Looking for a customizable at-home project that lets you reduce landfill waste and improve your yard all in one? Starting a compost bin or pile at home is a great weekend activity that can benefit you for years to come.
Composting allows you to reuse kitchen scraps and turn it into a healthy soil feeder for your yard and plants. If you don’t have a yard of your own, you can still collect compost materials and donate them to a nearby restaurant or farm.
Keep reading to learn more about how and what to compost.
Compost this, not that
Even dirt and worms can be picky about what they’re willing to work with. While compost is a great way to reuse waste, not all waste is healthy for your pile. Some ingredients can delay decomposition, create a dirty rotten egg smell, and even poison your pile!
Here’s a quick list of materials to add to your pile. You can also download this printable of what you can and can’t compost–print this out and hang it next to your bin so you never add the wrong material in.
Brown ingredients are the most essential for a thriving compost pile. This is because the carbon found in this organic material adds essential carbon. There should be three brown ingredients for every one green ingredient added.
Examples of brown compost materials include:
- Egg shells
- Shredded newspaper
- Dead leaves
- Branches and twigs
Add nitrogen to your pile using green ingredients. These ingredients are the ones most likely to be recycled kitchen waste.
Examples of green compost materials include:
- Loose tea and tea bags
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Old flowers
Materials to avoid
You’ll want to avoid dangerous materials to keep your compost healthy, fresh, and smelling good.
Don’t add these to your compost:
- Meat and dairy
- Cooking oils
- Diseased plants and weeds
- Citrus fruit peels
- Coal or charcoal ash
How to compost outdoors
Now that you know what ingredients can and can’t go into your compost, it’s time to learn the composting basics.
- Find a spot in your backyard that gets natural shade and is close to a water source. This makes it easy to add needed moisture to your pile.
- Start by adding a brown layer to your pile and then adding a green layer. There should be three parts brown ingredients to every part green, so your brown layers will be thicker. This will make sure the ratio of carbon to nitrogen stays fruitful.
- Next, you’ll want to add moisture to your pile by adding in small amounts of water. You don’t want your pile to get soggy, though. This can make it smell rotten and slow down decomposition.
- Every three to seven days you’ll want to turn your compost pile. This allows your compost to aerate and help speed up decomposition. Your compost should feel warm and steamy after a few turns!
- Your compost should be ready to be used once two to four months have passed. Nearly all of the organic materials should have broken down and turned into dirt that looks like topsoil. This dirt should have a pleasant and earthy smell.
For more tips on what to do with your compost, or how to compost indoors, check out this visual from The Zebra below.