How to Compost at Home for Beginners

Household composting is the process of converting kitchen and yard waste into valuable fertilizer. When a family’s compostable materials go to a compost bin instead of the trash can, waste can be reduced by up to 30%. Think of composting like you think of recycling: an easy step you take to preserve the environment that’s now second-nature!

Once you get started, composting is easy. Here’s our guide to how to compost at home for beginners.

Why Should You Compost at Home?

1. Compost turns into a valuable fertilizer for gardens and lawns.
2. Composting saves up to 1/3 of land fill space.
3. Compost is easy to dispose of if unneeded.

how to compost

How to compost at home for beginners in five steps:

1. Get a compost pail.

A stainless steel compost pail ($30) or other compost container will make kitchen clean-up easier, and you can store it in your kitchen. This is the simplest step of composting. Compost pails are affordable and simple, and can be found at most home stores and gardening stores. To reduce smells in your kitchen from composting, opt for a stainless steel compost pail with an air filter, or just about any pail with a secure lid. Even a large ice cream container will work!

2. Know what household waste is compostable.

This is easy: almost all kitchen and yard waste can go directly into your compost pail. This includes all table scraps (with the exception of meat, which may attract scavengers), fruit and vegetable peels, egg shells, fruit pits and cores, and all yard debris, such as grass clippings, leaves, straw, wood ash, and weeds. (Check out a full list of compostable materials.) Basically, if it grows, it goes!

3. Dispose of your compostable materials.

You have three choices for disposing of your compostable materials. You can either:

1. use your own compost in your garden
2. dispose of your compost using curb-side waste removal
3. take your compostable materials to a compost site

If you have no need for compost in your own garden or yard, and do have curbside residential garbage pick up, your service provider likely offers yard waste and compost service. You probably already have it! Ours is offered in the form of a green barrel designed for yard waste and leaves. We simply deposit our compostable materials directly from our compost pail to our curb-side barrel. (Be sure to check your city’s guidelines.)

If your curb-side garbage service does not allow for compostable materials in its yard waste bin, you’ll want to find a local compost removal service or compost buying service.

Finally, if you’d like to try your hand at composting yourself, you’ll need to decide on your composting method and choose a composter.


4. Choose a composter.

You can make your own compost pile by layering compost materials over bare earth, alternating with dry materials such as leaves, straw, or sawdust. Your compost pile needs to remain moist, and covered with wood or plastic sheeting to keep in moisture and warmth. Add additional compost materials to the top of the pile, and harvest compost from the bottom. The pile will need to be turned every few weeks with a shovel in order to aerate the compost.

Alternatively, you can buy or make a compost bin or compost tumbler.

Outdoor compost tumblers take much of the work out of composting by turning at the touch of a handle, and bins make storage easy and more sightly. Continuous-use composters can even be used indoors, where raw compost materials are kept separate from completed compost.

5. Use your compost to fertilize your garden or yard.

Compost is a great organic fertilizer, and can be used for planter boxes, raised gardens, indoor potted plants, and your yard and lawn.

Do you compost? What tips do you have for beginners?

Photo credit: Karen and Brad Emerson and Wheatfields.

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