Composting 101: Ins & Outs [Quick Start to Composting Part 1]

There’s nothing quite like the taste of
a homegrown tomato right out of the garden. Fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers
for the dinner table these are just a few of the pleasures of the happy garden
today we’re going to be talking about one of the fundamentals for a happy
garden – compost! Coming up in this video: Composting 101, why composting matters, what to put in a compost bin and all the basics you need when wondering how to compost at home Hi I’m Amy Landers with Gardens That Matter. Welcome and thank you for joining me for Quick Start to Composting. The
focus of this training is to show you the key things you need to know to make
compost and healthy soil that’s gonna help your garden thrive when you have a
compost pile you see waste differently things like kitchen scraps fall leaves
even shredded junk mail these throw aways become ingredients in something
really really good they mix and meld they break down and they become new
again as rich dark compost compost that makes our soil healthy and our Gardens
happy if you’re just starting out and feel a little overwhelmed don’t worry
we’re gonna take this step by step maybe you’re worried that your compost is
gonna be stinky or icky that’s got you covered
we’re gonna make sure that your compost pile doesn’t gross you out if you’ve
done some composting before it turned out kind of yeah we’re gonna give you
the know-how to try again and get the results that you’re after composting
really is the cornerstone for a healthy garden and a sustainable home it’s the
perfect place for an aspiring gardener to begin so if you love the idea of
growing your own food or yard full of beautiful flowers and you want to make a
real difference in the world this is a great place to start composting has so
many amazing benefits and I’m going to tell you about those in just a few
minutes I’m going to show you how to build a simple bin that’s how you’re
going to get started it’s easy it’s inexpensive anyone can do this you can
even involve your kids now you might be wondering why I am so excited about comp
let me show you how I got started I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of
Western North Carolina my own introduction to compost came from my
grandmother in a bucket in her kitchen the slop bucket named from when her
family kept pigs the bucket was filled with kitchen scraps as grandma made
amazing food like fried apple pies mmm by the time I came around there were no
pigs to feed so she dumped the slop bucket daily at the edge of the woods
now this is not an ideal way to compost the neighborhood dogs possums and
raccoons ate well from her pile but it still worked we dug for fishing worms
there and the dark soil was full of life later for an eighth grade science fair
project I built an official compost pile in a wire bin I called it the backyard
breakdown I laced it with little screen packets holding test materials a piece
of bread paper scraps a plastic label and I studied which materials decomposed
and how quickly that’s forward to today and I carry apple cores home with me to
add to the compost bin I get to compost and garden alongside my husband Colby
we’ve been tending gardens together for more than 10 years we grow fruits and
vegetables herbs and flowers we’ve raised chickens honeybees and many other
animals we create habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects and
of course we’ve grown our fair share of weeds now we are also raising three
young boys we are passionate about making the world a better place for them
starting right at home on our family’s small farm we’re growing food for
ourselves in our community in Western North Carolina we practice a mix of
permaculture bio intensive growing and traditional farming we’re transitioning
to organic we’ve had some delicious successes and we’ve had some potentially
embarrassing failures we’re learning Lots as we grow
we started Gardens that matter calm to share our journey and help others get
started growing their own beautiful bountiful Gardens now what makes a
garden matter to me may not be the same things that mattered to you on our blog
and in our videos we look at the many aspects of gardening growing your own
fresh healthy food feeding wildlife like butterflies bees and hummingbirds
creating spaces where you feel more grounded and connected to nature getting
the kids involved helping them unplug and play outside becoming more
self-sufficient and finding real ways to live more sustainably and making your
life a little more lovely at gardens that matter comm we want to help you
grow what matters most to you whether your garden is big or small or just an
idea in your head gardens that matter calm is a place where you can find
support information and inspiration now let me ask you a question what kind of
garden matters to you close your eyes for a moment and picture it soak up the
colors smell the earth feel the warmth of the Sun on your shoulders you can
even imagine biting into your favorite fruit now look down under your feet it’s
a place where all the green and growth begins the soil we take it for granted
we sometimes even belittle it as dirt mud muck but this is where it all begins
your soil is an entire ecosystem it’s a living world a world that you can
support and nurture and when you do you can literally reap the benefits healthy
soil is the foundation for a happy garden and compost is a fantastic way to
nurture your soil if you’re new to all this you might be wondering what exactly
is compost let’s talk about what it is why it matters and then let’s talk about
how to create compost by going over the things you should and shouldn’t add to
your bin compost is the rich dark mixture that you get when you take
organic matter like leaves grass clippings and food scraps and encourage
it to decay or rot to make compost we take notes from nature and set up ideal
conditions for decomposition in our own yard air and moisture are important in
the process and most compost piles get hot in the center the heat is created by
tiny organisms lots and lots of microorganisms here’s a drawing of a few
of them we’ve got fungi and bacteria some thrive
in the hot center of a new pile while others live in the cooler parts of the
pile in one teaspoon of compost there are six billion living organisms hard at
work breaking down the organic matter along with the microorganisms there are
so many other living things like earthworms and Roly Polys in your
compost and in your soil we don’t have time to talk about all of them in this
quick start but we know that the vast majority of them are beneficial in our
Gardens now let’s talk about why compost is so awesome many of the benefits of
compost are tied to the way it forms houmous no that’s humus delicious but
we’re looking for houmous something a little more complex and a lot less
appreciated have you ever walked through a forest after it rains breathe in the
rich earthy smell is one of my favorite smells it comes from houmous and soon to
be houmous dead leaves and logs houmous is a complex compound formed by decayed
Vanek matter it can come from the natural decomposition of plants and
animals manures and mulches or it can come from compost houmous is a key
ingredient of fertile soil and compost is one of the best ways to add it to
your soil compost improves soil structure no matter what kind of soil
you have when you add compost it gets better it loosens up heavy clay soil and
add some oomph to sandy soil compost increases soils ability to hold water
Hugh mist acts like a sponge and all that water holding means your soil and
plants are resistant to drought compost enriches the soil it adds low
levels of plant nutrients like nitrogen phosphorus potassium calcium zinc but
perhaps even more importantly a compost makes existing soil nutrients more
available to plants it changes the soil chemistry in a way
that allows plants roots to take up nutrients more easily as we’ve already
mentioned compost adds life to the soil many of the critters from your compost
pile are beneficial in your yard and garden encompassed suppresses some
diseases scientists are still learning about how this works it’s likely a
combination of healthier plants and more beneficial microorganisms you can think
of all those compost microbes as a kind of probiotic for your garden compost
adds good bacteria and fungi that discourage and even eat the bad
pathogens when you practice composting to get these benefits for your garden
you also get some great side effects that benefit society composting reduces
waste organic waste makes up two-thirds of the solid waste stream here in the
United States that’s an average of nearly 5 pounds of compostable garbage
per person per day composting diverts much of this waste from the landfill or
incinerator composting reduces pollution and erosion if your organic matter was
rotting in a landfill it would produce methane which is a greenhouse gas so by
composting your green waste instead you’re decreasing emissions compost also
helps hold our soil together so there’s less sediment in our streams and dust in
our air compost can even help clean up pollution cities use compost berms to
hold and filter stormwater runoff compost can be added to polluted soil to
bind up heavy metals and some fungi and bacteria even eat oils and pesticides
composting decreases our use of fossil fuels by recycling your yard waste
on-site you stop exporting your fruit yards fertility and you need fewer and
fewer resources in your garden that means fewer delivery trucks carrying
fertilizer and amendments to your store or home and less dependence on synthetic
fertilizers which are made from fossil fuels we like to think about
closing the loop nature never has trash one organisms trash is another organisms
treasure waste becomes resource death becomes life it’s a closed loop and
nothing is wasted composting helps you close a loop it’s great for the planet
and it’s great for your own patch of soil now I’d love to know why do you
want to compost what benefits are most important to you
what kind of garden will you grow with your compost tell me in the comments
below after this video now let’s move from Y
to what what can you compost anything that was once living will decompose but
there are some things that we should not compost at home especially as beginners
I’m going to give you guidelines to make it easy for you to decide what goes in
and what stays out be sure to download the free ends and out PDF at the link
below you can print it and put it on your fridge for easy reference we’ll
start with the things that never decompose avoid adding inorganic items
to your compost things like glass metal medicines plastics which includes
styrofoam other synthetic materials like nylon or polyester and chemicals like
pesticides herbicides engine oil cleaning supplies or any other poisons
that wouldn’t be good for your compost critters or your garden now let’s talk about what you can
compost and we’ll start in the kitchen you can add peels pits and spoiled
fruits and vegetables coffee grounds filters and tea bags can go in be sure
to remove the staples from your tea bags first
pizza boxes and other dirty cardboard that can’t go into the recycle bin can
be torn up and added to compost you can add shells from eggs and nuts and paper
products like napkins paper towels and uncoated plates and cups can you in
you’ll want to avoid adding wax or plastic covered papers like milk cartons
and some disposable plates these things won’t break down in your compost now
there’s a whole group of things you can compost but I’m going to recommend that
you avoid while you’re just starting out if you aren’t careful these are things
that can attract pests or make your paths Meli or introduce pathogens that
could make humans sick sometimes people list these items on the know list but as
you get more experience with composting you may feel comfortable adding these so
I’m gonna list them as maybes breads and pastas theory products like milk and
cheese fats and oils and meats including fish an alternate way to dispose of
these items is to bury them a foot or two underground where they can decompose
without the risks I mentioned earlier you will want to avoid adding most
packaging that’s labeled as compostable these are usually plant-based plastics
they will compost in a larger scale municipal operation but they probably
won’t break down in your home compost pile I tried adding a compostable cup
and fork to one of my hot piles and even after a year neither one had broken down
much at all ok time to pick a container and start collecting kitchen scraps
there are quite a few options here are a few commercial compost pails there’s
also a stainless steel version of the white crock you can see in the bottom
picture and on the right of the top picture you can see a plastic container
that we’ve repurposed as a food waste collection bin at our house
you can even reuse a bread bag or a copy tin as a free cycle
temporary solution you’ll need to think about how often you’ll into your pale
the food waste will start to rot within a day or so so you’ll want to bend with
ventilation and a filter if you only want to empty it once a week that will
keep out fruit flies and keep down smells if you make emptying your pail a
daily routine this matters less you’ll want to pick a container that is easy to
fill and easy to empty if it’s easier to drop things in the trashcan it’s going
to be hard to change your habits look for a container that’s easy to wash I
usually rinse mine out after each empty and then I wash it once a week or when
it gets stinky you want to bend it’s the right size will it hold the amount of
waste that you’re gonna produce and will it fit in the place where you’re gonna
keep it on the countertop or under the sink
some people even keep theirs inside the fridge or freezer and last but not least
you should pick a pail that you enjoy you are more likely to use a container
that you like whether it’s a stylish crop or a sheep repurpose yogurt
container next let’s talk about what you can
compost from around the house on a sidenote I love that this whole house
could be composted you can add things like dust from your dustpan or vacuum
back human hair and pet fur please take a little longer to decompose so you may
want to spread them out rather than putting them in a clump
you can add dead house plants and flowers potting soil can go into the
compost pile too if you have old cotton or wool rags that can no longer be
reused or donated you can add them to the pile and most paper and cardboard
can be composted tissues printer paper junk mail toilet paper rolls if you have
a recycling program where you live it’s probably more sustainable to recycle
paper but composting is also okay and paper is a good dry material if you
don’t have leaves or other carbon-rich options available now paper can take a
while to decompose and I definitely recommend shredding or tearing it up
before putting it in the pile and take out any of those little plastic windows
from envelopes some of the items you might be able to include our dryer lint
you’ll need to be the judge of what is in your laundry first lint for mostly
synthetic fabrics should probably be avoided and dryer lint can contain
chemicals from your detergent and dryer sheets and even flame retardants
newspapers can usually be added to your compost pile
it’s used to be petroleum-based but nowadays most are printed with soy based
inks which are safe for your compost pile I’d suggest that you check with
your local paper to see what they use and wood ash can be added to your
compost pile in small quantities ash is alkaline and if you live in a
place with alkaline soil you’ll probably want to avoid adding ash to your compost
or your soil you should definitely avoid adding coal ash from your charcoal grill
to the compost and you should avoid adding glossy colored papers as glossy
pages from newspapers and magazines have inks and coatings that sometimes contain
heavy metals and petroleum byproducts unless you can find out how the paper is
produced it’s probably best to recycle these instead when you’re collecting
around the house you might just want to add items to your kitchen compost pail
you could also try splitting an existing wastebasket as you can see I’m trying at
our house there’s a paper bag for compostable and a plastic bag for
garbage or you could add a second waste bin just for compostable things you find
around the house are usually dry and not smelly so you can empty these containers
less often now let’s head outside and talk about
what you can compass from your yard if you happen to have a pond algae and pond
plants can go into your compost garden waste like dead plants and trimmings can
go in grass clippings are good for the compost pile and fall leaves are great
for composting we even go so far as collecting leaf bags from the side of
the road when people put them out for trash collection leaves are not trash
you can add soil to your compost pile we usually add a few buckets to ours
this helps seed the pile with microorganisms and can add some minerals
so it can also help hold water and heat in the pile straw can be added but be
sure you are getting straw he would add a lot of grass seeds to your pile and
you can add non-treated wood this can be sawdust shavings or even woodchips
woodchips do take a while to break down so they might be better used as mulch
depending on what materials you have available you never want to add wood
that has been painted or treated pressure-treated web to your compost
pile use caution when adding weeds to your
pile most weeds can go right in but avoid any that have gone to seed your
Papa smile might not be hot enough to kill the seeds you also want to avoid
adding weeds that spread by their roots like Bermuda grass bindweed or mint one
option is to Solarize these types of weeds by sealing them in a black plastic
bag in the Sun once fried they’ll be safe to add to your compost pile
evergreen needles and leaves like holly can be composted but will take a long
time to break down I’d recommend adding them in moderation
and shredding them with the lawn mower first manure from chickens rabbits
horses cows and other plant eating animals can be a great addition to
compost but you’ll want to be sure you know this source sometimes pastures are
treated with a persistent herbicide that isn’t broken down by digestion or
composting so if you add these grasses or manure from animals that ate hay made
in these fields your finished product is going to have herbicides in it not good
for your garden if you want to compost horse or cow manure learn more about
these persistent herbicides and talk to your farmer you’ll also want to avoid
using manure right after an animal has been treated for worms now there are a
few things you want to avoid altogether the newer from meat-eating animals like
dogs cats and pigs should not be added to your compost pile because of the risk
of pathogens it’s safer to bury those instead you’ll also want to avoid adding
plants that have been infested by insects or have a disease some insect
eggs and disease pathogens can withstand the heat of a compost pile these plants
can be burned or buried instead poisonous plants like poison ivy
shouldn’t be composted but don’t burn them either you could use the black
plastic solarizing technique to make sure the vines are dead and then bury
them for collecting outside you’ll want to
decide if you’re building your compost bins as you go or if you’re stockpiling
materials to make a big batch we’ll compare these two methods in the next
video if you’re building a gradual pile you can add the materials as you collect
them to make a big batch or to hold extra materials you could make a simple
pile like we do as shown in the top picture you could also use cardboard
boxes or plastic bags as temporary holding or add a wire bin or some extra
trash cans if you like to keep everything nice and neat as shown in the
lower picture now you may have heard of browns and greens before and if so you
might be wondering how these factor into your collecting compost happens more
quickly when you get an ideal mix of nitrogen rich green materials like
kitchen waste or grass clippings and carbon rich Brown materials like dry
leaves or hay we’ll talk more about this ratio next time but overall this is
something you don’t need to lose sleep over decomposition is going to happen
even if you don’t have the ratio perfect so let’s get started Ready Set collect
so now you know some of the amazing benefits of compost and some of the
things you should and shouldn’t put into your compost in our next video we’re
gonna put it all together we’re gonna talk about how to pick the perfect spot
for your compost bin I’m gonna build a bin and then we’re
gonna fill it up before you go we’d love for you to comment below we want to hear
why do you want to compost what kind of garden are you gonna create if you liked
this video please share it with your friends we’d love to have them join us
as well thanks again we’ll see you next time

17 thoughts on “Composting 101: Ins & Outs [Quick Start to Composting Part 1]

  1. great video for beginners well done, these days I stop at random places around town to collect materials. the other day I stopped on the side of the road after picking up the kids from school to collect leaves and pine needles!!

  2. I have a home right next to a land trust so looking at food forest development on their land and mine as well as attempting to close the loop as I learn and get my church garden going. I really want to prioritize the vegetables, fruits and herbs to help those in our community who are not so healthy, that is medicinal triage prioritization. Getting others to collect their kitchen scraps is proving difficult. I need to be there or it doesn’t happen, it seems. If I get a lovely scalp bucket like the two I saw in this video-the green one was gorgeous-they May just get to collecting. I’ll dump. I bought a by-hand tumbler. But I may just bury directly in trenches predug for winter additions.
    Thank you for such a well organized video. I may use it to send to the people who are willing kitchen collectors but just forgetful or just doing what they usually do, when I’m not around. I’m not giving up on it or them. They’re just not as motivated as I am.

  3. I want to compost for the rich nutrients it will add to my vegetable garden as well as my flower gardens. Tfs. 👏🏼

  4. Awesome video, love the way you explain things, your words are visual. Moved into a new home to us. 1/2 acre flat with zero trees in Central NC. My dream come true. Compost, vegetables, herbs, fruit trees and of course chickens. Hope you make many more videos.

  5. Great video! Question for you. What about all vegetable peelings from the grocery store? Aren’t these covered in pesticides and herbicides that will be transferred to the compost? I’m confused why no one ever mentions this about compost.

  6. Composting is such a positive thing to do for your garden and community. Unfortunately not all compost are created equally, some people have really bad experiences with chemical residues from pretty persistent herbicides used for Lawn Care (killing broadleaf weeds) or Hay / Straw and Horse Manure. Some farmers dont even know their field was contaminated, since it could be from a 'drift' or just evaporation in the hood. Some lab test has a lower limit at 10 ppb, some says Just Fine – but some crops are more sensitive than other plants.

    This is why I made some videos, since I read many years ago in The Guardian about Aminopyralid, and some weeks ago I was reminded about this alarming issue. From gardeners in England, US and Canada.
    I dont have a problem composting scrap in my backyard. I just have a small bin – like a bee hive, I just put everything on top. BUT I'm also using fungi to brake down long chain chemicals into elements (Nutrients).
    After this Killer Compost showed up again I made some videos on MycoRemediation. Please feel free to have a look in my Playlist. And let me know if this helps you – you should not have any concerns, so I also made an easy test for you. All the best.

  7. Why:
    – Less waste and landfill
    – Nutrient rich and free compost for my garden
    I just planted my first raised vegetable garden, and spent too much money filling it. Next year, I hope to save money on my next bed by partially filling with homegrown compost.

  8. I've had a page on composting on the internet for almost 20 years (, but I've just edited it to say, in effect, not to read it, to instead come here. Excellent information, wonderfully edited and presented. Hope to live long enough to see you get a million likes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *