Types of home composting
Updated: Sep 7
There are several ways to make compost. Whether you own a large property in the green lands or watch the sunset from a small condo in Buffalo, New York, USA., there are ways to create high- quality compost in your space. Let’s take a look at the most popular composting methods and what they do.
Hot and cold composting
As the name suggests, high-temperature composting uses heat to break down organic matter more quickly and thoroughly. This method requires high temperatures, up to 140 to 160°F, occurring in the center of the compost pile. It is the high heat that allows rapid decomposition and kills pathogens and weed seeds.
Heating compost requires controlling the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, moisture, and oxygen levels. Aerobic bacteria dominate the hot decomposition process.
Hot composting is a good option if you want to invest time in managing your bin and need safe compost quickly. You'll need to turn the piles weekly, monitor moisture levels carefully, and insulate the bins if it's cold outside. Hot composting can be done both indoors and outdoors.
Cold composting, on the other hand, is less demanding and slower. In this case, you can just build a compost pile and leave it there until next year. Decomposition is first aerobic and the mixture is slightly heated. Then oxygen is depleted and anaerobic bacteria take over.
If you're not in a hurry to use compost in your garden, lawn, or flower pots, this is a good option. Cold composting does not kill pathogens and weeds, so you need to be especially careful about what you add to your compost pile. It has a strong odor and is not suitable for indoor composting.
Vermicomposting, also called bio composting, is a popular method of using worms to break down waste. It's a quick and comfortable way to recycle food waste, especially if you plan to install a compost bin indoors. Vermicomposting is odorless, and worm bins are generally small in size, making them easy to place under the kitchen sink, on a balcony, or in a basement.
Enzymes inside the red worm break down organic matter. Worms eat food waste and excrete nutrient-rich compost also called vermicompost or worm castings. The process also has a byproduct called worm leachate, which is the liquid that drains from the bin during the composting process, which can be diluted 1:100 in water and used as fertilizer.
Where to buy Red Wiggler for vermicomposting online
Uncle Jim's Worm Farm – Red Wiggler Live Compost Worm Mix for Garden Soil – Amazon Arcadia Garden – Worm Nerd Live Composting Worm Mix (100 Worms) – Home Depot
While very popular among apartment dwellers looking to obtain organic fertilizer from food scraps, the Bokashi method is not a true composting method. Food waste does not decompose but is fermented by anaerobic microorganisms. The fermentation process is accelerated by adding an activating solution called bokashi bran.
The final product is fermented for two weeks before being composted. Add them to your garden soil a few weeks before planting so they have time to decompose further or place them in an outdoor compost bin.
The Bokashi method is an excellent solution for easily composting foods such as eggs, dairy, and meat. During fermentation, a liquid known as compost tea or bokashi tea is also produced. It is an excellent fertilizer that is diluted with water at a 1:100 ratio.
Bokashi kits are available online at Amazon, Walmart, and other retailers and home and garden stores.
Indoor, outdoor and community composting
You can build a compost pile or bin in your backyard, put compost in an airtight container in your apartment, or take your waste to a community composting site.
Indoor composting is a great way to reduce household waste and create free, high-quality fertilizer for your potted plants from kitchen scraps. Since all work is done in a closed environment, choose a method that does not produce unpleasant odors. The most popular are vermicomposting and bokashi composting.
Indoor compost bins are small and suitable for storing food waste and are not suitable for garden trimmings such as tree branches.
Outdoor or backyard composting is the most commonly used and most comfortable if you have a yard with enough space. Closed or open containers can be used, or the raw materials can be buried directly in the soil. This method uses different sizes and types of bins and is the best way to compost garden waste.
Community-scale composting programs are managed privately or by municipalities and offer the possibility of sending or taking waste to a common location for controlled decomposition.
If you don't have enough space at home for a compost bin, this is a smart way to recycle your waste. Below is a map of community composters across the United States that you can use to find a waste composting program in your area.
Does compost always require a bin? Which type is best?
Composting doesn't always require a trash can, but using a container (DIY or store-bought) can make the process faster and easier. Indoor composting is also possible. For those who can't or don't want to use the most common types of trash cans and containers, here are some popular alternatives:
Open bins: best for composting garden waste
Open composting methods do not provide much protection from the environment. This often happens when compost piles are built in enclosures made of barbed wire, metal stakes or wooden pallets.
Open top bins, also known as “open top bins” or “open compost systems,” are best for composting garden waste. It is easy and inexpensive to manufacture even in large sizes.
Advantages of open trash cans:
Easy to build and maintain.
Cheaper than other options.
Excess moisture is rarely a problem.
Excellent for garden waste, especially large branches.
Disadvantages of open trash cans:
It does not provide protection from dry air or moisture. In dry areas, the mixture may need to be watered more frequently.
Expose compost to heat and cold. In winter, if your pile is too small, it will be difficult to achieve adequate central heating. It's so hot in the summer that germs can die.
A variety of insects can infest compost.
They are more susceptible to rodents and other pests that love food waste.
Where to buy open bins online:
MTB - Garden Wire Compost Bin 36x36x30 inches - Amazon
Greens Fence – 309.17 Gal. Cedar Wood Stationary Compost Bin – Home Depot
Greens Fence - 309.17 gal. Beige Wood and Cedar Multi-Stage Compost Bin - Walmart
Closed bins: best for composting food waste
Closed trash cans often look like boxes made of plastic or wood. Most are bottomless, allowing organic matter to settle directly into the soil. Beneficial organisms can aid decomposition and prevent the compost liquid from draining or becoming soggy. Some models have drain holes in the bottom.
The top or front can be removed to allow you to add more compost material and turn the contents over. The walls have small holes for proper ventilation. A specific type of closed box is a worm box made to house red worms. The lid and box have more ventilation holes and a second box with a cooler drain plug to collect the compost juices.
Provides better protection from pests and the environment.
The pile heats up more easily.
Insulating is easier in winter.
It is safer to compost your kitchen waste.
They cost more to buy or build.
You may need to restrict airflow and rotate more frequently.
It is easy for compost to become too wet or compacted.
You can DIY a closed compost bin using plastic storage bins, wine crates, garbage cans, wooden
pallets, old wooden dressers, and other similar containers you can find around the house.
You can also buy it from online stores like Amazon, Home Depot, and Walmart. Here's a detailed guide to help you choose the best compost bin for your needs and budget.
Tumbler bins: Speed up composting and are easier to use.
It takes more effort to make a tumbler bin, but it's worth it. There is no need to aerate the compost pile by removing it from the bin and turning it with a rake or garden fork. Rolling the bin twice a week will improve ventilation and mix the ingredients inside.
A tumbler trash can looks like a plastic trash can with a built-in metal shaft or base that allows you to rotate the trash can with a handle. Depending on the size, your tumbler container can be installed in your yard, garage, or porch.
It's easier to use.
Mixing and aerating compost has been simplified.
It's sealed well enough to retain moisture, but also has holes to allow for proper airflow.
Speeds up decomposition. The average time it takes to convert raw materials into compost (without aging) using a tumbler container is 3 weeks to 2 months.
More work to make DIY.
Most models are more expensive than open and closed containers of similar capacity.
Not suitable for saving garden space. Tumbler containers typically offer half the capacity for the
same footprint because there is more clearance underneath the container.
Tumbler bins are widely available online. You can purchase popular models at stores such as:
FCMP Outdoor – IM4000 Dual Chamber Tumbling Compost Bin – Amazon
RSI – 65 gallons. Two Tier Compost Tumbler with Cart – Home Depot
SuperDeal – 43Gal Compost Bin Dual Chamber Tumbling Fertilizer Tank – Walmart
Trench composting: A low-maintenance, bin-free solution.
With trench composting, you basically dig a hole and bury the organic waste into the soil. Cover with a 12 to 18 inch thick layer of soil to retain moisture and protect the compost material from pests. Then just let it disintegrate. Trench composting can be used to enrich the soil in large gardens by creating trenches between vegetable rows.
This is the easiest and lowest maintenance method of composting.
No aeration or rotation of organic material is required.
You can cover it with a thick layer of soil and add dairy or animal waste.
They are invisible and do not affect the design of your garden.
It benefits surrounding plants by continuously leaching small amounts of liquid fertilizer.
After the trench is covered with soil, no more waste can be added.
Slow decomposition. It takes about a year for compost to be ready, making it most similar to a natural process.
Once compost has decomposed, it is difficult to remove and use it elsewhere. Trench composting is commonly used to enrich the soil at the installation site.
Essential Compost Ingredients
To make high-quality compost, you need four essential ingredients: carbon, nitrogen, water and air.
Carbon-rich materials added to compost are also called ‘brown waste’, ‘brown matter’ or ‘browns’.
The most commonly used brown materials are:
Plant stems, twigs, and branches
Wood chips (unprocessed)
Sawdust and wood ash (spread thinly to prevent clumping)
Brown paper bag (shredded)
Matte, colorless paper (washed)
Cardboard (wax layer, no glue or tape, shredded)
Straw and hay
Dryer lint containing only natural fibers
Browns are the dry part of the compost and their main role is to feed the decomposing microorganisms.
Nitrogen-rich materials are called “green waste,” “green matter,” or simply “green.” Common compost greens include:
fruit and vegetable scraps
Cut the grass (cut into smaller pieces and spread in a thin layer to prevent clumps or clumps).
Used coffee grounds
Paper coffee filters (if vermicomposting, do not add bleached filters as they can be toxic to compost worms)
Biodegradable paper tea bags (no staples)
Chicken, pig, cow dung
Hair or pet fur
Green vegetables are the wet part of the compost, which plays a big role in heating the pile and ensuring effective decomposition. Nitrogen is essential for the growth and reproduction of aerobic bacteria.
oxygen and aeration
The microorganisms that break down compost need air to live and thrive. Proper ventilation allows them to multiply and work faster. Otherwise, their numbers will decrease and composting will take longer.
Experts recommend changing compost at least once a week in the summer (ideally once every three to four days) and once every three to four weeks in the winter. To speed up decomposition, try Berkeley or rapid composting methods. Turn the pile every other day. It is ready in less than three weeks, compared to three to five months using traditional methods.
Stay hydrated and hydrated
Microorganisms also need a moist environment to survive and move around. The ideal compost is moist, like a sponge, containing about 40-50% moisture. Overly dry or soggy compost will decompose slowly or stop altogether.
The best way to check the moisture content is to hold the compost in your hands and squeeze it.
The moisture level is perfect when a drop of water begins to form or falls.
In most cases, vegetables are wet enough to retain sufficient moisture. If the compost feels dry, sprinkle some water on it, pile it in, and aerate it. If the compost is too wet, add dry material, such as cardboard or dry leaves, and turn the pile.
The Best Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio for Compost and How to Achieve It
The carbon-nitrogen ratio, also known as the C:N ratio, is discussed in many scientific papers. Most studies show that a 25:1 – 30:1 ratio is the level that makes bacteria happiest and most comfortable in a compost pile.
Brown and green have different carbon to nitrogen ratios. For example, the ratio of tree branches is 500:1 and the ratio of shredded cardboard is 350:1. On the other hand, the ratio of vegetable waste is 11:1 and that of chicken manure is 6:1. Mix brown and green in varying amounts to achieve the desired level of 25:1 – 30:1.
Are you okay. Few people actually calculate how much carbon and nitrogen each waste type brings to the mix. In practice, we use time-tested rules of thumb: That is, to each green bucket, add 2 to 4 buckets of brown material.
What to keep in your compost bin
Compost is a valuable resource for homeowners who have invested in organic gardening or eco- friendly lawn care. This is why garden waste contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers and other chemicals is generally excluded.
Also to avoid is waste that decomposes slowly, gives off strong odors when decomposed, and attracts rodents and other pests, such as eggs, meat, bones, dairy products, and more.
Here is a list of common organic products you should not put in your compost bin:
Meat scraps and bones (including fish bones)
Fats, oils, grease, lard
pet waste and trash
coal or charcoal ash
Garden trimmings treated with pesticides
All parts of the black walnut tree
Diseased plants or plants showing signs of pest infestation.
Colored and/or glossy cardboard or paper
Garlic and onions are acidic and can harm the microorganisms in your compost (they also have a pungent smell).
Citrus waste (acidic, hazardous in large quantities)
Dryer lint (not compostable if it contains synthetic fibers)
All inorganic substances (plastics, metals, etc.)
6 Steps to Creating High-Quality Compost in Your Backyard
With so much information out there, composting can seem like a complicated project. But when you start deciding what to do, it all boils down to six basic steps.
Step 1: Decide how and where to collect food scraps and yard waste
Kitchen waste: Most people place containers under the sink, on the counter, near kitchen cabinets, or in the freezer. The idea is to make it easy for you and your family to throw away food scraps every time you cook or your child eats an apple or carrot.
Yard waste: Have an outside area to collect twigs, twigs, lawn clippings, leaves, etc. Cut them into small pieces and immediately place them in your compost bin. These piles should not be left unattended for too long as they can attract pests.
Step 2: Choose a location for your compost bin or pile.
Determine the size of the file or box and choose an appropriate amount of space. Most outdoor pile sizes range from 3 x 3 feet to 5 x 5 feet. Smaller containers are needed to maintain the proper temperature inside the compost when it is cold outside. Larger piles require a lot of work to redirect and aerate.
It is best to choose a well-drained area close to a water source and not under a wooden fence where it may decompose with the pile.
Buy or build a compost bin to fit your space. If you're thinking about building your own custom bin, check out this helpful DIY tutorial on building a compost bin.
Step 3: Prepare ingredients
Cutting the ingredients into small pieces, about the size of your thumb, will help the bacteria break down the scraps faster. Get into the habit of chopping up your food waste before putting it in the bin. Once it spoils, this part is less enjoyable.
When trimming your lawn, use a mulching mower to cut the grass into small pieces. Using a lawn mower can also help you cut the leaves into smaller pieces.
Step 4: Building a Compost Pile
Start with a layer of wood chips and twigs about 4 to 6 inches thick. Its role is to absorb liquids leaching from the compost and to provide aeration to the bottom of the pile.
Continue building the greens and browns. If the mixture seems dry, sprinkle some water on it. It should look and feel like a wrung out sponge.
Finish the compost mixture with a brown layer. To prevent pests, make it 4 to 8 inches thick. To limit rainwater access, close the lid or cover open boxes with cardboard.
Step 5: Compost Management
Keep your compost pile reasonably moist and aerated to ensure rapid and thorough decomposition.
You should use a rake or garden fork to rotate your plants once a week in the summer and once every three to four weeks in the colder months.
If it looks too dry, sprinkle a little water and turn the compost to absorb moisture here and there and ensure there is enough oxygen to continue decomposition.
If your compost pile smells, it usually means there is too much water. To reduce moisture, add more brown stuff and rotate the pile to spread it out.
Step 6: Let the compost mature
The decomposition stage is nearly complete when the compost begins to cool and little scrap (mainly hard-to-decompose wood) is found in the mixing process. However, the mixing should last at least a month.
During this maturation period:
Compost becomes finer.
During decomposition and compost pH, the organic acids present rise from about 5.5 to near-neutral values (usually 6 to 8) that are more suitable for plants.
The number of decomposing bacteria and fungi is reduced. Using cured compost will still help enrich the soil, but not enough to compete with plants for nutrients.
All phytotoxic substances (ammonia, salts, organic acids) are removed.
Completed compost and testing methods
Finished compost refers to compost that remains after the decomposition process is completed and is aged or hardened compost. Some gardeners keep it in bins, others put it in bags after it cools.
How do I know if my compost is stable and ready to use? Here are some simple tests:
Measure the temperature at the center of the pile. It should be close to temperature.
Smell the compost. Aged compost has a nice, neutral, fresh smell, like forest soil.
Prepare your compost. It should have a good texture with no noticeable areas.
Measure pH. The pH of the finished compost is 6 to 8.
Add compost to the pot and plant tomatoes, barley and radishes. After germination, compost can be used.
How to Use Compost
Finished compost can be used in a variety of ways. The four most common uses for which compost is praised are:
Most homeowners use compost to improve their garden topsoil and achieve richer, tastier crops and healthier plants. Commercially available topsoil costs $10 to $50 per cubic yard, and this free, natural option is the source of magic.
How to improve your soil using compost:
Spread the compost 2 to 4 inches thick.
until it reaches the top of the soil, 6 to 9 inches deep.
Compost is an excellent type of mulch to use in vegetable gardens, flower beds, and new lawns. Once applied, it gradually releases nutrients, providing your plants with more nutrition with each watering. The compost layer also protects soil moisture and regulates temperature.
How to use compost as mulch:
Use a rake to scoop out the top 2 to 3 inches of soil.
Add a 2- to 3-inch thick layer of compost mulch on top of the soil.
Are you planning to plant or replant your lawn? Use compost as a top dressing to provide a nutritious mulch for your grass seeds and ensure good soil contact.
How to use compost as a top dressing:
Before sowing seeds, spread a layer of compost 1⁄2 to 1 inch thick.
Add compost to the top 1 to 2 inches of the soil.
Combining compost and garden soil makes a great potting mix. Suitable for indoor and outdoor plants that require well-draining, fertile soil rich in nutrients and organic matter.
How to use compost in potting soil:
Mix 20-30% compost with 70-80% garden soil.
Store in a sealed plastic bag in a dry, cool place.
Use it whenever you purchase a new pot or change the potting soil of an old plant.
Enjoy the benefits of natural, free, home-made compost!
Now you know what compost is and how it can change the way you garden and maintain your lawn. Still hesitant about building a compost pile? Lawn Love has the best experts to help you! Reap the benefits of natural, free homemade compost by contacting a local lawn care professional who specializes in organic soil amendments!