Nearly 25% of all solid waste in U.S. households come from the kitchen. Composting allows you to reuse some of those kitchen scraps and transform them into healthy soil feeder for your plants and garden.
Starting a compost pile is a great at-home project, especially now that we are all spending more time at home. You can fully customize your compost pile or bin to meet your home’s needs. If you live in an apartment with no yard, an indoor vermicomposting bin may be for you. If you do have a yard with extra space or access to a community garden, you can set up a compost pile in six easy steps!
Below, we’ll walk you through how to set up a compost pile and detail what materials you can use in your compost, and which you should skip.
Compost this, not that
Even dirt can be picky about its food. While tossing scraps into a compost pile is a great alternative to the trash can, not every piece of waste in your kitchen should head in that direction.
There are two types of ingredients that make for great compost: browns and greens. Brown ingredients are those that are rich in carbon whereas green ingredients are those that are rich in nitrogen. You’ll want a greater ratio of browns to greens in your compost (3:1).
If you aren’t careful with what you compost, a rotten egg smell may appear. This is a sign that decomposition is being slowed down. Even worse, if you add diseased plants and weeds you run the risk of poisoning your compost and the future plants and yard you sprinkle it on.
Our free printable details what you can and can’t compost. Follow this link to print this at home and hang it above your compost bin in your kitchen.
Brown compost materials:
- Dead leaves
- Egg shells
- Shredded newspaper
- Branches and twigs
Green compost materials:
- Loose tea and tea bags
- Old flowers
- Coffee grounds and filters
Materials to avoid
- Cooking oils
- Diseased plants and weeds
- Meat and dairy
- Citrus fruit peels
- Coal or charcoal ash
Setting up an outdoor compost pile
While you can compost indoors, the most popular way to compost is by setting up an outdoor pile. This keeps all the smells and decomposition out of your home and in the outdoors!
Start an outdoor compost pile today with these simple steps:
Decide where to put your compost pile:
Whether you plan to set up your compost pile in your own yard or in a community garden, you’ll want to choose a spot that gets natural shade. Bonus points if you can find a space that is close to a water source so you can easily add moisture to your pile with a hose.
You can start your compost pile directly on the earth or build a compost bin using pallets to contain it. There are also compost tumblers available for purchase.
Collect your scraps:
In order to have organic materials to add to your compost, you’ll need to collect your scraps over a series of days or weeks. Set up a small compost bin, similar to a trash can, with a lid in your home to save your scraps in. Don’t keep this inside for more than 5-7 days or it may start to smell!
Add brown and green layers:
Once you’ve collected your scraps, you’ll need to organize them into brown and green layers. Most of your kitchen scraps will be green layers, whereas brown layers are traditionally made up of things you find in your yard such as leaves and sticks.
Start with your brown layer first. Remember that your carbon-to-nitrogen ratio should be 3:1, so your brown layers should be 3x every green layer. Begin layering your compost materials.
Use water in your compost:
Another ingredient for a thriving compost is water! You’ll want to add moisture to your pile but you don’t want to make your pile soggy, so just a few hose sprays should do. A soggy pile can slow down decomposition and start to smell like rotten eggs.
Aerate your compost:
Every four to seven days you’ll want to turn your pile to aerate your compost. You can do this easily with a shovel, or a compost tumbler lets you turn it. After a few weeks of aeration your compost should begin to feel warm and steamy–this is a sign that decomposition is taking place!
Use your compost as soil feeder
Once your compost has been decomposing for two to four months, it should be ready for use! Most of the organic material should be broken down into a crumbly and earthy smelling compost that looks like topsoil. Now it’s time to sprinkle it on your yard as soil feeder or in nearby pots and plants to help them grow!
For even more ways to compost at home and ideas for how to use your compost check out out this visual from The Zebra below!