Composting is the decomposition of any organic material. If you think compost is a dirty, nasty concoction with a life of its own, that is true – if not done correctly. When your kitchen food waste turns foul and smelly, it’s already decomposing inside your plastic garbage bin.
Composting the right way is simple and can be productive and useful for soil. We’ll teach you how to compost at home correctly, plus all the tips to get started.
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Why compost at home? The typical household throws away an estimated 500 pounds of food waste each year. When not composted, those scraps would most likely end up in a landfill. When that happens, it does so underground without access to oxygen.
This scenario creates toxic gases like methane, which is foul for the air and contributes to climate change. Composting at home and above ground doesn’t release toxic gases and instead creates compost full of nutrients and vitamins you can use for gardening soil.
A common assumption is that composting is only appropriate in rural areas where people have large yards. The most avid composters, however, live in the heart of cities, where the soil is limited. The compost they make helps to bring worn-out soils back to life for use in their city gardens.
In fact, composting can successfully be carried out on different scales, from multi-acre commercial piles to simple backyard heaps to single bin composters.
- 1 Why Compost Matters
- 2 Types of Composting
- 3 How to Make Compost
- 4 Vermicomposting:
- 5 What NOT to Compost
- 6 What to Compost:
- 7 How to Make a Compost Bin:
- 8 Frequently Asked Composting Questions
- 9 Conclusion
Why Compost Matters
On a grand scale, the estimation is that about half of all food generated in the US becomes waste and Americans send a significant percentage of that to landfills. By composting, you help to reduce the amount of organic waste in landfills, thus reducing the toxic leachates and methane gases released into the atmosphere.
Composting provides a solution to the issue of solid waste management in many communities. All around the country, landfills are brimming up, garbage incineration is becoming less of an option, and other waste treatment options are becoming ever tougher to find.
Composting not only of cuts down the volume of waste disposed, but it also converts it into a product that is useful for healthy gardens and farms. Over time, these materials disintegrate into an abundant form of soil packed with vitamins for growing unusual plants. Healthy fruits and vegetables translate into healthy food which goes hand in hand with healthy human beings.
Many educational programs focus on teaching children to reduce, reuse, and recycle solid wastes to instill in them a sense of environmental stewardship. Kids who compost become conscious of a potential resource from something usually just thrown and forgotten.
They learn through direct experience that they can make a positive effect on the environment. Also, composting can save money not only for a household but also for the city and national budget. Less garbage delivered to landfills means less city waste management costs. 
Due to the demand for organically grown produce, selling compost fertilizer has become a lucrative source of income. A ton of high-grade compost can earn as much as $100.00, literally turning trash into cash.
Types of Composting
Before you start piling on, it’s good to know the variety of ways to compost and the differences between them.
Regular composting, also known as “cold composting,” is as simple as collecting yard waste or taking out the organic materials in your trash and leaving it in a pile until it breaks down several months later. It typically takes around six months to a full year to decompose. It can be sped up by turning the compost occasionally to get more oxygen in there, but it’s still a long wait.
Hot composting, on the other hand, yields excellent black compost (humus) in one to three months during warm weather. There are four ingredients required for fast-cooking hot fertilizer: nitrogen (from green matter like vegetable scarp, grass, and leaves), carbon (from brown matter like leaves, bark, wood, and fiber), air, and water. Together, these substances feed microorganisms, which speed up the decaying process.
Vermicomposting is the use of earthworms to turn organic wastes into high-quality compost. This type is probably the best way of composting kitchen wastes indoors. When worms eat your food scraps, they poop it out as high-quality, excellent compost rich in nitrogen.
These are not the common big burrowing earthworms you find in soil, but red worms or red wrigglers, that occupy a different ecological niche. Everyone can buy them from worm farms or gardening shops. 
How to Make Compost
There are tons of ways to make a compost pile. Depending on your environment, weather and time constraints, you can pick any one method that suits your lifestyle. If it is your first time to compost, you’ve come to the right place as we have provided the essential guides for your general reference. After following these steps on how to compost at home, you’ll have the bragging rights of a pro!
The fastest way to create rich garden humus is to build a warm, or active, compost pile. “Hot” for its 160°F internal temperatures and “active” because it can cook weed seeds and pathogens. The desired outcome all depends on the size of the pile, the ingredients, and their layering.
- Combine Green and Brown Organic Materials
Gather enough materials to create a pile at least 3 feet high. Combine your wet, green items with your dry, brown items by alternating layers like making a cake. This procedure will ensure even distribution of carbon and nitrogen within the pile. Too much green material like grass, leaves, and veggies will make the collection slimy and foul while too much brown material will make it too dry; so be sure to strike a balance of both.
- Water Your Pile regularly
Drizzle water over the pile regularly to maintain a consistency of a damp sponge. Be mindful not to add too much water. Otherwise, your collection will rot instead of compost. As soon as decomposition begins, the volume of the group will lessen. Don’t add more materials at this point, as this will reset the clock on that group.
- Stir it Up
Turning the pile around every two weeks allows oxygen to enter. Stirring up the collection will prevent material from developing an odor and help it cook faster. You will maximize your composting efforts if you aerate frequently. A garden fork or pitchfork work well.
- Use as Gardening Compost
Usually, after 2 to 3 months the fertilizer will no longer give off heat and becomes homogenously dry and brown. That means it’s fully cooked and ready to feed into the garden. Add about 4 to 6 inches of compost to your flower beds before planting for happy, healthy gardens.
The finished product is usually around 25 percent-40 percent of what you started with, but denser. It should look and feel like rich, dark soil. You will be unable to recognize any of the items you initially placed in the pile.
Cold composting is the add-and-go solution good for people who want to compost quickly then go about with their day. However, the time it takes to decompose is hard to estimate because it depends on the kind and size of the organic matter. Note that shredded material generally decomposes faster than chunky pieces.
- Pile organic materials (vegetable scrap, leaves, grass, coffee grinds) in a pit or bin. Alternating green and brown stuff, like in hot compost, is ideal too. Do not add diseased plants and weeds. Without heat to kill off weed seeds or pathogens, these can spread around your landscape.
- Bury food scraps in the center of the pile to prevent insects and animals. Avoid adding animal matter like meat, dairy, and fat.
- Adequate air and moisture are two rules of composting. Regularly sprinkle water on the pile and mix it around to ventilate it.
- Wait 6-12 months for decomposition. This process might be much slower considering the pile cannot adequately heat up enough because you keep adding new material to its volume.
A vermicomposter is reasonably inexpensive to make and easy to maintain.
- Prepare a bin approximately is 16″ x 24″ x 8″ in size. For wooden containers, line the inside with plastic.
- Prepare the wet newspaper bedding. Like soil, newspaper strips provide food, air, and water for the red worms.
- To start with, know how many worms you need. This knowledge is essential for identifying how much food to feed them.
- Feed the worms scraps that you would usually throw away, such as fruit and vegetable peels, rinds, or cores. Do not feed meats, bones or dairy products.
- Bury food scraps under bedding to hide it from flies.
- Put a newspaper sheet on top of the bedding. This sheet will help keep any possible odors in the bin, maintain the moisture balance, and help protect it from flies.
- To keep worms happy, feed them three times their weight once a week, spray their bedding with water to maintain moisture and fluff it up once a week to give them air.
What NOT to Compost
- Don’t compost animal matter such as meat waste, bones, skin, fat, innards, and cartilage. Fish or fish waste, seafood such as shrimp, lobster or clam.
- Dairy products like milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream.
- Grease and oils of any kind
- Dog and cat feces can add diseases to your compost, and they have an unpleasant odor. Use chicken, horse, cow, and rabbit manure instead.
- Shredded newspapers or office paper may contain chemicals that are not good for your compost. Recycle them instead.
- Wood ashes are useful in small quantities, but BBQ ashes from your grill should never go into your compost pile.
- Sawdust from treated lumber treated with harmful chemicals.
Why Can’t You Compost These Food Wastes?
- They imbalance the nutrient-rich structure of vegetation waste.
- They attract roaches, rats, flies and other scavenging animals.
- Rotting meat is an attractive place to lay maggots.
- Your compost bin will stink like the underworld!
What to Compost:
- All your vegetable and fruit waste even if they are moldy and ugly
- Anything made from flour: old bread, noodles, donuts, cookies, crackers, pizza crust, etc.
- Grains (cooked or uncooked): rice, barley, you name it
- Coffee grounds, tea bags, filters
- Eggshells (crush well)
- Old Spices
- Fruit or vegetable pulp from juicing
- Corn cobs and husks (cobs breakdown very slowly)
How to Make a Compost Bin:
6 Easy-Peasy Steps
Compost piles aren’t exactly pretty, but we’ll show you how to make a secure, nice looking bin to hold your compost. Containers help keep the compost heaps neatly gathered, and you can cover them during rains to avoid soaking your compost.
Gather Your Materials
- Two 4X8-foot lattice panels (you can use ordinary horizontal panels if you like)
- Four pieces of 2X4 lumber cut 5 feet long
- 2 Large clothesline hooks or hinges (depends on how you want to open the bin gate)
- Drill, screwdriver, or hammer
- Screws or nails
Choose an easily accessible area. Measure out the location as a 4X4-foot square. Mark the corners of the square and dig a 1-foot deep hole for the first post. Insert a 2X4 post and compress down the soil around the post to keep it sturdy
Measure and Dig
After with your first post, hold the panel against it to verify the position of the next post. Dig holes and fill them in accordingly.
Attach the Panels
Now comes the fun part: installing the walls. Line up the panels against the posts and screw three of them in place. The fourth panel will act as the gate.
Create a Gate
You’ll want the bin’s front entrance to be secure yet accessible to open, so you can quickly dig out the compost. You can either drill holes and hook the gate in or bolt in some hinges for a swinging door.
Fill it With Compost!
Then fill your compost bin with organic matter and have fun composting!
Frequently Asked Composting Questions
Q: How Long Does it Take for the Waste to Decompose?
A: The amount of time it takes to produce compost depends on factors like the size of the compost pile, the size of the waste chunks, the weather, the types of materials, and the number of times you turned the collection.
For the most efficient hot composting, build a pile that is between 3 to 5 feet cubed in volume. The piling allows the center of the collection to sufficiently heat up and break down materials faster.
A pile with more brown organic materials, like bark, root, and fiber, will take a little longer to compost. You can hasten the process by putting in more greens like grass, vegetable scraps, or nitrogen fertilizer.
The size of the materials also impacts composting time. By cutting up materials into smaller parts (shredding veggies, chopping branches, and mulching leaves), the surface area of the elements will increase. This increase encourages the bacteria to break down ingredients into compost swiftly.
Finally, the number of times the pile is turned influences composting speed. Turning more frequently (about every 2-4 weeks), allows more oxygen access which will produce compost more quickly. Leave the pile for at least two weeks to let the center heat up for maximum bacterial activity.
When turning the compost pile, make sure that you bring materials inside to outside, and those materials out to inside. The compost can be ready in about three months with frequent turning.
Q: How to Compost in an Apartment?
A: You might think composting is an impossibility if your outdoor living space is limited. There are easy ways on how to compost at home indoors.
You can make a small vermicomposting pit. Get a shallow bin with a lid, fill it with newspaper strips and red wiggler worms, and dump your organic matter in there. The wigglers will do the work to break down your waste into nutrient-rich castings. You can then transfer your casts into potted plants.
Another option for tight living quarters is a method called Bokashi, which uses inoculated bran to ferment organic waste. Unlike the usual composting, Bokashi is anaerobic and can compost meat and dairy products. You can purchase this bran in specialty gardening shops and sprinkle them in specialized Bokashi bins.
Q: How Do We Keep Insects Away from the Compost Pile?
A: If you compost food scraps, you may have had problems with houseflies or fruit flies. These fruit flies are harmless, but they are bothersome. The first thing you need to do is bury the kitchen scraps under the dry brown material to hide its smell. Make sure all your compost is plant-based and throw out anything greasy or meaty.
Next, you can buy fly traps at stores or build your simple ones at home. Vinegar or honey homemade bottle traps are proven to be very useful, especially when placed beside compost pits or garbage bins. You can also station a vacuum cleaner near the hole to vacuum the flies near the compost.
How about cockroaches? Regularly turning your compost pile will make it less appealing to cockroaches. This turning disturbs the roaches and may encourage them to find another home. In addition to this, do not compost meat, eggs or dairy products, which may create an odor that will attract cockroaches. If your compost is 100% plant-based, it is highly unlikely to be visited by roaches and rodents.
A: My Compost Smells Terrible, What Should I Do?
A: A correctly balanced compost pile should smell like regular dirt. If it emits a foul smell, there is something wrong. The collection may not be heating up and breaking down the organic material. If your compost smells terrible it may be due to one of the following causes:
During rainy seasons, a gardener will notice that their compost stinks. This odor is because the compost pile becomes too wet. A compost pile that gets too wet will not have enough ventilation, and the effect is the same as if the heap was compacted.
Compost that is too wet will smell putrid like rotting eggs and will look slimy, especially with green material. To fix this, turn the compost regularly and add some dry brown materials like dried leaves and chopped branches to absorb some of the moisture.
Not enough oxygen
Compost piles need air ventilation to decompose the organic material properly. If your compost pile gets compressed, the compost will start to smell. Turn the pile to help get air into the inside parts and stop the bad smell. You might want to add some “fluffy” materials like dry leaves, grass or untreated sawdust to help keep the pile from over-compacting again.
Too much nitrogen
If the pile has too many green materials like grass clippings or other high nitrogen material not mixed with other ingredients, it will form slimy clumps that emit a foul ammonia smell. Break up any clumps of green materials and add some dry brown elements to the mix.
Compost gives many essential nutrients for plant growth and empowers soil to have the right amount of moisture, nutrients, and air. It also improves the feel of both clay soils and sandy soils, making either type rich, loamy, and moisture retentive.
Compost is one of nature’s best mulches and soil modifiers, making it the best kind of fertilizer. Most gardeners and farmers know the value of this rich, dark, earthy material in enriching the soil. Understanding how to compost at home is vital for your household as well as the rest of the world since the dilemma of waste disposal continues to grow.
With a small investment of time, you can contribute a solution to a more significant community waste disposal problem while creating a healthy environment for your yard and garden. Start your composting journey now and be your own kind of hero!
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