How to start composting (the easy way!)

Ever since I started gardening, I have read about composting. I checked out books from the library, read articles online, saved food scraps in the kitchen and tried (confession: I might not have given my best effort) to compost. Despite my reading, I always felt like I was missing something or that it was just so complex I wasn’t absorbing all the information.

Pile of Leaves for Compost

How to Compost – The Lazy Way

When we moved, we were torn. Should we get a worm composting bin, create our own with leftover chicken wire or buy a rotating bin? And then, I stumbled across this TED talk that simplified the whole process. Granted, I took it with a grain of salt, and I know that composting can be so much more than what he is describing in the video. However, I am thankful for the simplified version he explains. And, though you may not think so when you first start the video, he is quite entertaining!

Disclaimer: This is a TED talk that you don’t really need to see. I used to listen to TED talks on my commute to work, and occasionally I would have to re-listen at night, so I could see all the images being shown or the amazing things the person was doing in action. That’s not the case here. So feel free to listen while you clean the house or save it for a drive!

Everything You Know About Composting is Wrong: Mike McGrath at TEDxPhoenixville

I don’t know about you, but this made composting seem like a breeze. Do you ever overthink things? I tend to overthink most things, and this talk snapped me right out of it and into action. It came at just the right time, too.

We had all of our fall leaves bagged up and in the backyard waiting to be composted. After watching the talk, I decided to mow/shred the leaves and get going. So far, we are just using shredded leaves, grass clippings and used coffee grounds. I know our girls (chickens) are delighted to continue getting our kitchen scraps for now!

Bags of Gathered Leaves by Wood Pile for Compost

Composting Resources

If you are looking for a little bit more information than what this TED talk provides, I suggest reading this article to take it a step further. Or, if you want even more information, including a how-to guide on building a compost bin, I suggest reading this article.

Pumpkin Plant Vining Out from Compost

Proof that Composting Works

UPDATE: We are now adding kitchen scraps that our chickens don’t enjoy to our compost pile as well. We aren’t always great at turning it, but we found out recently just how well it is working when we had a few pumpkin plants sprout right out of the compost pile.

We grew Sugar Pie Pumpkins last year and must have tossed in a few seeds to the compost pile because we have an abundance of Sugar Pie Pumpkins now. We have already harvested multiple pumpkins and turned them into muffins, pies, soups and vegetable sautés, and we are still finding pumpkins hidden all around the yard. Check out the one below in the shrubs. I must have walked by it a dozen times before noticing it.

The success of these pumpkin plants has been the biggest testament to composting for us! If you aren’t composting yet, start now and you won’t regret it.

Pumpkin Hiding in Bushes

How to Compost with a Three Bin System

UPDATE: After researching different compost bins, I decided on this three bin compost system for a couple of reasons.

First, I love that it has three bins because we cook almost all of our meals, so we always have lots of kitchen scraps to put to good use. I didn’t want to miss out on using any of our scraps because we had to wait for the compost to be ready. This three bin system allows us to have compost in three different stages at one time. We use the first bin for fresh kitchen scraps, and once it’s full, we move it to the second bin so it can continue to decompose without having more scraps added to it. Once the second bin is full, we shift the compost over again. By the time the compost makes it to the third bin, it’s ready to use, and we didn’t have to pause our plan in the meantime.

The second reason I decided on this system is because we could make it ourselves – though I use “we” loosely because it was about 99% my husband’s doing. He looked over the plans, bought the supplies and built the entire frame. I stapled the chicken wire to the inside once he was done. Thanks again, babe!

Ultimately, this has been a huge success because it matches our needs really well.

  1. It’s closer to our house than our pile was, which makes taking out our OXO container that holds our compostables in the fridge that much easier.
  2. It is also visible from our back door, so I remember to turn it and check the temperature on the thermometer more often.
  3. A third bonus is that it is, mostly, enclosed in the bin. When we were tossing it into an open pile, I was worried we were creating a home for some unwanted critters. Now, I don’t have to worry as much.

Each system we have used has worked well for us at the given time. However, if I were starting out now and knew I’d be composting for the long-term, here is what I would use:

My Recommended Composting System

I hope this helps you select the right system for your gardening needs! Creating your own compost will save you time and money and empower you to have a sustainable garden.

2 thoughts on “How to start composting (the easy way!)”

  1. Can you pl guide me on the ideal ratio of shredded leaves, grass clipping and coffee grounds. And also tell me do the used coffee grounds work as well?

    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Sameera. An ideal ratio for your compost is 3:1 carbon/nitrogen. The carbon rich materials are often referred to as “brown materials” which includes the leaves. The materials rich in nitrogen are often called “green materials” which include grass clippings and coffee grounds. This means you will want 3 parts leaves to 1 part grass clippings and/or coffee grounds. And, yes, the coffee grounds are used – otherwise that would be some pretty expensive compost ;). My apologizes that it wasn’t clear. If you aren’t a coffee drinker, you can call around coffee shops in your area, and they are usually happy to give you their used coffee grounds. Hope this helps!

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