What is Home Composting?

Kasey James

Home composting is taking kitchen, yard, garden and other organic waste and converting it into mineral-rich soil. This is achieved through controlled decomposition of the organic material. That soil can then be taken and used to grow vegetables, fruits and other plants that need it.

A compost bucket.
A compost bucket.

Home composting begins with a compost bin or compost pile, into which things such as grass clippings, leaves and leftover kitchen scraps are thrown. Each day or as it becomes available, more organic waste is added to the bin or pile. The matter has to be turned using a shovel or other tool every few days. Adding more waste and turning the pile will allow the material to decompose, providing rich soil in the process.

Many people use yard waste when creating compost.
Many people use yard waste when creating compost.

The bin or pile should be in an area that can receive good airflow and is not up against a house or other building. A great place for a home composting pile is in the backyard, away from the house and neighbors. The pile or bin should measure at least 3 feet by 3 feet. Creating a compost pile costs nothing, or a bin can be bought for a relatively low price at a garden store or online.

The organic matter that is thrown into a home composting pile includes old leaves; cut grass; kitchen matter such as fruit peels, vegetable peels and scraps; and any other material from fruits or vegetables. Meat and meat byproducts should not be added. All of these items can be thrown into the pile and turned together. If it is dry outside and has not rained in a while, it might help to add a bit of water to the compost pile. Adding too much water can make the pile swampy, so adding just a bit at a time is the best practice.

For nature to do its job, the home composting pile needs to be turned often with a shovel or pitchfork. This is so that the bacteria that is breaking down the organic matter gets plenty of oxygen. The pile needs to be turned loosely. Mashing down the pile to fit more matter will not give it enough airflow and will make the entire process take longer. Turning the pile and keeping it loose every few days should be sufficient for the matter to decompose.

Soil from a home composting pile is ready to use when it is dark and rich-looking and the original matter that was added to it no longer can be identified. The soil should not smell like the original matter but should have an earthy smell. It also should be free of lumps. Soil that has an unpleasant odor or looks lumpy might need more time to decompose. It takes anywhere from two months to one year to get rich soil from a compost pile.

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