Composting is easy and can be done in many ways–in an outdoor bin or barrel, indoors in a compost pail, or even hanging from the ceiling with string.
Or you could use worms to convert your food scraps into nutrient-rich worm castings that are great for plants and soil! No matter what method you choose, the great thing is that there are many ways to go green when dealing with organic material.
How to Choose the Best Compost Method for You
Choosing the best compost method for you can be a challenge. There are several factors to consider before selecting the process that will be right for you and your situation.
1. Where You Live and the Space You Have
If you live in a busy city with no outdoor space, you’ll have to think about minimizing your composting space. However, if you live in a rural area and have a backyard or garden where you can have more room to compost your waste, you can use different composting methods that take up more space.
2. The Type of Waste You Have
Different types of waste mean different types of composting methods. If you have only yard waste or only organic food waste, you might have to go with a composting method that supplements the waste you already have to get the best final result possible.
3. How Much Waste You Produce
If you’re single and don’t produce a lot of food scraps, you should likely consider a method to start making compost with minimal amounts of waste.
On the other hand, if you are producing maximum compostable waste daily or weekly, you’re going to need a composting method that allows you to continually add waste to the composter without interrupting the composting method.
4. Your Schedule and Preferences
If you’re willing to commit a lot of time and energy to composting, specific methods will allow you to maximize the amount of compost you get from your waste.
However, if you don’t have time to get involved in all the minutiae of composting, you’ll likely want to choose a method that allows you to compost efficiently without thinking about the process.
Composting Methods for the Outdoors
If you want to compost outdoors, you likely only need to have a 10×10 foot space since the outdoor methods mentioned below don’t require you to have more space than that.
1) Compost Tumbler
This option is great for the city dweller who has little outdoor space. It’s also perfect for those with more significant waste production needs or lots of yard waste.
The tumbler is a standalone cylinder drum that sits on legs on the ground, making it easy to move around your yard. You rotate the drum using a handle on the side, which allows you to easily mix the waste you put in it.
If your waste includes a good combination of carbon-rich kitchen scrap and low nitrogen grass clippings, you can produce a rich compost pile in as little as 30 days.
Tips for Using a Compost Tumbler
- It can be challenging to use a tumbler if you’re not used to it. Here are some tips to make using your tumbler easier:
- Don’t overfill your tumbler with food scraps or other material as waste may spill onto your lawn or driveway.
- Keep track of the smell coming from the tumbler. The smell can tell you a lot about how the tumbler is working.
- Try to keep a good mix of carbon and nitrogen waste in your compost ratio.
- Turn the tumbler regularly. It might seem easy to do, but many people forget to do this. Turning it regularly will ensure that everything works like it is supposed to.
- Keep the heat up. If the temperature inside the tumbler gets too cold, the material won’t break down properly.
2) Trench Composting
Though not as common as some other methods, trench composting is an excellent method that you use in the backyard or on a larger scale.
Gardeners who understand the growing season and where they want rich, fertile soil before planting often use this method.
This waste management solution requires digging out long and shallow trenches and filling them with waste materials such as leaves and grass clippings. As waste sits in the channels, worms and bacteria work together to break waste materials down so you can use the waste as compost.
Tips for Using a Trench Composting Method
- It’s essential to keep waste deep enough in the trench to allow worms and bacteria to work their magic. Waste shouldn’t be piled higher than 15-18 inches, or waste might not break down properly.
- Digging near existing root systems is never a good idea since you don’t want to harm or bring germs into the plants.
- Planting anything directly on top of your trench will cause the ground to sink as the composting process progresses.
- Water the soil over the trench if you live in a dry area to keep waste moist. This way, waste materials will break down faster.
3) Wire Bin Composting
A wire bin aerobic composting system is an excellent option if you have lots of waste and want to get rid of it. One wire bin can hold up to 45 gallons, and you don’t need much space to use this waste management solution.
Wire bins feature two sections: one for waste and the other for a finished compost pile. As waste sits in the waste section, worms eat it and turn it into rich soil.
In addition, the bins allow air movement, which boosts bacterial activity during decomposition, meaning less time is required for waste to break down.
If wire bin composting seems like a suitable method for you, you can get pre-made wire bins online. You can also make your own wire bin yourself by purchasing flexible fencing from your local hardware store.
Cut the fencing to form a 3-foot diameter bin when you connect the ends with zip ties.
Tips for Using a Wire Bin Composting Method
- Keeping your wire compost bin in direct sunlight will boost bacteria production for faster waste breakdowns. Place your container in a sunny area with good airflow if possible.
- Water waste before you add garbage to the waste bin to give it a jumpstart on breaking down.
- Don’t put waste materials in too tightly, or it will take longer for waste to break down properly. Ensure that waste materials are mixed up inside the bin so that everything is exposed to air and bacteria can work their magic more quickly.
- You can mix different types of waste such as yard and organic material or food waste into a wire bin composter.
4) Pallet Bin Composting
Pallet bin composting is a waste management solution that has gained popularity in recent years. While you can make your own out of some old pallets, you can also purchase some great commercially available bins for this waste management solution.
Pallet bins are unique because they allow waste materials to stack on top of each other instead of being laid down flat.
In addition, this waste management solution has ventilation slats that let air flow through waste materials more freely, allowing bacteria to work their magic throughout the entire waste pile.
Tips for Using a Pallet Bin Composting Method
- Cover waste materials with mulch or straw since it will help keep moisture in and prevent evaporation from carrying off nutrients.
- Keep an eye on the smell coming from your waste materials. If waste smells sour or rotten, it means that waste isn’t getting enough air, and you should turn the waste inside your compost bin to mix things up.
- Placing waste materials on pallets allows you to stack waste materials up. This waste management solution is excellent for people who don’t have much yard space since you can place multiple compost bins in different areas of your yard.
- Keeping waste materials aerated speeds up the aerobic composting process, while keeping waste moist helps keep bacteria active.
Composting Methods for the Indoors
If you don’t have a lot (or any) room outdoors for composting, you’re still in luck. There are some great indoor composting methods that you can choose.
Vermicomposting is a popular composting method that uses worms to break down waste materials and turn them into rich soil for your indoor and outdoor plants.
This waste management solution works well in a small area indoors, usually around 3 square feet of space. If done right, vermicomposting creates minimal odors and allows you to compost year-round, during both the hot summer and cold winter.
Using red wigglers is the most common option for vermicomposting, but you can use other types of earthworms as well.
The great thing about vermicomposting is that waste materials don’t need to be mixed since waste will get broken down throughout the soil due to the presence of the worms, essentially doing the mixing for you.
Tips on Vermicomposting
- Worms need three things to thrive: darkness, moisture, and food waste.
- Don’t keep your worm bin near your kitchen since intense smells from cooking might bother the worms.
- You’ll need two containers. One larger plastic bin with a lid where the composting takes place, and another bin to place underneath that will catch the excess liquid that drains out from waste materials. You don’t need specialized bins. You can get what you need at your local hardware store. Check the waste tray regularly to make sure waste materials don’t overflow.
- Maintaining your vermicomposting bin is easy when you place waste materials in a specific area of the container and let the worms do the waste breakdown work for you.
- Vermicomposting bins usually have tiny ventilation holes in them, meaning they are mainly enclosed waste management solutions. Make sure you keep waste materials aerated for best results with your waste management solution.
Recommended reading: The Ultimate Guide to Vermicomposting
2) Bokashi Composting
Bokashi waste management solutions are great for people who don’t have much indoor space since you only need a 5-gallon bucket, some Bokashi bran, and your waste materials.
This anaerobic composting waste management solution uses a combination of microorganisms and bran to break down waste in an oxygen-free environment, meaning the composting process will take longer than other types of waste management solutions.
The complete Bokashi process can take up to six weeks.
Tips on the Bokashi Composter Method
- Place waste materials in a container with a lid that you can remove daily to add waste.
- Keep waste moist but not wet or soggy since this waste management solution uses an oxygen-free environment to break down waste materials.
- Remember to coat the waste with Bokashi bran to help break down the waste.
- Some communities will provide their residents with Bokashi starter kits for free or at a discounted rate. Be sure to check your local waste management office to see if they offer this waste management solution.
Recommended reading: The Ultimate Guide to Bokashi
3) Electric Composting Method
An electric waste management solution is excellent for people who don’t have many waste materials but still want to compost waste.
This waste management solution allows your waste to naturally break down by using heat to speed up decomposition.
The process works by composting organic waste materials inside an enclosed bin that is heated up by electricity. This is an excellent indoor method because it doesn’t take up much space, and you can use it with waste materials.
The one drawback to this method is that you normally have to buy the complete electric composter, usually online. You won’t be able to make your own.
Tips on Using an Electric Waste Management Solution
- You can use your electric waste management solution like most people use a garbage disposal: you scrape waste materials into the waste bin, which will decompose.
- While most electronic finished compost machines can fit on your countertop, some are larger — the size of your trash can.
- Keep waste moist but not overwatered to allow aerobic bacteria to break down waste.
- An electronic compost machine uses heat to speed up waste breakdown. Make sure to keep organic waste materials aerated for best results with your waste management solution.
- Remember that an electric composter uses a three-phase cycle: drying, grinding, and cooling. Each stage takes at least 5 hours but can take more time depending on how much organic matter you’re composting in the first place.
Recommended reading: The Ultimate Guide to Electric Composter
Other Composting Methods
In addition to the indoor and outdoor composting methods mentioned above, there is another type that you should be aware of when starting your composting journey.
Community composting is usually done in parks and open areas for waste management. This type of composting usually involves waste materials like grass, leaves, and organic matter.
Community composting is excellent because you don’t need your own waste management solution — the community provides it for you. Here are three ways of doing community composting:
1) Private Companies
Compost Now, a nonprofit organization, is one example of a private business. You pay for the service, just as you would with other utilities, and you receive compost at the end of it.
2) Community Gardens
Communities with community gardens generally have finished compost heaps, as well. To learn whether you may give kitchen or yard material to their efforts, contact the garden leaders in your area.
3) Local Farmers
If you don’t have access to a finished compost pile, you may still be able to get your green waste added to someone else’s. Growers’ Markets are a fantastic way to meet other people in your area and support local farmers.
Tips for Community Composting
- Make sure to communicate clearly with others participating in the composting project so you know when, where, and how to deposit your compost.
- Always respect rules from local farmers and community gardens.
- If you want to see more composting innovation, create a plan and present it to the community.
There are lots of composting methods to choose from, no matter your living situation. Choose the composting method that works best for you and your waste, and remember to have fun!