Monday, January 9, 2023

Backyard Composting for Beginners

Whether you're a new homesteader just starting your journey or a seasoned homesteader, composting is an important thing to learn about.  Composting helps reduce waste, and it can be used on your homestead for your garden as a free fertilizer.  I also have a free printable to hang up as a reminder or easy reference for kids.

Composting for Beginners

Before we moved to the farm, I had weekly trash service and a garbage disposal for food scraps.  I recycled as much as I could to reduce waste, of course, but I didn't worry too much about what to do with organic waste.

Then we moved to the country.  I will admit that I miss my garbage disposal terribly, but it's a no no with a septic system.  

I also miss having weekly trash.  Our trash situation is tricky because we live so far from the road.  

We had to get a dumpster that gets dumped every few months as needed.  It's convenient to have it here, but I don't want to put organic waste in it because it gets stinky!

So we had to have a crash course in composting for beginners and what do you compost.

For more rural living tips, check out these posts:

How Do You Compost For Beginners?

Learning about composting for beginners is a very easy thing to do, and can be highly beneficial for your garden. Plus, it is a productive way to eliminate food and plant waste on your property. 


In fact, composting is as easy to do as simply marking off a spot in your yard and dumping your compost there. This is known as the direct composting method.

Of course, with extra effort this process can be made a lot more effective as well.  Most composters use a composting bin of some kind to store their compost. 

You can even get a composting tumbler that has a handle that spins the container, thus churning your compost. 


To get started, simply collect compost from your home, typically in a bucket, and start dumping it into the bin or onto the designated part of your yard. You will want to churn it regularly to keep everything decomposing evenly, and this also helps heat up the pile thus speeding things along.


Then, you need only wait while you continue to add compost. After about six months you will notice some of the compost will be ready to use. To use it, simply scatter it onto your garden beds.


Whatever is leftover that can’t be used can go back into the pile for next time. You will probably be able to harvest from your compost pile once or twice a year. 


Now, for the question of what do you compost, that is going to take a bit more time to answer. There are many things that you can and cannot compost, so learning what can you compost at home is super important. 


Plus, for homesteaders the question is often “what can I compost from my kitchen”, as we typically have a lot of scraps that need to be used up. The rest of this article will be focusing on what to compost and what to avoid.


What Are The Best Things To Put In Compost?

One of the most important things to know when you start learning about composting for beginners is what can go into a compost. In fact, asking what can you compost is perhaps the most important question with respect to composting for beginners. 


The best things to put in your compost pile are foods and materials rich in nutrients. These will have the best effect both on the process of composting, as well as the plants that the compost is eventually used on.


Often, certain foods are recommended as being better than others. For instance, green materials, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, are highly recommended.


Further, other food waste, such as eggshells and coffee grounds, are good choices. Plus, you can even use up old vegetation like flowers, weeds, plant cuttings, and grass clippings.


What Should You Not Put In Compost?

There are a few different types of foods and materials that should not be composted. To start, meat and bones are not recommended. 

Further, dairy products and grains are not recommended because they are not effective, don’t break down easily, and attract all sorts of animals. 


Bioplastics, metals, glass, plastic, and styrofoam should not be composted. These materials do not break down in the composting process, and only serve to hamper the whole process. Further, medical waste should be avoided.


As a final note, oils heavy foods, oil soaked foods, or just pure oil should not be put into the compost pile. However, if there is a little bit of oil on a food that is safe for the compost, that should be fine. 


What Vegetables Should Not Be Composted?

This is one of the more important questions when asking “what can I put in a compost bin”. We often have a lot of vegetable waste, so it is important to determine what vegetables are appropriate for the compost pile.


Any vegetable high in acidity is to be avoided, including tomatoes and pickled foods. This standard applies to all foods, including fruits such as those high in citrus. 


Can You Put Moldy Fruit In Compost?

Yes, you can put moldy fruit into your compost. Moldy fruit is just fruit at a different stage of the decomposing process, so you do not need to be worried about it harming your compost in any way.


With that being said, moldy fruit should be sliced up before composting. This is especially so for larger fruits such as watermelons. Smaller slices of fruit make the composting process go a lot more smoothly overall.


Can Potato Peels Be Composted?

Yes, potato peels can absolutely be composted and, in fact, they are quite beneficial for your compost pile. Potato peels contain all the nutrients of potatoes including potassium, nitrogen, magnesium,, and phosphorus.


Adding potato peels to your compost necessarily adds in these nutrients and will help benefit the compost and the plants that will eventually come about due to that compost.

What Can I Put in a Compost Bin?

If you are asking the question of “what can i put in my compost bin”, or “what can I compost at home”, then look no further. 

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Coffee filters and grounds (yes, the filters are biodegradable!)
  • Egg shells
  • Stale chips and other snack foods
  • Small wood products such as toothpicks, skewers, etc
  • Used paper products such as napkins, paper towels 
  • Small pieces of moldy fruits and vegetables 


What Not To Compost At Home

Now that we have established what can go into compost piles, it is time to determine what ought to be avoided. This step is equally as important as the previous one, especially when learning about composting for beginners.


Putting the wrong thing into the compost can be hazardous at worst and unproductive at best, so it is always good to get an idea of what can go into compost piles.

  • Bioplastics
  • Metals, glass, and plastic
  • Personal hygiene products
  • Medical waste
  • Meat/bones
  • Styrofoam
  • Dairy products (attracts vermin and animals)
  • Grains (Take too long and attract animals)
  • Large amounts of oils or oil-soaked foods


If your kids are like mine, they probably need a reminder!  Print this out and hang it in the kitchen and in the garage for a quick refresher for your compost bin!

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