Beginners Guide to Composting: 6 Steps to Get Started

Many gardeners refer to composting material as “Gardeners Gold” or “Black Gold.” There are so many benefits to composting and nothing better you can do for your soil. If you’re ready to turn your trash into treasure, you can create a successful composting project in just about any setting, from outdoor piles in your backyard to indoor bins in apartments or condos. Here is a beginners guide to composting with six simple steps to get started.

Step 1: Choose a Composing Bin

You have many options in bins for your compost materials. There are cone-shaped plastic bins, commercially-made square bins, rotating tumbler bins, and homemade square bins, just to name a few. Choose one that meets your particular space and composting needs. 

Step 2: Select Your Compost Location

Choose the site for your composting project. It should be simple to access and level. If it is outside, make sure it sits over bare soil so that beneficial organisms, like worms, can find it. You may want to remove any plants or grass and turn the soil to about 6-8 inches deep. 

Step 3: Begin Adding the “Right” Materials

Composting ingredients are generally divided into two beginner compost piles: Greens and Browns

Green material includes:

  • Vegetable and fruit peelings
  • Coffee grounds
  • Plant cuttings
  • Hedge trimmings
  • Fresh manure

Brown material includes:

  • Leaves
  • Cardboard and paper
  • Sawdust
  • Eggshells
  • Teabags
  • Straw and hay

Step 4: Know What NOT to Compost

Pause before you start tossing all of your organic scraps into your compost bin. Some items could slow down the composting process significantly. Here are a few materials you probably shouldn’t add to your compost:

  • Fish and poultry
  • Whole eggs
  • Meat and bones
  • Dairy products
  • Human and pet feces
  • Treated wood
  • Fatty food waste
  • Pernicious weeds

Step 5: Make the Perfect Compost

Composts have been compared to making massive layer cakes, probably because they are full of so many different ingredients. Start your compost with a layer of twigs, brush, or straw about 4-inches deep on the bottom. Add another equal layer of brown material followed by a thin layer of soil or finished compost on top. Next, add another 4-inch layer of green material and then a thin layer of compost or soil. As you add each layer, use a garden hose to wet it lightly. Keep adding these layers until your bin is full. Once it is, you can turn the entire mixture about every 14 days. 

Step 6: Use Your Compost

Depending on the quality of materials you add and the environment, you might get finished compost in your bin anywhere from 14 days to 12 months. That’s quite a range, so you’ll need to check to see if your compost is ready. Basically, your compost is ready for use if it has a soil-like, earthy smell, is crumbly to the touch, and dark in appearance. It’s generally no problem if you still see some pieces of leaves or straw in the material. When it’s ready, you can use it for things like flower and vegetable beds, fertilizer, house plants, and new and established planting areas.

Now that you’re a composting expert, it’s time to start reducing your waste and giving back to the environment. As you begin making use of compost materials, you’ll learn more about this process and come up with additional ways to make it your own. Don’t forget to share this beginners guide to composting with your friends, so they can enhance their landscaping health too! To learn more about how organic fertilizer can benefit your lawn and trees, check out our organic tree and fertilizer solution.

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