You may have heard of the term “composting” before, or you may be a total newbie to the subject. In essence, composting is the act of recycling your leftover food scraps to create a nourishing fertilizer mix for future plants. But how, exactly, does that work? Over time, things like bacteria and insects work to break down the biological components of your food scraps. What’s leftover is a usable material similar to fertilizer, rich in nutrients to replenish your garden and nourish your plants. 

Creating an at-home compost is just one of the many ways to promote sustainability in your household. You get to create less trash waste, while saving money on expensive fertilizer when spring comes around. It’s a win, win! That being said, many folks are worried about starting composting because they think it may be difficult, expensive, or time-consuming. In reality, it’s as easy as 1-2-3! Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get started with your own composting system in a jiffy.  

Step 1: Start Composting Indoors 

To collect your compost indoors, start by finding a small trash can with a closing lid or a tight-closing plastic or glass jar. When you have food scraps, you can place them into your indoor container as the “middleman” before taking them outside. You may be wondering what to add to your compost, versus what to leave out. 

What Can You Add? 

  • Produce scraps 
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells 
  • Leaves/grass clippings (these can go right to your outdoor compost pile – see below!) 

What NOT to Add 

  • Meat scraps 
  • Dairy 
  • Oils 
  • Pet waste 

Step 2: Maintain Your Outdoor Space 

Once you’ve gathered enough food materials to fill your indoor bin, it’s time to take the compost outdoors. Find a space in your yard where you can dump the materials into a large pile, or create a bin for the materials if you’re tight on outdoor space. Moving bins make a great alternative! From time to time, stir the materials in your outdoor space with a large yard tool (or gloved hands) to make sure that new and old materials are combining. 

Step 3: Use Your Compost 

After about a year (I know, the wait is the worst part!) your outdoor compost materials should be usable as fertilizer for your soil. Your compost materials should look fairly dry, brown, and crumbly – meaning they’re ready to use. Add a few inches of compost to the top of your soil and plant your favorite flowers, fruits, veggies, and herbs. Get ready to watch them grow! 

Composting doesn’t have to be tricky or break the bank. One of the best parts about composting is that you can forget about it for months at a time. If you forget to collect your scraps for a bit or forget to turn your compost, it’s okay – we’re all human. It’s not a perfect science, and you don’t have to be the perfect composter to get started. Check out the EPA’s website for more on composting at home! 


By: Aubrey Redd, MS, RDN, LDN