How To Start A Compost Pile | Pallet Compost Bins with Flower Food Sign

How To Compost | The Beginner’s Guide To Composting

Have you ever wanted to learn how to compost, but just didn’t know where to start? Wonder no longer, start a compost today and learn everything you need to succeed. Starting a compost is easier than you think!

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Pallet compost piles with flower food sign | how to compost

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Composting 101

Learning how to compost is a wonderful skill to have under your belt if you are a gardener or homesteader to cut down on waste and create something that is really good for your soil.

What Is Composting?

Composting is a form of waste disposal, that allows organic waste (food scraps, leaves, etc.) to decompose naturally in an oxygen-rich environment. The end result is a rich soil (often called humus) that you can use in your garden.

Why You Should Be Composting

Composting is a terrific way to minimize the waste you throw away each day, but to recycle it into something that can be used in your garden. Whether that be kitchen scraps, yard trimmings or manure, and animal bedding. This will save you money each year as you go to amend your soil or fertilize fruit trees, garden beds, or flower gardens.

Learning how to compost is an easy way to make sure you are making the most of every little scrap, and cutting down on the stuff you are throwing away.

How To Compost

The first step when it comes to how to compost is where to set up, find an out-of-the-way place to set a compost bin or pile up. We like to keep ours at the back of the orchard where it will feed our trees as the pile breaks down but is also out of sight (if you live close to neighbor’s be mindful of them and don’t put it near the property line).

Compost Bins, Piles and Tumblers

A big part of how to compost is going to depend on your setup, you can easily buy a compost bin ready-made online or at your local farm store or hardware store. We bought one years ago and it has held up really well. Another option would be to go with a compost tumbler, this takes out the work of turning your compost pile every so often because you can just spin it. You could also build a compost bin as we did (tutorial coming soon!), or simply start a pile.

How To Start A Compost

Once you’ve selected your site, and compost bin or pile it’s time to start composting! Composting is a pretty straightforward process. Basically, you are going to layer the compost material until your bin is full and then cover it with a tarp.

Before you run out and load up your compost bin there are some things you should know about when it comes to how to compost so you can set it up for success. The trick of composting is to have equal parts of green and brown waste. Green waste includes kitchen scraps and other moist material, while brown waste is things like wood shavings, dry leaves, and even newspapers. It’s important to keep a balance in your compost pile as you go because the brown waste is rich in carbon which feeds the organisms that break down the green waste.

What Can Go In Your Compost

A good rule of thumb is to go with 1 part green waste and 2 parts brown waste when you are building a compost. You can use these things to build a compost pile:

  • Lawn clippings, leaves, grass, plants, weeds, cut flowers, etc.
  • Table scraps, tea bags, seaweed, and kelp, newspapers, eggshells, coffee grounds, and filters.
  • Straw, branches, shrub prunings, pin needles, sawdust, dryer lint, corn cobs, and stalks, cardboard.
  • Manure (chicken, duck, cow, horse, etc.).

What Not To Put In Your Compost

There are a couple of things that you don’t want to add to your compost when it comes to how to compost:

  • Grease, fats, and oils (these will not break down)
  • Pet waste (from dogs or cats)
  • Disease and insect infected plants
  • Bones (will smell and can attract wild animals)

How To Compost

Start your compost on bare ground – this will allow worms and other organisms to aerate your compost and will be transferred to your garden.

Begin your compost by adding a layer of twigs or straw to the bottom – this will help with drainage and aerates the pile.

Follow that layers of green and brown waste, alternately.

Next up add manure or green manure (things like grass clippings, buckwheat, wheatgrass, and clover) to the top of your pile- this activates your compost pile.

Continue layering until your compost bin is full. Cover it with a tarp, plastic sheeting, or anything else you have.

Keep your compost pile moist, but you don’t want it to be soggy.

Turn your compost pile every few weeks to add oxygen to your compost pile.

Once your compost pile is established add new material by mixing it in instead of laying it on top.

If you notice your compost pile steaming don’t worry that is a good sign. Your compost should be between 130-150 degrees F. It takes about 30 days at 140 F to kill off any weed seeds in your compost.

How Long Does It Take To Compost

Compost breaks down over weeks to create rich soil, how long it takes to make compost depends on what you put in your compost and if you cover it. The compost is ready to use when it looks and smells like soil.

Trouble Shooting Your Compost Pile

  • If you aren’t seeing progress with your compost pile after a few weeks add more green material.
  • If your compost becomes smelly and is really wet add more brown waste to the pile and turn in more often. Break down any large pieces (like branches in your compost to help improve airflow.
  • Add garden soil to your compost if it starts to smell to mask odors. Microorganisms will also help to speed up the composting process.
  • If you have trouble with insects being attracted to your compost pile make sure you cover over any pieces of fruit.
  • Place grass clippings and leaves in thin layers to prevent matting.
  • Have a problem with raccoons in your area, the best way to keep them out is prevent their entrance. Try securing your bin with a lid.
  • More tips on how to compost.

 How To Use Homemade Compost

You can use your homemade compost in:

  • Your veggie gardens
  • Flower beds
  • Window boxes
  • Pots
  • Orchards
  • To fertilize anything in your yard
  • To make compost tea

Now you know how to compost and how to use it! We hope we answered all of your composting questions! If you have a question about how to start a compost drop them in the comments and we will try to answer them.


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