Composting is nature’s process of recycling. Composting biodegrades organic waste into a rich soil known as compost. Composting is done by billions of microbes (bacteria, fungi) that digest the kitchen waste and turn into compost. I personally do not like to waste my kitchen waste and find satisfaction and happiness in converting my kitchen waste into manure. I use that organic manure for my small organic kitchen garden. By composting we can reduce the amount of garbage we needlessly send to the landfills for disposal. It keeps our city clean, preserves the soil, prevents air pollution and make this earth a better place to live. Nearly 60% or more of the daily waste generated in our households is made up of organic matter which can be easily converted into compost. Today I am sharing with you 4 ways to compost at home or how to make organic manure from kitchen waste all of which I am doing on a regular basis.
Segregate your household waste
The first step to composting is segregation of waste
I have two dustbins in my home.
One is for kitchen waste (vegetable, fruit scraps, peels, egg shells, coffee grounds etc and other organic matters).
The other one is for toxic waste (glass, plastic, medicines, wrappers, used batteries etc).
I recycle newspapers, milk covers, plastic cans and glass bottles.
Tips – You can have green color dustbin for organic waste and red one for toxic waste.
What to compost? How should I compost ?
As we have seen earlier that composting is done by billions of microbes (bacteria, fungi) that digest the kitchen waste and turn into compost. These composting microorganisms, require the correct proportion of Carbon and Nitrogen for it to do its work. Effective composting can be made with equal parts GREENS and BROWNS. Now let us move to what is GREENS and BROWNS?
Green matter = High nitrogen
Vegetable and fruit peels and scraps (except citrus fruits)
Egg shells (has to be crushed before adding)
Brown matter = High carbon
Small wood chips
Straw or hay
What not to add
Cooked food as it decays and gives a bad odour, so it is best to avoid adding it.
Meat, bones as it attracts rats and smells bad
#1. Composting Using Kambha
I am using Kambha from Daily Dump (you can buy Kambha from Dailydump.org, it comes in different shapes and colors) which comes with ready made holes and also it can be stacked and placed in a shady corner in the garden. It should be kept in the shade and should be protected from rain. You can cover it with a plastic sheet in case of heavy rain. It comes in 3 units which can be stacked one on top of the other. Unit A, Unit B, Unit C and a lid. The middle unit B is interchangeable with the top unit A. Unit A and B comes with plastic woven wire at the bottom.
The bottom Unit or Unit C is for storing the almost done compost and does not have plastic woven wire and is close at the bottom. It remains always in the bottom.
First step is preparing your Kambha
The bottom Unit C should be layered with 4 inches of dried leaves that acts like a bed for the water that gets discharged during decomposition.
Place a paper or newspaper in unit A to cover the weave. This is done to prevent waste from falling through the plastic weave to the bottom most unit C.
Then layer with dry leaves (pic below). You can also add 4 fistful of remix powder which is available in dailydump store. I did not add.
The add your organic kitchen waste. If time permits, you can shred it into smaller pieces and add as it will fasten the process of composting.
Cover it with saw dust or dry leaves. We will call this “Pile”. Every time you add your kitchen waste (greens), you have to cover it with dry leaves or saw dust (browns). Waste should not be visible. Then cover it with a newspaper (to prevent flies) and close it with a lid.
Give it a good mix using a small rake or a stick twice a week for good aeration. Add a little buttermilk or semi composted material to start off the decomposition process.
Check the moisture level every time, you mix the pile. Sprinkle a little water and mix well, if the pile is dry. Add more BROWNS, if it is wet or soggy and mix well.
Once Unit A is full, shift Unit A to the middle and bring Unit B to the top.
Start filling Unit B – follow the same process above.
When Unit B is full, empty the half done compost from Unit A to Unit C to mature. Then shift Unit A to the top and start filling it with waste following the same process above. Like this you have to interchange Unit A and Unit B. Unit C will always remain in the bottom.
It will take 2-3 months to fully compost depending on the temperature.
Once compost in Unit C is done, sieve it and use it. You can add the remains back to the Unit A or B.
A fully done compost is dark brown and smells like earth.
#2.How to compost using a plastic bucket or a pot.
You will need
Any old plastic bucket or terracotta pot
Kitchen waste and dry leaves (greens and browns)
First step is to drill two or even three rows of holes on the sides and some holes on the bottom of the bucket. Let us name this Bucket A. Keep the bucket raised off the surface so that air can circulate underneath. This will ensure aeration and proper drainage of water. Keep a tray at the bottom of the bucket to collect the water discharged during decomposition. This water is called “leachate”. It can be diluted and added to plants.
Preparing the bucket/terracotta post for composting
Line the bottom of the bucket with a layer of soil. Now add your kitchen waste (green matter) and cover it with saw dust or dry leaves (brown matter).
Add a little buttermilk or semi composted material or even a little cow dung to start off the decomposition process. Keep it covered to prevent smell and to keep off insects. You can use any old wooden board or anything to cover it.
Mix the pile once or twice a week for aeration. If you find the pile dry, sprinkle some water and mix it well. If it is soggy, add more dry leaves or saw dust and give a good mix. Make sure the pile is damp. It should not be too dry nor too wet.
Keep adding a mix of greens and browns everyday until the bucket A is full.
While Bucket A is preparing the compost, you can use another bucket (let us name it Bucket B) and repeat the same process above. Make sure to stir both Bucket A and B twice a week.
You can have a Bucket C for storing almost done compost.
It will take 45-60 days to fully compost depending on the temperature.
#3.Composting by digging a pit
If you have space in your garden or backyard, dig a small pit and follow the same process above. Keep the pit covered to keep away pests. The same rule mentioned under “maintenance for any compost bin” applies for this also. You have to maintain the correct moisture level, turn the pile for aeration, add a mix of browns and greens. You can add cow dung to start the decomposition process.
#4. Click the link to know about Composting by using a Holding Unit
MAINTENANCE FOR ANY COMPOST BIN or KAMBHA
I am practicing all the methods of composting mentioned above with success. Whatever your method of composting, the same rule applies for composting. Read below –
Microbes need 2 kinds of food to do their work. Green and Browns
Every time you add kitchen waste (greens), you should cover it with dry leaves or saw dust (browns). There should be an equal mix of green matter- (nitrogen) and brown matter (carbon) for the microorganisms to their work.
Proper aeration is ensured by turning or mixing the pile at regular intervals.
Check the moisture level every time you mix the pile. If the pile is too dry, decomposition will not take place. Sprinkle needed water and mix the pile well evenly.
If it is too wet, the pile will have lot of maggots and also the pile will stink. So maintaining the correct moisture level is important.
Tips for faster decomposition
The smaller the pieces, the faster the decomposition. So if I find time, I will shred the vegetable and fruit scraps into smaller pieces and add to the bin. Add a little buttermilk or semi composted material or even a little cow dung to start off the decomposition process. Use the organic manure/fertilizer for your plants. Let us not waste our kitchen waste and let us contribute in small ways towards reducing landfill waste, preventing air pollution and preserving the natural landscape and make this earth a safe and happy place to live. Happy Composting!!
- Composting Kitchen Waste Can Be Tricky!
- Composting is one of the simplest ways of contributing positively to waste management, and one you can easily do at home.
- Get a container
- Find your space
- Gather your waste
- Maintaining your compost bin
- How to Start Composting—& Things You Didn’t Know You Could Compost
- Why Compost In the First Place?
- What Can Go in My Compost Bin?
- Any Common Mistakes I Should Know About?
- How Do I Maintain the Balance?
- What Can I Compost That I Might Not Know About?
- Can I Compost Indoors?
- How To Start Composting At Home
- 4 Easy Steps to Start Composting Today
- Kitchen Composting: How To Compost Food Scraps From The Kitchen
- Kitchen Composting Info
- Methods for Composting Kitchen Scraps
- How to Compost Food Scraps
- Set up this simple indoor compost station that your family can use without needing to ask “what goes in here?”
- It’s easy to compost kitchen scraps
Composting Kitchen Waste Can Be Tricky!
Composting Kitchen Waste Can be Tricky
Q. I have filled three large black sealed composting bins with fruit and vegetable waste (pineapple skins, squash skins and seeds, mango & avocado skins and seeds, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc.) plus grass clippings and soil. But the material does not break down. I add water and chop up and stir the contents, but it still doesn’t break down. I can only guess that we used too much fruit and veggie waste. We don’t want to just put everything in the garbage. Your advice please, on how can we get this large amount of material to break down.
—Dan in North Augusta, South Carolina
A. This is the classic mistake of rookie composters. They read the list of things that can be put into their composters and right there it says: “kitchen waste and grass clippings”; so they fill their composters with kitchen waste and grass clippings, just like the list tells them to…
But we have yet to see a list that emphasizes the need for a majority of “dry, brown materials” like shredded fall leaves in the mix. “Green” materials like grass clippings and kitchen waste don’t really even become a significant part of the finished compost; they just provide food for the organisms that turn the ‘dry browns’ into black gold.
Revealing this unfortunate fact is not a popular stance. My Ted Talk on composting is fast approaching a million views; and whenever I check in on it I’m always surprised by the number of comments from people who claim to have made compost out of nothing but big piles of kitchen waste. It just doesn’t work that way! (BTW—if you want a more honest look at the comments, click on the little button that says ‘most recent’; I suspect that the negative guy who’s always on top might be voting for himself a couple hundred times a day….)
But many people come to composting just because they want to do the right thing with their kitchen waste; and so they pile it up. Luckily, Dan is using recycled black plastic composters with locking lids, so at least his vermin problems should be few. The only thing worse than trying to recycle kitchen waste alone in a composter is trying it in an open pile, where you wind up feeding rats, mice, raccoons and other mammalian enemies of mankind while not making good compost.
In the future, Dan needs to shred up lots of fall leaves and make those shredded leaves the bulk of his piles’ ingredients. A ratio of four parts shredded leaves to one-part green waste is ideal. As soon as the leaves start falling, you should start shredding them up every day. Either bag the shredded leaves or pile them up in an open bin so you’ll have a good amount to add to the mix every time you bring a load of garbage out to a sealed bin. A lot of shredded leaves and a little bit of garbage makes fine compost (especially if there’s lot of coffee grounds in the kitchen waste).
(And yes, the leaves must be shredded. Whole leaves take forever to break down; and you can store at least ten times as many leaves in one bag if they’re shredded first.)
Now: what should Dan do with his current crop of non-compost? It really would be a shame if he had to throw it all away.
He has a couple of options.
• Option One: If he has immediate access to dry brown materials—leftover fall leaves that didn’t get raked, cornstalks, sunflower stalks, browned-out ornamental grasses—he can shred them up and make new, more proper piles where the garbage is a minor player. (But not shredded newspaper or junk mail for the ‘dry browns’ because these materials have no nutrition value. And not wood chips or sawdust, because they take too long to break down.)
• Option two: Turn those stinky bins into giant outdoor worm composters! In most climates, worm bins are indoors only, as the specialized redworms that do the work of turning kitchen waste into wonderful soil can’t survive freezing temperatures. But several listeners in more temperate climes have written to say that they have used redworms in outdoor bins and it seems to work well.
Dan’s South Carolina weather—especially from here on out (its March as we post this informative article)—should be perfect for keeping the worms alive and active. Just try and get things finished before the temps soar up into the 90s, as redworms can’t take excessive heat either.
Big difference here from Option One: The brown material used as bedding in indoor worm bins is typically shredded newspaper as opposed to leaves. And that’s still going to be the case outdoors. I’ve tried using more ‘organic’ bedding materials like shredded leaves in my indoor bins, but the redworms clearly do their best work with shredded black and white newsprint.
Now—how exactly should Dan transmogrify his garbage dumps into worm bins?
Get a supply of ‘composting worms’—not earthworms. You can get these specialized redworms online or at hipper independent garden centers. Add some worms to each bin, cover them with, let’s say, four or five inches of shredded newsprint and then add just enough water to keep the newspaper moist. The worms will do the rest; and after a few months, Dan should have some nice compost-like worm castings to use in his garden.
In the future, be sure to collect and shred enough dry brown material as it becomes available in the fall to make sure you’ll have four parts of brown stuff on hand for every part of kitchen waste you want to recycle for the entire coming year.
Oh—and no more grass clippings in the compost! Period! Grass clippings just add more ‘green’ to piles that need ‘brown’. And they’re 10% nitrogen, which is the perfect lawn food, and should always be left on the lawn.
And if you’re in a cooler climate, get a worm bin for your kitchen waste!
Our garbage problems have become so big that TS Eliot’s famous poem, The Wasteland, could well be taken literally. As plastic sinks into oceans and landfills are choked with sanitary waste, it’s time to take responsibility for our waste and pave way for solutions. While authorities struggle with the vast amount of garbage generated daily, citizen action can go a long way in effective waste management.
Excited to make your own compost? Get your first kit at our shop, here!
Composting is one of the simplest ways of contributing positively to waste management, and one you can easily do at home.
Homemade compost for kitchen gardens. Image source:
Before we go further, what is composting? It is the process of creating compost — decayed organic matter that can be used as manure in farms and gardens. While large-scale composting is undertaken by municipal authorities, it is also extremely simple to execute at home.
You might also like: These 12-Year-Old Boys Managed to Collect & Recycle Over 1 Tonne of Dry Waste in One Month!
Many urban dwellers are hesitant to try their hand at composting primarily due to the lack of space in contemporary homes and apartments. Terraces barely hold a patch of green and a garden is a real luxury. There are also questions about odour, bugs and worms, all of which contribute to making composting seem far more complex than it really is.
If you are planning to take your first steps towards composting, here’s what you have to do.
Get a container
An indoor composting container by Eco Bin. Source: Facebook
If you are absolutely new to composting, a ready compost container will ease the preparatory process. Try aerobic composting (decomposition of organic matter via microorganisms that require oxygen) with Orbin or try Eco Bin, which incorporates Bokashi, an anaerobic Japanese method of composting.
Vijay Satish, head of business operations at Eco Bin, says, “Composting requires favourable weather conditions, and the Bokashi process is temperature-controlled. The Bokashi juice derived from the composting process enhances soil conditions greatly. Most of our users are organic farming enthusiasts
For DIY-loving waste managers, there’s always the option of creating your own bin. Pick a mid-sized to big bin — preferably with a lid — so that you can keep adding food waste and organic matter over a longer period. Drill a few holes around the container to allow air circulation. Line the lid with newspapers or add a filter to keep bugs and odour at bay.
Find your space
Indoor composting. Source: Flickr
The best places to start composting are outdoor spaces, like your terrace or roof. With sunlight and natural moisture, the compost pit is likely to function more efficiently.
When you are really strapped for space, the easiest place to start is your kitchen. Countertop composting can be started on your tabletop or sink, which in turn can be given to your local composting authorities or used as plant nutrients.
Contrary to popular opinion, having a composting unit close to your household’s rooms is no issue at all. Sheela Shah who manages Waste Wise Bangalore with her son Viren and drives waste management initiatives in her community throws light on her own experiences. “My composting unit (incidentally, a plain plastic bucket) is set up in my balcony. People sometimes worry about maggots in such units making their way into the house, but we have never faced such issues. Nor have our neighbours or guests complained,” she says.
Gather your waste
Compostable waste. Source:
The right ingredients are crucial to the success of your composting efforts. While the difference between wet and dry wastes have been established to some extent, many are still not aware of what kind of food waste goes into a compost bin. Raw foods and peels are ideal — bones, dairy, rice and wheat products can take longer to decompose and sometimes attract bugs. Uncoated paper can be added to compost bins too.
Layer your food waste with cocopeat or dry organic waste such as leaves and sawdust (from natural wood only). The cocopeat helps with enhancing the nutrient value, as do dry leaves. These can also help with odour control.
You can also use ready-to-use kits, made available by waste management startups like Daily Dump (which also offers earthenware composting containers) or local composting organisations.
Maintaining your compost bin
Image source: Flickr
An average family of four yields approximately half a kilo of food waste every day, all ready materials for a compost bin. It is an organic process and easier than you think.
“The first day may seem time-consuming, but once you get used to it, composting is as easy as making your daily cup of tea,” says Sheela. I have made it a habit to add our waste to the bin every morning, covering it with two handfuls of cocopeat and dry leaves. You can leave it as it is and go about your work and daily activities. You can even go travelling without having to worry about the bin.”
Anaerobic processes like Bokashi allow fermentation in a more controlled environment and are even simpler.
You might also like: 7 Easy Ways You Can Replace Plastic in Your Daily Life With Eco-Friendly Options
It can take a few weeks or even up to three months for composting to show results. You will get a dark, earthy, crumbling mess that can be used as fertilizer for your very own garden — or make for a conscious gift for green-thumbed family members and friends. As Sheela puts it, composting takes some getting used to but it is an incredibly rewarding experience.
Check out Eco Bin on its official website. To know more about Waste Wise Bangalore, head to their Facebook page or get in touch with Sheela and Viren here.
How to Start Composting—& Things You Didn’t Know You Could Compost
Welcome to 30 Days, 30 Ways to Green, where we’re sharing all the little (and not so little!) things we do to live eco-friendlier every day. Stick with us all month long for a lineup of handy tips—from composting do’s and don’ts to which reusable products really light up our lives.
Did you know that a third of all food produced around the world gets thrown away?
When I came across this statistic from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, it inspired me to find a way to cut back on the amount of food I toss. One path that immediately intrigued me was composting. This practice not only keeps food waste out of the landfill, but it also creates wonderfully rich soil—perfect for a plant-lover like me.
However, I didn’t know the first thing about composting—not to mention how I could do it in my apartment. So I called in an expert: Erin Rhoads, an eco-lifestyle blogger and the author of Waste Not, a guide on how to make a big difference by throwing away less.
Here’s what she had to say about all my pressing composting questions.
Why Compost In the First Place?
“When we compost organics like food, they’re no longer waste,” explains Rhoads. “Instead, they become food for soil. Our food, the unprocessed stuff, is designed to break down in soil where all types of insects, bugs, and worms will eat it up, helping return nutrients to the soil while improving its quality.”
The end result is nutrient-rich soil that your houseplants or garden will absolutely love.
Another benefit of composting is that it makes your trash less stinky—if you’re putting all of the food waste into the compost, there won’t be any rotting items in your garbage bin. Finally, composting reduces the production of a common greenhouse gas and helps minimize use of chemical fertilizers.
“Starting a compost not only cuts down rubbish sent to landfill, it’ll help cut down on methane gas, and reduce reliance on artificial fertilizers, which is another money saver,” she says. “Composting is a win-win!”
What Can Go in My Compost Bin?
According to Rhoads, compostable items are commonly broken down into “green” and “brown” categories. Green items are plant-based, wet materials, including:
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Grass clippings
- Plant trimmings
- Weeds that haven’t gone to seed
- Animal manure, but only from “vegetarians” such as cows, sheep, chickens, and rabbits
Brown items, on the other hand, are dry plant material, such as:
- Dried leaves and twigs
- Straw, hay, or corn stalks
- Paper, such as newspaper, coffee filters, or paper tableware
- Corrugated cardboard
Plus, there are some items that can’t go in your compost bin at all:
- Meat and dairy products, which can attract pests
- Fats, grease, lard, or oils
- Glossy paper or cardboard
For a more comprehensive breakdown, check out the Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.
Any Common Mistakes I Should Know About?
Composting is all about balance, and Rhoads says it can take a little practice to get it right.
“The most common mistake when it comes to composting is not maintaining a balance between the green and brown matter,” she explains. “An oversupply of the green stuff—food scraps, green leaves, grass clippings—will not break down properly. Alternately, too much brown waste, like newspaper and brown paper, brown leaves, branches and twigs, slows down the process.”
You’ll also want to keep your compost from drying out: “If your compost becomes too dry, spray lightly with water.”
How Do I Maintain the Balance?
It’s actually pretty straightforward.
“Keep the balance between green and brown by adding the same amount of both at the same time,” Rhoads recommends. “Turning your compost regularly with a shovel or compost turner promotes the circulation of oxygen. This is key to reducing funny smells, too!”
The 1:1 ratio is just a suggestion, so don’t worry too much about having exact amounts of green and brown materials. However, if you find yourself with way too much of one type, you can either hold off on adding it until you can balance it out, or simply ask a friend or neighbor if they have any materials for you.
From Our Shop
What Can I Compost That I Might Not Know About?
Don’t believe everything you hear about composting. Rhoads says there are several items people think can’t be composted, but actually can!
“There is the myth that lemon peels can’t be composted, but really they can, so long as you are not putting too much in, especially when you are using a worm farm,” she explains. “Coffee grounds can be added to the compost, as can pizza boxes, but tear them up to make it easier to break down.”
You can even compost pet waste, but you need to do it separately from your normal pile: “Hair, nail clippings and even pet fur will break down in a compost. If you have pets, consider starting a designated compost for their waste, too.” The USDA has a thorough guide on how to compost pet waste.
Can I Compost Indoors?
Not all of us have an outdoor space where we can compost—I live in an apartment, but I’d love to get in on the action.
Lucky for me, countertop composting products are becoming increasingly common, making the practice more accessible.
“I’ve seen a rise in worm farms being used indoors disguised within seats inside kitchens!” says Rhoads. “You might think it will smell, but like any compost or worm farm, once the balance is right there will be no smell.”
There are also crowdsourced composting groups, which allow you to work with your neighbors to reduce waste, like one Rhoads recommends called ShareWaste. “This is a website and app that connects people who wish to recycle their kitchen scraps with their neighbors who are already composting, worm-farming, or keeping chickens.”
Thanks to the combined efforts of almost everyone in our household, our backyard garden has been thriving this year! We’re up to our eyes in squash, tomatoes, and lots of other garden goodies. 🙂
And although we’ve had a rotating compost bin next to our garden for the past few years, this is the first year we’ve really been consistent with our composting efforts. And now that our bin is brimming with “black gold,” I can’t help but wonder why we didn’t make the effort sooner!
There are so many benefits to incorporating composting into your efforts in your garden, and it’s surprisingly easy to do! So today I thought I’d share a little bit about the benefits of composting, and share some pointers for how you can get started with it at home! 🙂
Related: 5 Things That Smart Gardeners Plant In The Fall
3 Ways That Compost Can Benefit Your Garden
Turning kitchen scraps and recyclables into compost is not only good for the planet, it can be great for your garden too! Here are a few of the ways that adding compost to your garden soil can benefit your plants.
1. It Improves Soil
Adding light and fluffy compost to your soil will improve its aeration and ability to hold water. And that means more air and water can get down to the roots of your plants!
Related: Stop! Here’s Why You Need To Keep Your Leaves This Fall
2. It Provides Nutrients
Compost is rich in nutrients that your plants need to thrive. Additionally, compost can release those nutrients over a longer period of time than many commercial fertilizers.
3. It Attracts Garden Helpers
Adding compost to your garden can attract more worms to your soil. Worms are great for gardens, as they help aerate the soil and they leave behind nutrient-rich waste. Compost also attracts and feeds healthy bacteria that can help keep plant diseases at bay!
Now that we’re all more familiar with how compost helps gardens, let’s dive right in to explore how it’s actually done! (I’ve done my best to stick to the basics here. Composting can get as complex as you’d like it to be, but it can also be as simple as following these 4 steps!)
How To Start Composting At Home
Step 1 – Get A Composter
A composting setup can be as simple as a small fenced area, but not everyone wants to look at (or smell) a pile of rotting organic material! Choosing a backyard composter can be a more visually appealing option. Our composter has two covered bins that rotate freely, which makes “stirring” the compost clean and easy! (I couldn’t find our exact model online, but this one is really similar.)
If you don’t have the yard space for a composting set up, you can always save your kitchen scraps in an indoor compost bin. When it gets full, you can either transfer the contents to your compost pile or bin, or donate them to a local composting service.
Step 2 – Build Your Layers
The process of making compost is relatively simply. It all comes down to layering two types of material: green and brown.
“Green” layer items include:
- Vegetable and fruit scraps
- Grass clippings
- Coffee grounds
- Tea bags
“Brown” layer items include:
- Dried leaves, grass, and hay
- Cardboard tubes
- Dryer lint
- Shredded newspaper
- Wool or cotton rags
The following items should not go in your composter:
- Dairy products
- Oil or grease
- Pet waste
- Onions or garlic (Worms don’t like them, and we want our compost to be worm-friendly!)
Step 3 – Care For Your Compost
Taking care of compost is simpler than I thought it would be! There are three main components involved in caring for compost: moisture, airflow, and temperature.
The ideal level of moisture in your compost pile is about the same as a wrung-out sponge: moist, but not wet. If it feels a bit dry, just sprinkle some water over it!
And to make sure your compost is getting enough airflow, you’ll want to turn it over with a garden fork every few weeks. (This is where having rotating bins really comes in handy, because you can just turn them over and call it a day!)
Temperature is the third factor you want to watch out for, because cold compost won’t do much of anything. Using a simple compost thermometer is an easy way to make sure it’s staying warm enough that everything can break down properly!
Compost Troubleshooting Tips
- If it seems like your compost isn’t progressing or changing, add more “green” material.
- If your compost is wet and smelly, add more “brown” material.
Step 4 – Use Your Finished Compost
Finally, don’t forget to use your compost! When it looks like soil, it’s ready to go into your garden. Just mix it into your soil, and your efforts are sure to pay off in “spades!”
Do you use compost in your garden?
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Hi, I’m Jillee!
I believe we should all love the place we call home and the life we live there. Since 2011, I’ve been dedicated to making One Good Thing by Jillee a reliable and trustworthy resource for modern homemakers navigating the everyday challenges of running a household. Join me as I share homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make life easier so you can enjoy it more!
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Gardening & Outdoors Homekeeping
4 Easy Steps to Start Composting Today
By Fred Berger
November 6, 2017 In Food Waste and Composting
4 Easy Steps to Start Composting Today
So you want to start composting, but not sure where to start? Good news! Composting is actually not as complicated as you think, and you can start right away.
Composting is a natural process that consists of mixing plant leaves, grass clippings, vegetable peels and organic matters and turning them in to a rich soil, known as compost.
Whether you live on a large block of land, or in a small apartment, there is a composting system that will work for you. All you need is a good composting bin and a little bit of knowledge about the process.
Step 1 – Getting started
Before you start your composting journey, you will need to first decide on the location of your compost project. You want your compost to be in a convenient location, that is protected from the wind, close to a water hose, and has a good drainage system so that the bottom of the pile does not turn soggy.
It’s a good idea to have both an indoor composting bin, and an outdoor bin. Your indoor bin must be leak proof and have a lid to avoid odours. For indoor use, we love the Ecobin Kitchen Caddy which can sit on or under your kitchen bench and collect all the food scraps from your kitchen, before being emptied in to your outdoor compost bin.
Food Waste Kitchen Caddy Compost Bin
The next step is to choose your outdoor bin. For your outdoor compost, you can either opt to create your own compost pile, by choosing a location in your backyard and simply building a pile, or using a purpose designed compost bin, or alternatively sett up a worm farm. When choosing your outdoor bin, consider how much waste you think you will produce so that you have an idea of how large you want your bin to be.
The Eco Master 300 is a tough and robust, stand-alone composter with dual hatches for easy collection of your compost.
Step 2 – What to put in your bin
Ingredients for composting can be classified into two different categories – brown and green materials. Green materials include any grass clippings, fruit & vegetable scraps or peelings, coffee grounds etc. and brown material includes dried leaves, newspaper, wood chips, sawdust etc. The brown material acts as your dry material and is rich in carbon, while your green material is usually of a high moisture content and is rich in nitrogen.
An adequate supply of both brown and green material is needed by the microbes responsible for decomposition in your composting bin. As a rule, you should mix one-part green materials to two parts brown materials.
See below for a helpful chart on what you can and can’t put in your composting bin.
|Brown||Do Not Compost|
|Vegetable and fruit scraps (fresh, cooked, or canned), coffee grounds/filters, tea leaves/bags, garden waste, fresh weeds without seeds, fresh grass clippings||Dry leaves, straw, dry hay, sawdust, woodchips, dried grass clippings, dried weeds without seeds, shredded paper napkins, tissue paper||
Meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, oily foods, bones, plants infected with disease, plastic/petroleum products, metals, synthetic materials
If you are looking to compost indoors, then investing in a SmartCara might suit you. It will turn all your food waste into a dry odourless powder that can then be sprinkled into pot plants or garden beds.
Step 3 – The Process
When your composting starts to work, it’s a really interesting thing to watch. The microbes begin feeding on the materials you’ve provided, and your bin or pile will actually start to rise in temperature.
To start building up your pile ready for the composting process there are a few things to note:
- Start your composting with a large layer of brown material as the base
- Then begin to alternate your layers between green and brown
- The smaller the waste is, the easier and faster it will break down.
- Always cover your green layer with a brown layer immediately, as it avoids any odors
To speed up the breaking-down action, you will need to turn the pile and mix the content with a pitchfork, or something similar. Just stick the fork in and “fluff” up the pile to aerate. Alternatively compost tumblers are a quick and convenient way to aerate your compost with a simple spin action.
Step 4 – Reap the Benefits
The benefits of composting are endless, and not only does it help your household and garden, but it has a big impact on the planet as well. Here are just a few benefits of composting, if you weren’t already sold on the idea.
- It improves soil structure in all soils, which then improves water retention and is great for your garden
- It nourishes the microbes that protect against some plant diseases
- It saves you money, that you no longer have to spend on purchasing compost from the store
- It reduces the amount of food waste that goes to landfill, which inturn reduces the amount of methane produced, a unique and damaging by-product of food break down in landfills which is avoided in dedicated compost scenarios
- It reduces the need for damaging pesticides and fertilizers
If you need a little more convincing on how easy it is to start your own compost pile, then download our one-page Composting Quick Guide.
Kitchen Composting: How To Compost Food Scraps From The Kitchen
I think by now the composting word has gotten out. The benefits far outweigh simple waste reduction. Compost increases the water retention and drainage of soil. It helps keep weeds down and adds nutrients to the garden. If you are new to composting, you may wonder how to compost food scraps. There are many ways to begin kitchen waste composting. Start saving scraps and let’s get started.
Kitchen Composting Info
It may seem odd at first to save old food and trimmings on your kitchen counter. Traditionally we called that garbage, but new efforts to educate the public have now trained us in waste reduction and reuse of organic items. Composting kitchen waste can be as simple as burying the food scraps in the dirt or using a 3-stage composting bin or tumbler. The end results are nutrient rich soil additives that increase porosity and help hold important moisture in the soil.
The items that break down the quickest in kitchen composting are leafy greens. It helps to
cut down the size of items for compost to no more than an inch cubed. Smaller pieces compost fastest. The slower items are meats and dairy products, though most sources do not recommend meat for composting. Compost piles must be at the proper temperature and moisture balance to ensure break down of these types of items. You will also need to cover any composting kitchen scraps so animals don’t dig them up.
Methods for Composting Kitchen Scraps
It wouldn’t really be stretching the truth to say all you need are a shovel and a patch of dirt for kitchen waste composting. Dig the scraps at least 8 inches down and cover them with dirt so animals aren’t tempted to feast on them. Chop up the scraps with a shovel or spade. Smaller pieces have open surfaces for anaerobic bacteria to attack. This makes composting a faster process.
Alternately you can invest in a 3-bin system where the first bin is raw compost or fresh kitchen scraps. The second bin will be partially broken down and well turned. The third bin will hold fully composted material, ready for your garden. You can also just make a pile in a sunny location and layer the scraps with leaf litter, grass clippings and soil. Turn the compost material every week and mist with water when composting kitchen waste.
How to Compost Food Scraps
Composting requires warm temperatures at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 C.), moderate moisture, and space to turn the pile. You can really make kitchen waste composting as simple or as complex as you want. The end results are finer with multiple bins or a rotating tumbler, whereas piles on the ground or mixing into garden beds yields more robust and chunkier compost.
Kitchen composting can also be accomplished in a worm bin where the little guys eat their way through your debris and deposit moist worm castings for fertilizer and soil amendment.
The way you dispose of your food waste can have a massive impact on the environment and, let’s face it, the planet. Have you thought about what happens to the potato peelings and bags of lettuce after you stick them in the bin? Check out our clever leftover recipes, like our potato peeling crisps, to use up everything you can from your kitchen.
One way to reduce the amount of food waste going into landfill is to compost it at home. Two increasingly popular options are the bokashi system and worm composting. They sound scary but they’re really not.
Both bin systems are easy to set up and use and are readily available online (complete with everything needed to get started). I have both at home (in a flat with a balcony) and a combination of shopping little and often, meal planning and composting food waste means that in my house, we’re now living an almost zero food waste life. There’s no need to have both – simply choose the one which best suits your living space.
The bokashi composting system
Bokashi is an anaerobic composting system, usually made up of two bins which are each roughly the size of a waste paper basket. It uses a special inoculated bran to ferment kitchen waste into a rich liquid compost for your plants. Each time you add a layer of waste, sprinkle it with bran, flatten it down and leave it alone, it might smell a bit pickly when you take the lid off, otherwise it shouldn’t bother you, if it does then something has gone wrong. Occasionally you’ll need to drain off the juice it produces, but that’s it.
What can you put into the bokashi system?
- Raw food waste – peelings, vegetable cores, fruit peel
- Cooked food including meat and bones
- Onions, garlic, chilli
- Citrus peelings
- Fat and oil
The benefits of having a bokashi system
- Its compact size – you don’t need a huge garden.
- It can be kept indoors, surprisingly, the bokashi doesn’t smell when the lid is on. At most you might get a slight pickle-esque smell when the bins are close to full.
- Make your own compost – once your bin is filled, make sure its lid is secure and leave it for at least five weeks to work its pickling magic. After that, neutralise the acid by sprinkling with garden lime, then dig the contents into your garden soil.
When my partner first suggested this, I wasn’t keen but actually, I’ve grown to love it and like to take the worms their dinner of our waste bits after I’ve finished meal prepping. The worms eat their way through food matter, progressing up through the bin’s trays leaving an incredible vermicompost behind them. Like the bokashi, you also get a liquid which can be fed to plants (tomatoes love it) and compost which can be dug into the soil.
What can you put into the worm compost bin?
- Vegetable peelings
- Fruit and vegetables
- Waste paper and cardboard
Be aware that you can’t put cooked food, meat or dairy in the worm compost bin. You also can’t put citrus or alliums in as the worms will not like their acidity. It’s also worth periodically checking that your worms are happy, if they’re clustered in the corners, something is wrong – possibly the pH balance. And if you see any slugs, get them out of there ASAP, they are not the worms’ friend.
The benefits of worm composting
- The nutrient-rich fertiliser compost is fantastic for the soil – your plants and lawn will thank you for it.
- The ‘worm tea’ is great for house plants and vegetables.
- It’s fun for kids – a healthy vermiculture is incredibly interesting to observe.
- Cheap to set up and you’re helping save the planet.
As we head into 2019, why not consider getting a bokashi system or worm bin for your home? You’ll be surprised at how little ends up in the black bin and with all that nutritious compost to hand, your plants will be the envy of the street.
Want more eco-friendly info? Check out our green guides…
How to reduce food waste
10 tips for reducing your single-use plastic waste
The best reusable coffee cups: on test
Do you have your own tips for composting? Leave a comment below…
Set up this simple indoor compost station that your family can use without needing to ask “what goes in here?”
My family is moving to the country and we are giving up our garbage service. Judging by the amount of garbage we’ve created this week as we pack, I’m afraid that I haven’t prepared my family for the reality of composting kitchen scraps.
Of course, one of the first things you learn as you begin to garden are the benefits of composting for improving garden soil. Those kitchen scraps are a big part of it. I’ve been composting for several years on a small scale and have a mini DIY compost bin at the ready, but somehow my family just never caught on to it.
Now that we will have the room outdoors (and the raw materials) I would like to kick it up a notch or two.
It’s easy to compost kitchen scraps
First things first – set up your system. We’ve always had a garbage can under the sink. NO MORE! They are going to have to decide – compost, recycle or burn – when they have something to throw away.
You can purchase a beautiful counter top compost bucket for the scraps. Since I waited until the last possible moment, I’m using what I have on hand.
I set up this simple jug to compost kitchen scraps. With the do’s and don’ts of acceptable materials right on the side. It leaves no room for questions, don’t you think? With one glance they can decide if an item that they would normally throw away is good for the compost bin or recycling.
Every day or two the jug will be emptied into the mini compost bin by the back door. Easy peasy!
The idea to compost kitchen scraps is part of a larger recycling project we are doing at our new home to save money, the environment and improve our garden soil. Check back soon to see our home recycling center and other ways we are cutting down on waste in our family.
Here are some of my favorite composting books. Check your local library or follow these links to Amazon.
Organic Gardener’s Composting by Steve Solomon
Let it Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting (Third Edition) (Storey’s Down-To-Earth Guides) by Stu Campbell
The Complete Compost Gardening Guide: Banner batches, grow heaps, comforter compost, and other amazing techniques for saving time and money, and … most flavorful, nutritious vegetables ever by Deborah Martin
Do you compost your kitchen scraps? Tell us about it on our Facebook page or in the comments below and click through to our new Pinterest board – Composting Turn Your Spoil into Soil.
Shared with: Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways – Natural Family Friday – From the Farm Blog Hop –