Composting – How to Get Started


I have made it a goal of mine to get started with composting over this winter. Actually, as soon as possible.

Last year, I watched as some scraps of food from our CSA share and meals were wasted and it made me feel terrible. As I began my garden last spring, I yearned for that mineral rich compost that I theoretically could have been putting on it had I started composting sooner. Instead of using compost from our very own kitchen, finishing the food circle, I went to the local hardware store and bought mushroom soil. It worked just fine, but I wanted my full circle, darnit. This year I am completeing it!

A couple of months ago, guest poster, Chris Long, wrote a post for The Vintage Mom on teaching your children about composting through creating a worm farm. This is where we will start. Here is the post for the tutorial. We’ll be starting a worm farm this week.

I am so excited to get them involved!

As far as going beyond the worm farm, I have been thinking about a bigger scale compost area since I am fairly sure we can fill it and I would like a place to put additional scraps should we have them…

I am certainly not an expert on this topic, but I will gladly share with you my steps in the process as I go along.

Being that mid-winter isn’t necessarily the best time of year to begin a compost pile (you can start one any time of year really though), I hoarded some leaves from our abundant forest (totally an exageration) in the backyard so that I would have enough carbon producing components in my pile. With our CSA share, I’ve got the nitrogen component covered all winter long!

I chose a spot in our yard where I will place the pile. It right near our shed, and gets some sun during the day but not direct.

Here is my step by step plan:

1. Find or build a compost container of some sort for outside. Start saving for a compost tumbler. Right now, I am going to start this pile on bare ground (well, on a pallet), because I would like to get started right away.  I am going to see how it goes this way. I plan on heading out to the hardware store to get the supplies to build an enclosed pile. We have TONS of animals in these parts and I would prefer them not get into it.:)

There are so many different ways to create your “compost bin”, it just depends on what you want, the space that you have, and how much waste you produce. Here is a great example of a cheaper variety that looks very functional and doesn’t take up a lot of space.

2. Make a DIY Kitchen Compost Bin for now. This is a great tutorial on how to make one out of a coffee cannister and charcoal filters…SUPER easy! You could cetainly buy one but it is just as easy to make one. It may not be as easy on the eyes at first but there’s always Mod Podge, right?!

And of course the things you can put in a compost container and scraps to avoid…


3. Start layering my pile. First I will put organic materials – the browns and greens (veggie waste combined with grass clippings, those leaves I saved, and some garden waste) about 1/2 inch thick. Then I will add an organic compost starter to activate the pile. Finally I will top it off with some garden soil.
*During the thick of this winter, I’ll be adding a bit of a canvas tarp to keep the pile somewhat insulated underneath. Of course, this won’t be necessary during the warmer months. 

4. Turn and water. Because I will be adding new greens quite frequently, I will be turning the pile weekly (if possible) and watering midday when warm(er) outside.

I am certainly hoping to prevent the waste of all of those greens and scraps this winter, making them into a food for my garden this upcoming spring.

Do you have a compost pile? What do you do differently in the winter if you do have one? When did you start yours? 

Sources: University of Illinois Extension: Composting for the Homeowner and Organic Gardening: Cold Weather Compost

About Lauryn Blakesley

A woman out to explore, celebrate, and enjoy everything that my community and living locally has to offer. Blessed with three beautiful children and an incredible husband, our family embraces adventure while dreaming of what is to come. Lover of knitting, running (although mostly after little ones right now), the color orange, fun accessories, fall, tea, and a clean kitchen floor. I spend my days in awe of my family and trying to teach my three to treat others as they would want to be treated.

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  1. We have a tumbler compost bin. I need to get back to using it.
    Becky recently posted…Happy Holidays!My Profile

  2. Your chart is super helpful! I must admit, I’ve never done this, but never say never!
    Lindsey recently posted…It Takes a VillageMy Profile

  3. I think I’m a little ways off from composting. I kind of have to figure out how to garden without murdering anything! Baby steps, lol…
    Gina Badalaty recently posted…Put Down the Phone – and Pick Up Your LifeMy Profile

  4. We compost garden stuff but I really need to start composting kitchen waste too-this is a super helpful place to start though I may have to wait until the snow melts. 😉
    Kelly {the Centsible Life} recently posted…2014 Meal Plan and PrintablesMy Profile

  5. Helpful Do’s and Don’t section… great stuff. Thanks.

  6. I’ve always wanted to compost but wasn’t sure how to get started. Thanks for all the tips!
    Caitlin recently posted…etsy saleMy Profile

  7. I keep saying that I am going to start composting and never seem to get around to it. I MUST do it!
    Jessica @FoundtheMarbles recently posted…How to Become a More Mindful PersonMy Profile

  8. Great article – can’t wait to see how you like composting. Thanks so much for including me in your article.

  9. Maunie royce says:

    I am planning on having a garden for the first time this year. I would love some tips or maybe a post (if you don’t already have one) on gardening. I don’t know where to begin, my husband will be making me a raises garden bed but after that I don’t know what to do? Should I buy the plants already grown or grow them on my own? What type of soil do you recommend if you don’t compost but want to be as organic as possible?

    • Woot! You are going to LOVE gardening Maunie! I am working on a beginners guide right now so don’t worry, one will be ready for spring for sure! And ALWAYS feel free to email me with any other questions and I will be sure to ask them of the community as well. I’ll start with the ones you already put above. Oh and I miss the heck out of you! SO nice to see that beautiful family of yours:)

  10. We are hoping to move in the Spring or Summer, so I haven’t started a compost pile. But we are using the deep litter method in our chicken coop, which essentially turns the bedding in the coop into compost in the winter. We toss all of our veggie scraps out to them anyhow. It seems to be working!
    Chrystal @ Happy Mothering recently posted…Time to Get Crafty with Eco-Friendly GlueMy Profile

  11. Always interesting to hear about how other people do things! I’ve probably gone more of the lazy route. My kitchen compost containers are empty tin can and plastic coffee containers (with lids just sitting on top for air circulation – very rarely notice any odor…when I do I just dump and rinse); get dumped outside when full, and recycled and replaced once they get too grimy.

    My current outdoor compost pile consists of large cheap plastic storage bins that have holes drilled in the bottom for drainage. I keep the lids skewed on the top (under a rock so they don’t blow away) so that the pile can get air, but not too much moisture. I stir it once a week (or more) during the warm months, but have just let it do what it will do during the winter.

    Eventually, I’m going to built a 3-bin unit with wooden pallets…maybe this summer. =) You can check out some of my other garden and house projects here:
    Whitney @ WRKDesigns recently posted…Comment on Craft Fair | Earring Display by Polymer clay tutorialMy Profile

  12. I love your guide to do’s and don’ts to composting! I can’t wait to get started when we have a yard again! SO…. i pinned it :)
    carrie recently posted…A Valentine’s AdventMy Profile

  13. Pinning your guide to do’s and dont’s of composting, too. My Mom uses coffee cans on the counter as well, and a black plastic trash container with holes drilled in it for her outside compost bin…I intend to put one together at our little place in Florida– the soil there will need some beefing up : )
    Denise Gabbard recently posted…Magic Peanut Butter CookiesMy Profile

  14. Thanks for your article! We moved into a new house, and I started composting not long after, but unfortunately the drainage isn’t great, and after good rain, the whole area can remain swap-like for days. Any hints on how to help dry out the pile?
    Tanya recently posted…The Day I Met Tim Holtz!My Profile

    • Hey Tanya! Congrats on the new house…how exciting!! We also just moved and built a new compost bin just last weekend so I was just reading about this the other day! What about raising your pile off the ground a bit by building some sort of slotted base? That way excess water could drain. Another option that I have heard is digging some sort of trench leading water away from your pile (if it is on a hill). Also, I realize much of the water sounds like it is coming from the ground, but maybe covering up the top with a tarp will stop any excess water from getting in during a good rain. And definitely keep turning that pile. :) Let me know how it turns out and what you end up doing. Congrats again!!

  15. I’ve been composting for a little while now–I built my bin out of pallet wood. (Buying composting contraptions are EXPENSIVE!!) I turn my pile in the summer, but hardly ever water it, as we have a good bit of rain here, so it stays fairly moist.

    However, I have never found it necessary to start my piles with a compost starter. If you begin your compost pile on dirt, you’ll be fine. That’s the free & natural way. :) Also, there’s really no need to keep stirring and watering in the winter. In the spring, it will kick back up again and you’ll have beautiful compost to garden with. :) Thank goodness, because I would be quite miserable if I was out turning compost in the middle of feet and feet of snow! :)

    Also, farm animal manure (not cat and dog…) is a really good thing to add to compost. Probably about half of the things I add to my pile are manure. I bed my duck house with shredded newspaper, than when I clean out their house I just scoop everything out and throw it on my compost pile. It works great. The rabbit poop I just throw right on the garden soil, and cow and chicken manure are really very good for composting too.

    Also in the fall I add bucketfuls of apples from our (organic) apple trees. I just pick up the ones that fall on the ground and throw them in. So if you have a source of free fruit like that that’s great as well. But generally around the time that I’m adding apples to the pile in the fall is around the same time that I stop turing the pile for the winter. Remember, turning and watering compost is ONLY to speed up the process. Compost will compose without any of your help no matter what. Hope this helps. 😀


  1. […] This has a great and simple break-down of what is and isn’t allowed in the compost, and this defines what’s meant by Browns and Greens. […]

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