Learn how to start composting your kitchen scraps! Not only is it a simple concept but it also saves you money and helps the Earth! Keep reading to learn how and why.
I feel like so many people never give composting a try because it just seems too technical but it doesn’t have to be!
What exactly is composting, anyways?
Simply put- composting is compiling dead or decaying organic matter to create a nutrient rich soil-like fertilizer to improve the growth of plants.
Composting helps balance out the good vs bad bacteria and fungi in the soil while also piling up tons of beneficial and rich nutrients right back into the soil.
Why would I want to start composting my kitchen scraps?
There is quite a few reason why!
I’ll start with the money saving one first. How many times a week do you take out your trash? In my house, with a family of four, I take the trash out maybe 2 times a week. Yep. Seems like a small detail BUT those trash bags add up.
Im sure you’re thinking, “Shelby, doesn’t your garbage can in the kitchen stink to high heaven if you’re only emptying it out 1-2 times a week?”. Nope. Not at all. Not even when I stay home with the kids and make every single meal from our kitchen 7 days a week.
See, throwing our food scraps into the little compost bucket on the kitchen counter helps keep the volume of trash down in the kitchen garbage can as well as the stink. Simple as that. And if you’re keen on that idea, another reason why we take the trash out so minimally is because we also have a separate container for recyclable materials!
Another money saving reason to start composting your kitchen scraps is…
That if you garden, you’ll be making your own compost for use! You will be creating your own rich source of mineral and vitamin rich compost right in your own yard, for all of those beautiful flowers and veggies! Sounds like a sweet deal to me.
How does composting kitchen scraps help the Earth?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 20-30 percent of what we dump into landfills in compostable waste. And that compostable waste sits in a plastic bag creating methane emissions with the possibility of leaching ammonia into our water sources. On top of this fact, that compostable food waste will actually take years to compost once it’s dumped into a landfill, sitting in a plastic bag.
Watch this video about how we compost our kitchen scraps & a day in the life of our compost bucket!
If you’re creating your own compost for garden use, you’ll be saving gas and less carbon emissions by not having to purchase compost from your local nursery or hardware store too!
I don’t have to tell you that we as humans aren’t the best at recycling and reducing waste. I feel that composting your kitchen scraps is an amazingly easy way to give back to the Earth.
What if I don’t have garden to use my compost in?
There are still many things you can do with your compost if you don’t have a garden to use it in!
- Check with your city to see if they offer a compost curbside service
- Donate it to your gardening friends
- Add it to your potted plants
- Donate it to a local community garden
- Check in at your local farmer’s market and ask if any farmers are interested in it
- Try giving it away on your local neighborhood Facebook group, next-door website or even craigslist
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So let’s get down to it, how do you start composting kitchen scraps?
First, you’ll need some sort of container to keep in your kitchen to collect your plant based kitchen scraps. We’ve had one like this for the last 5 years and I love it! Its stainless steel and comes with a charcoal filter in the lid to help keep down smells. But, if you’re taking your compost out every 1-2 days then you shouldn’t be dealing with any smell in the first place.
I keep the compost bin by our sink, pretty close to where I usually chop veggies and fruits throughout the day so its easy to just toss any banana peels, broccoli stems or strawberry tops right in.
You can purchase compostable bags like these to use in your bin but I don’t even bother. After throwing the compost into our compost corral outside I do a quick rinse and scrub and its good to go.
What all can I compost?
Good question! Now, there are some differences of opinion on this matter but here is how we do it.
- Any plants foods are fine– all parts of any veggies and fruits. Cooked veggies are fine as long as they aren’t covered or cooked with dairy
- Eggs shells– no need to rinse or crush unless you really want to
- Coffee and tea grounds
- Herbivore manure– think rabbits and chickens
- Untreated wood ashes
- Cotton and wool rags
- Toilet paper rolls
- Paper bags
- Disease free plants that you’re pulling out of your garden
- Grass clippings
Things to avoid composting:
Avoid adding the following to your compost pile, many of these items are on the “no” list because they will attract pests and odors or contain parasites.
- Cat or dog feces
- Dairy products
- Meat- raw or cooked
- Baked goods
- House plants- I feel like a lot of people are more relaxed on this one but I know that many houseplants are pretty toxic to people, so I avoid using them in the garden
- Coal or charcoal ash
- Yard trimmings treated with pesticides
Quick note on green to brown ratio of composting-
Remember to add carbon rich things like cardboard, wood shavings and dried leaves to your compost pile to balance out your nitrogen rich additions (like veggies and other plant matter). It’s not something that we have ever made a point to focus on, we just add to carbon rich things out of necessity when we have them.
But, if you have an odor problem with your compost kitchen scrap pile, then you may need to add more carbon rich materials.
Now you know the why and the what, lets see HOW you can compost your kitchen scraps…
This can be very technical with getting the proper “green to brown” ratios and having multiple bin systems…but I am just sharing what we do and how we do it. Its worked for us for the last 3 years.
You’ll need somewhere to let your compost sit. Look for a place that gets some sun. We chose to use a small corner of our backyard, right in the garden.
Brian built what we call the “compost corral” its a super simple three sided box. Its about 3 feet wide and 3 feet deep. The sides are covered with some cheap metal mesh material, which is great for adding airflow!
The front end has a 1 1/2 foot tall board that blocks the pile from spilling out. In this little corral, we dump our kitchen compost scraps and anything else we want to compost.
You can opt for purchasing an actual composter too if you aren’t keen on building one. Or you can even just “direct compost” where you take your compost scraps and dump them in a hole in the ground and cover it with dirt (my in-laws did this and raved about it). There are many possibilities. What you need to focus on here is that your compost is contained somewhere and has air and moisture.
Now that your compost pile has a place to be and you know what to add to it, you’ve got to remember to stir it occasionally! Some people say to mix it once a week and others say just do it whenever you remember to do so. I probably stir our compost pile maybe once a month! I just use a shovel and haphazardly put some effort into it, there’s no need to make this a giant chore.
Remember to keep it moist! We have very hot and dry summers (zone 9b here) so I will occasionally water down the pile during those hotter months. You don’t want the pile to be soaking but you don’t want it to be dry and dusty.
How do I use my compost kitchen scraps now that they’ve composted?
Easy peasy! Get to the bottom of your bin and scrape out what you need.
In our compost kitchen scrap pile that looks like me lifting up that front board using some leverage with a shovel and then scraping down under there to dig for some “black gold”!
Then I add that lovely broken down, smell free, nutrient rich compost directly into our garden rows. Simple! I would even use it in flower beds as well.
You’ll know that your compost is safe to use and ready when it no longer looks like food or leaf pieces. It’ll take on the look of slightly moist dirt and will have no smell.
How long will it take for my kitchen scraps to compost?
Depending on your climate, anywhere from 3-12 months.
- Don’t compost any meats, animals parts, toxic/diseased plants, cat/dog feces or dairy
- Do compost plant matter, clean paper goods, veggies and fruits from your kitchen and egg shells
- Choose a bin for your kitchen scraps and a contained area to use as your outdoor compost pile
- Remember to stir your compost pile occasionally
- Remember to keep it somewhat moist
- Use that compost, throw it directly into the soil!
Well that about wraps this up then! Hope you guys give composting a good try for yourself, for your garden and for the Earth!