Composting for EVERYONE in 3 Simple Steps

Since I spoke with Osheta Moore about composting on the Shalom in the City podcast, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from both readers & people in my real life about how they are intimidated by many environmental practices, especially composting. So today, I want to provide you with a QUICK and EASY guide to starting your own compost.

  1. Pick a spot

This can be anywhere you’d like on your property (if you live in a place without accessible land, I have a post for you coming up!). You may want it to be a place that is easily accessible, but you probably don’t want it to be right next to your back door.

real life spring garden
Here is my compost bin placement in my early spring Indiana garden the morning after a big storm (thus the bits of leaves everywhere and my poor garden’s beleaguered appearance). My back door is to the left of my garden fence by about 6 feet.
  1. Create a space

Buy a plastic compost bin from the hardware store, or fence off a small circle or square with chicken wire or farming fencing, or get really fancy and build a lovely system from scraps of wood.

  1. Chuck stuff in there!

Seriously, just start putting scraps and yard clippings in your new compost area. Do not stress about what you put in here. If it came from the earth, send it back to the earth via your compost bin. Simply look at what’s in your hand, and ask yourself, “did this come from the earth?” If the answer is “yes”, then toss it in there! If the answer is “no” or “I’m not sure,” then throw it in the garbage and write a note to yourself to look it up when you have a min. The idea here is to not stress about what you’re putting in there.

This is what the inside top layer of my compost bin looks like! As you can see I pushed the dry layer off to the side so you can see the active decomposition beneath.

If you’re someone who likes to paint in broad strokes, or likes to learn by just getting in there and trying it out, then please, stop reading and go set up your compost! If you need some more details, I’ve spelled out some helpful hints below.

Details and Solutions:

  • Create balance: your compost needs a balance of wet and dry. The wet stuff will decompose rather quickly and attracts mold. The dry stuff with break down more slowly, and will help control excess moisture, keeping bad molds away and encouraging a healthy compost balance.
    • Wet stuff:
      • Veggie scraps
      • Fruit cores and peels
      • Coffee grounds
      • Used tea bags
    • Dry stuff:
      • Egg shells
      • Day old grass clippings
      • Dead leaves
      • Straw


  • Things to avoid: there are some things that just don’t belong in your compost bin for a variety of reasons. Here’s a list of stuff that is just best to avoid when you’re trying to cultivate a low-maintenance compost heap:
    • Meat
    • Dairy
    • Feces (no dog doo or litter box scooping)
    • Packaging (some paper and packaging is compostable, but it’s not always easy, so for beginners and those who don’t want to put a ton of their precious time into composting, it’s best to just recycle that stuff)


  • Add bugs: This is an especially great idea if you have young children. After a good rain, hunt for worms along your driveway, under your car, the outer edge of the garage, etc. Collet a handful of those slimy suckers and plop them into your compost! Bugs are an important part of a healthy compost. They eat the kitchen scraps you’re tossing into the compost which speeds up decomposition and the tunnels they dig help with irrigation and balance in your compost.


  • Easy fixes: If you feel your compost just isn’t breaking down at the rate it should, you can buy commercial compost activator. This can be purchased online or at most large hardware stores. They are most often either high in nitrogen or are enzyme-based. They are safe to use when you follow the directions on the package


  • Fuzzy mold: If you start to see fuzzy mold or a putrid smell coming from your compost, you probably need more dry. Try adding dry leaves, dried out yard clippings or even straw to the top of your pile.


  • Pull from the bottom: If you garden flowers or veggies, compost is a great way to provide nutrients to your plants for FREE! When you’re ready to use the compost you’ve cultivated, pull from the bottom of your pile. This is where the most homogenous, most decomposed compost will be. If you have a plastic compost bin, most have sliding doors on the bottom to make pulling from the bottom even easier.


  • Give it a stir: Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to stir up your compost. I would recommend waiting to stir until you have “harvested” what you need to feed your plants for at least a few weeks. You can use a long-handed shovel or a hand-tiller (my personal preference), or even just a big stick. The idea is to get air down in there and to prevent it from becoming too compacted.


I would love to hear your questions and success stories! I love helping people to break down the barriers between their real-world busy lives and caring for the environment. You can contact me by leaving a comment on the blog, or via Facebook (click the link on my homepage) or via e-mail at

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