Composting 101: How to Make Compost in 5 Simple Steps

spilt compost bin on blue background

Composting your kitchen scraps and other organic materials is not only a great way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it is a great way to take those nutrients and create healthy soil. It keeps your food scraps out of the landfill and saves you money on expensive fertilizer for your garden beds. Composting is an easy way to turn your food waste into nutrient-rich soil but it is not simply a matter of throwing your kitchen scraps in a pile. there is a little more to it. Check out our composting tips for beginners if you are new to composting. Here's a look at what we will be going over in this guide:



Ready to get started? First, let's look at how to compost to nail down the basics before starting your very own compost pile or bin.


Composting 101: how to compost 

While you could start throwing your kitchen scraps into a pile in the backyard or a bin in your kitchen, you should have a basic understanding of the composting process and how to set up a compost pile or bin to ensure the most success. Nobody wants a pile that is too soggy or smelly that they can't do anything with. Your waste will still break down but if you want finished compost quickly, you will need to follow these 5 steps to start making compost.


Step 1: Find an ideal location

Worm compost bin on a balcony

Location is important to consider when setting up a compost pile or bin. Do you have the space for backyard composting or are you limited to indoor composting? Ideally, you want to have a pile that is around 3 cubic feet in order to maintain it. The location of your compost pile should be somewhere that is dry and shady. You don't want it in a spot that gets a lot of sunshine because that will dry it out and you also want to avoid areas with poor drainage to avoid your pile getting too soggy.


Step 2: Learn what you can and cannot compost

compost bin with food scraps

Unfortunately not all kitchen waste can go into your compost pile. Certain foods, like meat, dairy, and oils don't break down very quickly. They can also create a foul smell and attract pests to your compost pile. Organic materials like coffee grounds, egg shells, and fruit and vegetable scraps all make good compostable materials. If you want more details on what you can add to your compost bin check out our list of what you should and shouldn't compost, it has over 100 items on it!


 


 

Step 3: Balancing browns & greens

People adding grass clippings to compost bin

A successful compost pile needs a balance of brown and green materials. Green materials are nitrogen-rich materials such as grass clippings, coffee grounds, and food scraps. Having enough green materials in your pile helps microorganisms in your pile grow and reproduce quickly. Brown materials are carbon-rich materials that help feed your pile's microorganisms to keep them alive while they break down your waste. Sources of brown materials you might consider are brown plant materials like dead leaves and twigs as well as paper and cardboard. You want the right carbon to nitrogen-ratio to keep your compost pile in balance. A good way to keep this balance is to add two to four parts of brown materials for every one part of green materials.


Step 4: Provide enough oxygen & moisture

Watering a compost pile

The microorganisms in your pile, like most living things, need oxygen and water to stay alive. If you want the composting process to go smoothly and quickly, you need to have the right amount of water and air. Layering your compost materials and making sure they are not too large helps increase airflow. Another way to increase airflow is to turn your pile regularly using a shovel or a pitchfork. You also want to keep your pile moist, think wrung-out sponge moist. Most of the food waste you are adding has a good amount of moisture, but if necessary you can simply add some water.


Step 5: Maintain the right temperature

An outdoor thermometer

To really get the composting process going your compost pile or compost bin needs to maintain the proper temperature. Hot composting can only happen when you have the right balance of your brown and green materials, air, and water. The ideal temperature for your pile is between 130 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This high temperature keeps your good microorganisms thriving, but kills any possible bacteria and weed seeds.


 


 

5 composting methods to try if you are just starting out

There are plenty of different methods you can try when it comes to composting. It depends on the space you have and the level of maintenance you want. Here is a list of 5 common comforting methods to get you started on reducing your food waste and turning those food scraps into usable compost for your plants:


1. Vermicomposting

A handful of compost with worms

Vermicomposting is also known as worm composting and is a great option if you do not have enough space for backyard composting. The worms and soil help break down your food waste while producing worm castings (manure). This form of indoor composting can be done in a basement or under your sink. You just need worms and soil along with either a commercial worm composting bin or you can simply use a 10-18 gallon storage bin or even a 5-gallon bucket to get started.

Pro tip: Just like other composting methods, you need to have proper airflow. Make sure that you drill some holes in the top of your worm bin if you made your own. 


2. Lomi

person putting food scraps in lomi compost bin

Do you ever wish you could just compost your food waste with the touch of a button? Thanks to electric compost bins like Lomi, you can do just that. Throw your organic material into the Lomi, add a Lomi pod, select your cycle, push the button, and in just a few hours you have nutrient-rich soil that you can use in your garden.

Pro tip: Make sure to mix your Lomi dirt in a 1:10 ratio before adding it to your garden soil. 

 

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3. Bokashi

Bokashi compost bin

Bokashi composting uses bran that's been inoculated with beneficial organisms and a food source (often molasses). Bokashi compost bins turn organic matter like your vegetable scraps into a fermented pre-compost material. You can tuck this small bin outside, under a countertop, or anywhere in your kitchen. 

Pro tip: You can use both the solid material from the bokashi as well as the liquid. Use a 1:100 ratio of bokashi liquid to water. You should use this liquid fertilizer on the root area, not the leaves.


4. Outdoor Composting

A person adding scraps to compost pile

Outdoor composting is one of the easiest methods of composting if you have enough outdoor space. You can use a bin or simply make a compost pile using some wood pallets. You can dump all kinds of compostable materials in your pile like yard waste, food waste, and garden waste. This method can take some time to produce finished compost, about 6 months to a year.

Pro tip: To speed up your outdoor composting, be sure to turn the pile every few days to aerate it and increase the temperature of your pile.


5. Trench Composting

shovel digging in dirt next to fruit and vegetable waste

Trench composting is often called the lazy method of composting your organic materials. It requires no maintenance, but does require some manual labor. You start by digging a trench or hole that is approximately 12-18" deep in your garden. Throw in a mixture of brown and green materials and cover up your hole or trench with about 6-8" of soil. That's it!

Pro tip: Keep your trench or hole at least 6" away from your plants. 


 


 

Composting 101 resources for tips, tricks, and more

Now that you have some insight into how to start composting, here are a few more tips, tricks, and helpful information to keep you composting like a pro:

  1. Composting for beginners: This guide has all the information needed to start composting for beginners. 
  2. 17 best compost bins: Not sure which compost bin is right for you? This helpful guide has got you covered.
  3. Composting dos and don'ts: Another useful article on the dos and don't of composting. It also has some common composting problems and how to fix them.
  4. The ultimate guide to indoor composting: tips, products & more: This informative guide discusses everything you need to know about composting. It has different methods, tips, and products to try. 
  5. Making compost in 30 days using pallet wood bins: This neat video shows you have to make a compost bin using just a few wood pallets.

Hopefully this guide was able to give you the insight and confidence you need to go out and start reducing your food waste and creating fertilizer to add to your garden soil. If you want to turn your organic matter into nutrient-rich dirt in a matter of hours, the Lomi electric composter is the right method for you. Users are gushing about how much they love their Lomi and how it has made composting easy and fun! Take one more thing off of your to-do list with a Lomi!


Written by: Sarah Kendal