition process by introducing air into your pile of materials.
- Your compost also needs water; keep it slightly damp but not drenched. Too much water will reduce airflow but too little will slow down decomposition.
- Living in a house of predominantly plant eaters, we tend to have a lot of green matter. Be mindful of the balance of brown and green matter in your compost. If your compost seems to wet, it could just be a disproportionate amount of green to brown matter.
- Bugs are ok! They actually help break your compost down more quickly so don’t panic if you have bugs in your composter.
- You should be able to harvest your fresh compost in about 8 months to a year.
Compost Kitchen Pail
For a while now, I’ve been using simply an old repurposed metal bucket I found in the garage to collect veggie scraps in the kitchen. I usually collect scraps all day and then take them outside in the evening to toss into my tumbler composter. However, my sweet aunt recently bought me one of these super cool kitchen compost pails and I LOVE it. I like that it has a lid, which my metal bucket did not have, and I like that it eliminates odor as well. It’s the perfect size to hold your scraps from one or two days worth of cooking. You can find this compost kitchen pail on Amazon and it’s actually really affordable. Any upcycled bucket will work just fine, but I feel extra spoiled getting to use this kitchen pail and highly recommend!
Good luck in your rookie composting adventures! I’m excited for the composted soil I will have in a few months and as importantly, I’ve really enjoyed reducing waste. A lot less has gone into the trash these past few months and will be recycled for happy, healthy plants!
Author’s Note: This blog post was originally posted in February 2015, but I’ve updated some information and want to share it with my newest Tiny Yellow Bungalow followers. Enjoy y’all! 🙂
You might also enjoy these blog posts from Tiny Yellow Bungalow!
beginner’s guide to zero waste
the hike inn: an environmentalist’s dream vacation
5 simples switches for an eco friendly kitchen
Want to see my compost bin in action?? Check out this Youtube video!
3 thoughts on “Composting 101: The Best Beginner Composting Tips”
What you are doing is amazing! I really like the make your own natural fertilizer idea! and the other thing that I love about this idea is also the fact that you are re-using your waste into something useful, instead of trowing them into the trash can. thanks for sharing!
I just started composting this year, too- with the same composter! I started in January, and one half would be ready. It has the texture and smell of good, rich compost, which is so exciting. And it couldn’t come straight a better time because my tomatoes are just not thriving. However, it is crawling, infested with fruit flies!!!! Thousands of them! You mention that bugs are okay, but I’m leery about putting compost teeming with fruit flies on my tomatoes. Do you have any recommendations? TIA!
Hi Shelly! Usually fruit flies are attracted to whatever kitchen scraps you’re adding to your pile. Try adding more brown matter to balance out the ratio of green to brown matter and it should help reduce the amount of fruit flies. Happy composting!! 🙂