Composting for beginners: Reduce food waste at home

We’ve all heard of composting, but do we really know what it actually entails?
Compost is the natural fertilizer we get when we leave scraps from our garden and kitchen to decompose. It is a combination of all the things we most often throw out without giving them a second thought. In essence, it is the culmination of our eco-friendly ways, and a money-saver as well.

The Ultimate Composting Guide for Beginners

Using compost is one of the most popular ways of growing a healthy garden. Since it’s packed with nutrients, it can help us grow vegetables and fruit without ever having to use harmful substances. As such, it is a healthy choice for most gardeners, not to mention those who want to give their families the best possible food choices. 

However, composting is also a form of art if we ask any modern gardener. Not only does it need the right conditions, but we also need to use the right ingredients. There are certain things we just cannot compost, nor should we.
In this composting guide, we will address the ingredients we should avoid and the ones that are fair game. But for now, let’s see what types of composting there are.

Types of composting

We can recognize two main types of composting:

[su_highlight background=”#eeff99″]Cold composting[/su_highlight]

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[su_highlight background=”#eeff99″]Hot composting[/su_highlight]

And a third,

[su_highlight background=”#eeff99″]Vermicomposting.[/su_highlight]

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Cold composting

The first type of composting is the regular type most gardeners are fond of. It basically entails just collecting scraps of food and yard waste in a pile or a compost bin. Afterward, we just have to wait. Most of the time, this sort of composting could last anywhere from a few months to a full year.


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Hot composting

Nevertheless, if we want to speed up the process, we can opt for hot composting. By starting our composting process in the warmer months, we can have our perfect compost in just one to three months.
The main difference is in the fact that we need to have the right ratio of both green and brown waste. We also need to pay attention to four main ingredients: water, nitrogen, carbon, and air. These ingredients will serve as food for microorganisms, which are essential for this process. They speed it up, thus allowing us to use the compost in our garden in just a few months.

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There’s one more type of composting we need to address here, although our composting guide will deal with the regular types more.
Vermicompost, as its name suggests, calls for the use of worms. However, we cannot just use regular worms for it. It is of the essence to use redworms or red wigglers.
These worms will eat up the scraps we’ve compiled in a bin or a pile and then release castings. These castings will be full of nitrogen, which means that when we use them in our garden, we can hope for healthier fruits and vegetables.
Nevertheless, there’s no need to worry about vermicompost being expensive just because we ought to use worms. Redworms can be found online, and they’re not expensive at all. However, this sort of composting is not the best choice for the squeamish kind.

You can read more about vermicomposting here.


Benefits of composting

Figuring out if composting is the right choice for us is always much easier when we know all the benefits. For that, we’ve looked high and low to see how composting can prove to be beneficial both for our lives and our gardens.

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Household waste reduction

Fundamentally, composting is all about recycling. When we compost, we are reducing the amount of waste found in our home. In fact, our garbage waste can go down by up to 30%, which is incredible when we consider how much waste there is on our planet.
Therefore, composting is a one-man job, but it is a mighty job that can help our planet become a healthier place to live on.


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Environment protection

Harmful chemical fertilizers are just a means to an end for some gardeners. However, they are by no means the right choice if we want to become a good gardener and actually eat the fruits of our labor.
For that, composting is a good option, as it will provide the necessary nutrients without destroying the soil or making us or our family sick when we eat the fruits and vegetables we’ve grown. Furthermore, composting is known for reducing methane emissions from landfills, and it can also significantly lower our carbon footprint.


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Saving money

We’ve always wondered how composting can reduce our bills. It turns out it can do so by reducing the amount of water we use to water our garden.
Since composting helps improve the soil’s water-holding capacity, we will essentially use less water whenever we’re taking care of our garden. What’s more, since we won’t have to use artificial fertilizers, our gardening budgets will not suffer too much. After all, we will be composting scraps and waste found in our home, which won’t cost us anything at all! – conserving water at home


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Healthy soil

As we’ve already mentioned, since compost is full of nutrients and all the good stuff our soil needs, we can grow healthy gardens. This nutrient-rich humus can provide our gardens with just the right conditions for it to grow fruits and vegetables without too much hassle. It will feed the grass and the plants, not to mention give the soil the much-needed moisture. What’s more, compost also serves as a great shield against plant disease.



Composting techniques

Our composting guide wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention the two most important composting techniques we can use.
There is

[su_highlight background=”#eeff99″]continuous composting[/su_highlight]


[su_highlight background=”#eeff99″]batch composting.[/su_highlight]

As the name suggests, the first technique entails starting with a small amount of waste and a compost starter. As such, it is the best option for people who are using their household waste for composting. Once we get additional ingredients, we can add them in and mix them with the already decomposed ingredients.
Meanwhile, there’s also batch composting, which means that we will compost our waste in batches. Sometimes, there are enough ingredients to fill up an entire compost bin. In that case, we can leave those ingredients to decompose until there’s a bit of space left in the bin.
The ingredients shrink over time as they decompose, so they will take up less space. Once they do shrink, we can add fresh ingredients again, and as soon as the compost is finished, use it in our garden. Thus, even batch composting turns into continuous composting later on.

What we will need to start composting

The first thing we need in order to start composting is to find a suitable place for our compost bin. The best place to keep our bin nice and concealed is the backyard.
A [su_highlight background=”#eeff99″]dry, shady spot in our backyard[/su_highlight] is where our compost bin would be the happiest. Furthermore, it should have a water source somewhere nearby as well so that we can moisten the dry ingredients as we add them in.
Now, when choosing the best compost bin, we first need to decide whether we would like to place it outdoors or indoors. Composting outdoors is the preferable method, as the odor will not bother us at all. Nevertheless, some households don’t have enough space to place the compost bin outside. Thus, we can opt for indoor compost bins that come with built-in odor controls.
Still, we ought to pay attention to the type of compost bin we choose. Indoor compost bins can be more expensive, as they have filters that will remove the odor. Moreover, the filters have to be changed every six months or once a year, which can drive up the bin’s price.
There are also single and multiple-chamber compost bins. The single ones contain just one chamber where we can add our ingredients, which is a good option since a single large chamber can generate enough heat to speed up the process. However, once that chamber is full, we won’t be able to add more ingredients.
Thus, multiple-chamber compost bins are an excellent choice for people who are serious about recycling their waste. These bins have anywhere between two and more chambers that we can fill up at the same time.
Finally, one of the most important things about composting is that we have to make sure the [su_highlight background=”#eeff99″]ingredients have enough air.[/su_highlight] Therefore, when choosing the best compost bin, we can opt for manual or tumbling aeration.
For manual aeration, we would have to use a pitchfork or some other tool in order to mix up the compost. If we don’t do so, then the ingredients won’t get enough air, which means our composting process will last longer.
However, thanks to some technological advances, we now have tumbling compost bins as well. These look just as they sound — they come with a metal rod that goes through the center of the bin and cuts up the fresh ingredients. Whenever we turn the rod, we’re mixing the ingredients yet again, adding more air into the compost.

What to compost

Reducing our household waste won’t be too difficult, especially when we know what we can actually compost. These are the most common composting ingredients gardeners use and swear by:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Coffee — filters and grounds
  • Eggshells
  • Nutshells
  • Newspaper (shredded)
  • Tea bags
  • Paper and cardboard
  • Grass clippings and yard trimmings
  • Hay, straw, and sawdust
  • Houseplants
  • Leaves
  • Wood chips
  • Hair, fur, as well as dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Cotton and wool rags
  • Bread and grains
  • Pasta and rice
  • Paper bags, towels, and napkins
  • Uncoated food-soiled paper
  • Coal or charcoal ash (In moderation!)

What NOT to compost

In order for our compost to turn out just perfect, we need to pay attention to what we’re putting into it. As we’ve seen, there are many types of household waste we can use. However, there are ingredients we must never add to our composting pile or bin:

  • Black walnut tree twigs or leaves
  • Dairy products (such as eggs, butter, milk, yogurt, and sour cream)
  • Insect-ridden or diseased plants
  • Yard clippings that were treated with pesticides
  • Fat, grease, lard, oil
  • Pet waste
  • Meat, chicken, and fish (or bones)

The main reason why we shouldn’t use these ingredients is the fact that they can harm the soil where we end up using the compost. Furthermore, some of these ingredients can attract rodents and pests, not to mention emit a strong odor.

A step-by-step guide to composting

A good compost stash will bring about a better harvest & overall growth. Here’s how you can make that happen!

  1. We can choose to collect our ingredients in a pile or in a compost bin. If we want to avoid animals being drawn to the compost or odor, then a compost bin is a better choice. However, we ought to remember that in any case, the ingredients should be somewhere where there’s lots of warmth, as that will speed up the process.
  2. The next step is to collect the scraps. We need to make sure that we have an equal amount of green and brown waste. Green waste comprises of food waste, i.e., vegetables and fruits. The rest of the ingredients are all brown, for example, newspaper, wood shavings, and leaves. This is important for keeping the fruit flies out.

Why do we need to make sure there is an equal part of green waste and an equal part of brown waste? It’s simple — the brown waste is a good source of carbon, which is essential for feeding the organisms that will decompose our scarps. Meanwhile, green waste contains nitrogen, which will aid the development of the cell structure of our new soil.
Of course, there are two ingredients left: air and water. Without air, our ingredients could start to rot and emit a horrible smell. Thus, we should never force more waste into the bin or stuff the compost bin to the brim. Furthermore, we need to layer our mixture so as to get the best results and make sure that we sprinkle some water onto it. We will also need to add more water now and then so that the mixture stays moist.
In essence, there will not be any horrible smells if we do this part right. If we add enough water and keep mixing our compost from time to time, the mixture will only smell of dirt and nothing else.

  1. Over the next few weeks, the mixture will start decomposing. However, if it doesn’t, even though we’ve been mixing and stirring, we need to figure out whether we should add something. If the mixture starts to smell and is too wet, we should add more brown waste. Otherwise, if there’s no progress at all, i.e., the decomposing process hasn’t even started and the mixture is quite dry and brown, then we need more green waste and water.
  2. Once the compost looks and smells like regular soil, we can safely use it in our gardens. All we need to do is sprinkle some of it on top of our plants or mix it with regular soil if we have garden beds. For best results, we should add compost to the soil every once in a while, but only a few times a year.

P.S you can also use your compost to make some compost tea!

Here’s what your garden will look like with composting!

How Do I Introduce my kids to composting?

The best way to having your kids to start composting is to introduce it as a habit. Habits can be learnt, and best thing for them is to have them do it when they are young just like brushing your teeth and showering daily.

Is Composting difficult?

Not at all! In the past, people just throw all the food waste in bunch and wait for them to decompose. It works if you bury it in the soil too!

Final thoughts

And that’s it. We hope that we’ve helped everyone finally opt for composting with our comprehensive composting guide and that we can now all start reducing our waste effectively and growing the perfect gardens.
We only need to remember the four key ingredients and make sure that we either have the best compost bin available or a place to keep our compost pile safe from animals and vermin. Everything else is as easy as it sounds!

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