Home Composting 101

I’m doing my first small-scale home composting experiment and so far it’s looking pretty good. I did some research online and there was a lot of mention of needing to purchase special containers and organiclesson.comstarter materials. Some said you need at least one cubic meter to be successful and needed to monitor temperature and test nitrogen levels. It was starting to sound complicated, I’m just an urban dweller on a small lot wanting to recycle some material I already had to throw on the citrus trees. And I’m a cheapskate.

So here’s what I did:

1. I took a 5 gallon plastic trash bucket with a lid and drilled a 1/4″ hole in the bottom and about 20-ish holes around the sides in a pattern that appealed to my sense of order. I’m pretty sure that part can be unscientific, you just need to let some air in for the process to work.

2. I filled it about 3/4 of the way with small to medium sized leaves and weeds I raked up from the yard. I then added some spoiled fruit, vegetables and coffee grinds. I sliced up the aforementioned and removed larger sticks.

3. Stir it all up, add some water, stir again and close the lid. Place in an out of the way corner where the sun can warm it up.

4. About once a week stir and/or shake up the container, add water if it’s dry. It might smell a bit questionable at first, but after 2-3 weeks it has compacted, darkened and has a nice earthy smell to it.  Additional chopping of the contents seems to speed the process.

5. Now the fun part, doing what I do best: spreading compost!


Not a lot of science here.

Not a lot of science here.


The principle is to provide your organic waste matter with some air, water and a bit of warmth and it will decompose into a nice nutrient rich material. It doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive nor time consuming. On a larger scale, for plants with specific requirements or to speed the process maybe you do want to apply some starter material and test the final product. Mother nature doesn’t do all that, so just use a container with a lid to keep the bugs and animals out and the moisture in. Stir occasionally and viola! Free fertilizer! Obviously, don’t add anything non-organic and you might want to leave out larger sticks as they’ll take longer to break down.  And don’t add animal waste, unless maybe it’s from an herbivore.

Total investment: $0.

If you’d like to learn more about composting and home gardening, there’s a well written website to be found at organiclesson.com



%d bloggers like this: