This shouldn’t be a stinky subject. When done right, your compost bin or compost pile should not smell. If you’re currently thumbing your nose at making your own compost or just don’t know how to get started, then let me show you how to compost the right way with less stink and more soil success.

Composting is a frugal and environmentally friendly way to turn kitchen and garden waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer for your lawn, garden, or potted plants. Everyone can benefit from composting, whether you live in an urban apartment, a home with a yard, or on an organic farm like me.

how to compost
Photo: Kate, my sister-in-law, examines the massive compost bin her husband built.
 
So stop holding your nose, save your kitchen scraps, and learn how to give a green thumb’s up for composting! I promise your nose won’t get out of joint with the sweet smell of soil success. Smile.

4 Really Good Reasons To Compost

I’ve got four really good reasons to start composting your kitchen (and garden) scraps today. Do you have more?

  1. Composting reduces the amount of garbage you produce, which can decrease the cost of garbage pickup and save you from spending additional dollars on plastic garbage bags.
  2. Composting can eliminate the need to use synthetic fertilizer, saving you at least $20 to $50 per a year on gardening costs.
  3. You can decrease the amount of water you use in your garden (and save money) because composted fertilizer absorbs and retains water more readily than normal regular topsoil.
  4. Composting increases soil quality and can produce superior flowers and higher yielding vegetable gardens.

Getting Started: Your Compost Checklist

All you need to create your own soil and reduce garbage waste is a compost bin, a kitchen compost bucket, and a shovel.

compost bins or compost tumbler

Here’s your basic compost checklist:

Composting bins can be built for little to no cost using scrap lumber, while plastic compost bins can be purchased at Amazon or at most hardware stores for around $60. Your city or municipality may even sell plastic compost bins for half the price in the spring.

Some gardeners prefer to stir their compost less often by using a compost tumbler. Here’s how to DIY and build a compost tumbler if you’re not into stirring a compost bin with a pitch fork.

About Kitchen Compost Buckets

Kitchen compost buckets (or pails) conveniently store food scraps and eliminate odor before you transfer them to an outside compost. Many kitchen containers boast a tight-fitting lid, use long-lasting charcoal filters to eliminate odor, and are attractive options for above or below counter-top use.

kitchen compost plastic compost bin Gaiam Kitchen Compost Bucket
kitchen compost bin stainless steel Norpro 94 Stainless-Steel Composter Keeper

I’ve used two of these composting buckets over the years while living in an apartment and on the farm. They really do decrease smells and encourage a reduction in kitchen waste since I’m more likely compost kitchen scraps when the compost is easily accessible.

What You Can (and Can’t) Compost

Virtually all plant material can be composted, ranging from fruit and vegetable peels to coffee grounds and garden clippings. A well-maintained compost will break down smaller pieces of organic matter in weeks, giving you access to fresh soil on a regular basis.

compost bins compost tumbler compost bin

Things You Shouldn’t Compost:

  • Inorganic materials, such as: plastic, glass, and metal.
  • Fatty and oily foods like grease from a deep fat fryer.
  • Meat scraps and bones.
  • Dairy products.
  • Poop (human or from your pets).
  • Large pieces of wood – they’ll take forever to break down.

Along with most plant, vegetable, fruit, garden, and lawn matter, here’s a list of compostables that may surprise you!

Surprising Things You Can Compost:

  • Paper products: paper towel, coffee filters, paper bags, news print, cardboard. It’s best to shred paper products if possible to speed breakdown. Even printed papers are safe to compost because most modern inks and dyes are vegetable based.
  • Egg shells.
  • Egg cartons.
  • Tea bags.

4 Easy Steps to Stink-Free Compost

Once you’ve got a compost bin, it’s time to start composting! Here are 4 easy steps to stink-free compost and some methods for building a more effective mixture.

1. Keep a small bucket or container near in your kitchen to help collect biodegradable scraps like produce peels and coffee grounds. Every few days, dump your kitchen waste into the compost bin.

compost bin compost bins

2. Mix the new material into the existing compost. Also, once a month thoroughly turn and fluff all material in the compost bin using a shovel or pitchfork. This gets the air circulating around the material, which provides ventilation and promotes decomposition. Keeping a shovel or pitch fork handy can encourage you to mix!

compost bins compost pile

3. Add some water if your compost gets dry. In the hotter summer months, add a little water every other week to keep the compost moist, but not soaking. Moisture feeds the bacteria in the compost and keeps the material composting.

how to compost mixing compost

4. After one or two years, depending on how much compost you produce, remove most of the material from the compost bin. You can either let this sit to “finish” in a pile for a month or dig it directly into your flowerbeds and vegetable garden. Don’t fully remove all your compost, though – leaving a small amount will to help get the next batch going.

TIP: Try to maintain a compost mixture of about half “browns” and half “greens”. Browns are materials high in carbon such as dried grass, leaves, sawdust, straw and paper. Greens are materials high in nitrogen and such as kitchen vegetable waste and any fresh plant material such as grass clippings. You don’t need an exact mixture, but having a compost of only browns or only greens will not promote decomposition.

A working compost should not smell. If your compost has an odor and attracts flies, make sure you have a good mix of browns and greens and always cover fresh material with existing compost.

More great gardening stories:

Final Compost Thoughts

With just a little effort it’s easy to reduce the amount of garbage you create while turning your scraps into fine soil for your lawn or garden. Do you compost? Would you consider it?