How to Make Compost: Methods, Tips, Resources, and More

Compost soil with a shovel

Making your own compost is fantastic, but it might seem overwhelming to beginners. There's a lot of information out there, and you may not even know which composting method you should be trying. This guide will streamline the learning process for you by putting together the most important information for you, and directing you to the best resources to learn more about specific methods. Here are all the topics we're going to cover:

We'll start by talking about what compost even is, then dive right into five popular composting methods you can try.


What is compost?

Compost is a dirt-like substance that can be used as a fertilizer for plants. That dirt is essentially the end result of organic waste decomposing, and it's full of nutrients that plants need to flourish. The composting process speeds up the waste's natural decomposition so we can benefit from that compost.

The benefit of composting for your garden soil is pretty obvious - you can feed your plants so they grow stronger. However, composting has plenty of environmental and economical benefits as well. You can learn more about these benefits here.



How to make compost: 5 methods to try

The following composting methods are some of the most popular options, and each has its own merits. With each option, we'll let you know how difficult it is to try, whether it needs to be done outside, and why you might want to choose that method.


1. Aerobic composting

A small compost bin filled with organic waste

Aerobic composting is the breaking down of organic materials with the help of microorganisms that rely on oxygen to survive. In essence, aerobic composting requires a pile of organic materials that is slightly moist and open to the air. Every so often, the pile will need to be turned in order to aerate the waste. The combination of moisture and aeration is what gets enough oxygen to flow for those microbes to help decompose your kitchen scraps.

This type of composting is rather flexible, as it can be done indoors or outdoors, and there are many composters and tools that can make it easier or more efficient. The basic tools are going to be a simple indoor or outdoor compost bin, and something to turn the pile. However, you can also get bins that make turning easier, like compost tumblers.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Requires outdoor space: No

Use this method if: You have the time and energy to regularly maintain your compost pile. If you choose to have a large outdoor compost pile, it will also take a bit of strength to turn the compost.


2. Electric composting

Lomi filled with kitchen scraps and a Pela case

Electric composting is done with a kitchen composting machine like Lomi. An electric kitchen composter breaks down food scraps into that nutrient-rich dirt by simulating the aerobic composting process in a regulated environment. The use of energy to accelerate the composting process means that an electric composter can net you dirt in less than a full day. The best part is that it's also effortless. You just put your food scraps in the composter and push a button.

Being electric means that this method is not as environmentally friendly as other natural methods. However, compared to not composting at all, electric composters are far better for the environment. They also offer benefits you can't get through other methods, such as a daily supply of nutrient-rich dirt.

Difficulty: Beginner

Requires outdoor space: No

Use this method if: You're a gardener who could use a consistent supply of fertilizer, or a beginner composter looking for an easy way to get started. You can check out this article for more details on whether electric composting is the best option for you.

Lomi by Pela

Lomi

★★★★★

Lomi allows you to turn food waste into plant-ready nutrients in under 24 hours. Boost your plants while reducing your waste.


3. Vermicomposting

A handful of compost with worms in it

Vermicomposting is also commonly referred to as worm composting. As you could probably infer from the name, this method uses worms to compost your organic materials. To get started with this method, you just need a compost bin, some soil, and some worms. As with aerobic composting, your bin will also need to have airflow because the worms will need oxygen to survive.

Although you might assume this is an outdoor composting method, it's actually a very efficient way to compost indoors. Worms are just faster at decomposing organic materials compared the microbes when aerobic composting. However, you do need to be more careful with vermicomposting, as you need to make sure you don't accidentally kill your worms. You need to feed them the right amount of waste, and make sure you aren't feeding them the wrong stuff. If you're a complete beginner, you may want to consider another method to get started.

Difficulty: Advanced

Requires outdoor space: No

Use this method if: You don't mind having worms in your home, and you're up for the challenge of taking care of your worms.


4. Cold composting

A woman composting in the winter

Aside from electric composting, cold composting is the easiest method around, and is perfect for beginners. All you need to do with this method is throw your food scraps and yard waste in a pile and wait. After time, the bottom layer of the pile will become a nutrient-rich compost you can use to feed your plants. The hardest part of this is the waiting, as it can take anywhere from six months to over a year for the composting process to finish.

Difficulty: Beginner

Requires outdoor space: Yes

Use this method if: You don't want to put any effort into composting, and don't mind waiting a long to for the finished compost.


5. Trench composting

Someone digging a trench to fill with compost

Trench composting is also quite simple, but it does require some work. For this method, you dig a 12-inch deep trench somewhere in your yard, fill it about halfway with kitchen scraps, then cover it up again. After that, you don't need to do anything else. The hard part is digging up the trench.

However, there are a few benefits to this method. The first is that depending on where you dig your trench, you bring the nutrients straight to your plants' roots. The second is that you won't have to worry as much about what you're composting. With most composting methods, you need to worry about some odors that attract pests. With trench composting, you don't have to worry about any odors at all.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Requires outdoor space: Yes

Use this method if: You have gardens that could benefit from trench composting and you don't mind putting in the effort to dig trenches.


What items can be composted?

Most food scraps and yard waste can be composted, with some exceptions. Some organic materials are going to be toxic for your plants if you intend to use compost as plant food. There's other organic matter that can attract pests while composting, such as most animal products. Check this article for more detailed descriptions on what can and can't be composted.

You also need to pay attention to the amount of brown materials compared to green materials you're putting in your compost. In general, green materials are high in nitrogen, while brown materials are high in carbon. For more details on brown and green materials you can check out this article. Here are some common examples to help you understand the difference:


Green

Brown

Coffee ground

Shredded tree branches

Grass clippings

Wood chips

Vegetable peels

Fallen leaves

Fruit scraps

Coffee filter



 


 

How to choose the right composter

No matter the composting method you choose, you're likely going to need some sort of compost bin. Which compost bins will be best for you will depend on the amount of space you have and what you're hoping to compost. You can use this chart as a guide when picking out a composter:


Space availability 


What do you want to compost?

Mostly kitchen scraps

Kitchen scraps + bioplastics*

Kitchen scraps + yard waste

Mostly yard waste

No outdoor space

Worm bin, aerobic compost bin, or Lomi

Lomi

Lomi

No option available

Some outdoor space, a patio, or a balcony

Worm bin, compost tumbler, or Lomi

Lomi

Compost tumbler

No option available

Average yard space

Backyard compost bin or compost tumbler

Lomi

Backyard compost bin or compost tumbler

Open compost pile or backyard compost bin

Large yard space (acres)

Backyard compost bin or compost tumbler

Lomi

Open compost pile, backyard compost bin, or compost tumbler

Open compost pile or backyard compost bin


*Lomi can only compost approved bioplastics. Check this resource for more details.


6 composters that will make composting easy

Now that you have an idea of what kind of composter you're looking for, you'll want to start looking for specific bins. Every one of the compost bins on this list is high-quality and would be great for both composting beginners and experts.


1. Lomi

Lomi with food scraps and plants


Price: $499.00 | Shop from Pela

Lomi is an energy-efficient electric composter that can provide you with nutrient-rich dirt in less than 20 hours. This perfectly-sized kitchen counter composter is also extremely easy to use. All you need to do is put your food waste inside, choose the mode you want, and press a button. Lomi offers the following modes:

  • Eco-Express: 3 - 5 hour mode for the fastest results and low energy consumption.
  • Lomi Approved: 5 - 8 hour mode for composting approved bioplastics.
  • Grow: 16 - 20 hour mode for the best nutrient-rich dirt.

Lomi is the perfect compost bin for anyone who doesn't have much time or energy to invest in composting, but still wants to be more sustainable and have easy access to plant food. 


2. Compost tumbler

Someone filling their compost tumbler with food waste


Price: $99.99 | Shop from Amazon

Compost tumblers are great for people who want to do aerobic composting and have the space for a tumbler. With the attached handle, you're able to easily turn the whole composter to aerate your compost pile. This takes most of the work out of aerobic composting, making this a great compost bin for people who don't want to put in that effort.

One great feature about this compost tumbler, in particular, is that it has two compartments. When one side is full, it can focus on composting while you fill the other side with fresh scraps. Because you'll be able to alternate sides, you'll get finished compost quicker than if you were using a single large bin.


3. Bokashi bin

Product image of the Bokashi bin and Bokashi bran

Image Credit: Amazon

Price: $68.95 | Shop from Amazon

Another great composter is the Bokashi bin. The Bokashi method actually composts organic material through anaerobic composting, but the process is similar to indoor aerobic composting. All you need to do is put your kitchen scraps in the bin mixed with the provided Bokashi bran. As you're adding more food waste, you'll want to press the contents down to remove as much air as possible.

Once it's full, you just need to wait and you'll have finished compost in just a couple of weeks. However, that finished compost will be a bit too acidic to use for your plants. If you want to use it as fertilizer, you can bury the finished compost for a few days.


4. Eco-living composter

Someone filling their worm composter with food scraps

Image Credit: Amazon

Price: $199.00 | Shop from Amazon

This eco-living composter is a fantastic worm composter. Not only is it a beautiful container, but it's designed to grow small plants while composting your kitchen scraps. As a bonus, this composter is completely odorless.

To use the eco-living composter, you need to add soil and worms to one section. After that, you can add your kitchen scraps through a top opening. This composter can process around 2 pounds of food per week, meaning it can easily keep up with a small household's waste.


5. Utopia kitchen compost bin

Someone filling their Utopia composter with food waste

Image Credit: Amazon

Price: $26.34 | Shop from Amazon

If you want a simple compost bin for indoor aerobic composting, the Utopia kitchen compost bin is a fantastic choice. It has a simple look, is a great size for small families, and has charcoal filters to prevent any odors from escaping. This bin has an overall sturdy design that's easy to use and clean, making it a great choice for families.


6. Recycled plastic compost bin

A recycled plastic outdoor composter surrounded by gardening supplies

 

Price: $88.27 | Shop from Amazon

If you want to have an outdoor compost pile, you can just have an open pile with some DIY walls, especially if you're cold composting. However, some people aren't a fan of just having a pile of decomposing waste in their yard, which is fair. If you'd prefer to have an actual bin in your yard for your compost, this garden composter bin is a great option. It's made from recycled plastic and is lightweight, making it easy to move around.


Top 5 tips for making your own compost

Once you start learning how to make compost at home, there are a few different tips you can incorporate to make the composting process easier and quicker. Here are our top six tips we think you should know:

  1. Shred or chop your waste: No matter which compost method you're trying, it helps to cut up your waste so you're not throwing large chunks into your pile. Smaller bits of waste will compost more quickly than large pieces.
  2. Maintain a good amount of moisture: A compost pile should be about as moist as a wrung-out sponge. If you find it's too dry, you can try watering it or adding some wet organic waste.
  3. Use compost activators: With slow composting methods, compost activators can help move along the process. You should be able to find these at your local gardening stores.
  4. Cover your compost: With any compost pile, covering your waste with a layer of brown materials (such as shredded paper) is a good plan. This will prevent odors from escaping so that pests won't be attracted to your compost pile.
  5. Get the right size compost bin for your family: If you have a large family that creates a lot of kitchen waste, make sure you get a compost bin large enough to accommodate that waste. Likewise, if you're composting a single person's kitchen scraps, you probably don't need a giant backyard compost bin.

9 helpful resources for making compost at home

Someone filling their countertop compost bin with food waste

At this point, you should have a good idea of how to make your own compost. However, this article certainly doesn't cover everything you could learn about composting. Here are some great resources for expanding your composting knowledge as you get started:

  1. The ultimate guide to indoor composting: If you don't have yard space for outdoor composting, there are plenty of indoor composting methods you can try. This article will cover easy and effective indoor composting methods and tips.
  2. The compost gardener blog: This blog is the ideal starting place for learning how to make compost for plants. They have guides on a wide variety of topics and methods, including winter composting and how to make DIY compost bins.
  3. The complete compost gardening guide: This book by Deborah Martin and Barbara Pleasant’s is is an essential beginner's resource for garden composting. They cover how to make garden compost and how to best put it to use.
  4. Composting without worms indoors: Although vermicomposting is an effective method of indoor composting, not everyone is okay with worms in their home. If you feel squeamish about worms, this article will provide plenty of tips on how to compost without worms.
  5. Compost city: With the majority of people living in cities these days, most of us can't have traditional backyard compost piles. Rebecca Louie's book goes into all the details you'll need on how to make compost from kitchen waste in your small city space.
  6. How to make compost tea: Finished compost isn't the only compost product you can use to feed your plants. This blog covers all the details on what compost tea is, why you'd want to use it for your plants, and how you can easily make it.
  7. How to make compost fast: If you want compost but don't want to wait forever to get it, this article will go over the many methods and tips you can use to speed up the composting process.
  8. How to start a worm bin: For those wanting to learn how to make worm compost, this easy-to-read book will be your beginner's guide and give you all the information you could need for a successful setup.
  9. How to keep compost from smelling: If you want to get started composting but have always been worried about it smelling, this guide will alleviate your concerns and provide you with practical tips to prevent smells from ever occurring.

You now have everything you need to get started with learning how to make a compost pile. As an absolute beginner, you might find it easiest to use an electric composter like Lomi. You can order yours online to start composting right away. In the meantime, feel free to check out any of the above resources or other articles on our blog.

 

Written by: Sereana Simpson