Not everyone has a green thumb. Not everyone has a thumb to successfully help organic waste rot into compost, either. Composting takes skill. Home Depot’s Eco Options helps to make all of this easy for me. This is how I compost at home with products from Home Depot.
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What is Composting?
Composting is when organic material is biodegraded by being placed in an environment where it will go though a breakdown process to turn into a nutrient rich material that can later be used to help other plants grow. There are several different methods to achieve composting – industrial composting, vermicomposting – which uses worms, hot or cold composting, batch or continuous composting, aerobic or anaerobic composting, indoor and outdoor composting. My experience, and this post, will be referring to outdoor aerobic composting using food scraps from my home kitchen.
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Quick Facts: Food Waste
- “When it is trapped in a landfill, food waste decomposes slowly, and without oxygen. This process produces methane, which is a greenhouse gas 84 times more powerful than CO2 over a 20 year period.” – Vermont Department of Environmental Education / EDF
- “72 percent of Americans do not compost their food waste, 67 percent of these non-composters would be willing to if it were more convenient to do so in their community…” – PR News Wire
- “33% of all food produced is wasted every year. That translates to $1.2 trillion worth of food annually.” (that’s between table scraps and cooking scraps) – Stop Food Waste Day
- Using compost “enriches soil” and “reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.” – EPA
DIY Compost Fails
I’ve had my fair share of composting fails. Well, 2 fails to be exact. But in composting time, those fails can take a while to achieve. First, I made a DIY compost bin out of a plastic storage bin that I purchased at a thrift store. I drilled holes and happily filled my new to me DIY bin with leaves, paper scraps, food scraps (the right kind, of course), and waited for it work its magic.
I didn’t quite know what I was doing, but I kept reading and tried to learn on the job. But when it rained, this bin took in water, but wouldn’t let it out through the holes I drilled in the bottom. Thus, I basically created a trash can of stinky organic matter that was going nowhere towards compost fast.
Another issue was that I did not combine the correct balance of brown (nitrogen) and green (carbon) elements. I actually didn’t even know whether some items qualified as brown or green. The imbalance created a putrid mess.
Last, I tried an open air compost pile in an old raised planter bed. We found scraps from that as we cleaned the yard in preparation for our new compost bin. Basically, it didn’t work.
But I refuse to stop in search for a way to divert my food waste.
Composting with Home Depot Eco Options
I wanted to make my composting journey easier on myself this time around. My main goal is getting the correct mixture of components for the compost this time. Professionally designed compost bins and organic materials that help the compost along will help me do just that. Here’s what I decided to do:
- I am using Jobe’s Organic Compost Starter to help get my compost started out correctly. This will help to break it down more at the beginning.
- I chose to invest in the RSI 65 Gal. Two-Stage Compost Tumbler with Cart for my home composting setup. The RSI and Maze websites (the manufacturers) offer very helpful composting tips for beginners, and I appreciate that Home Depot carries a brand that not only sells sustainable products, but cares about educating consumers about how to live sustainably with their products. The Maze website also provided a very thorough video showing how to assemble the Compost Tumbler, which came in handy when I got needed help beyond the instruction manual.
- A Compost Bucket to collect compost items in the house for the day or before I put them in the freezer – all before taking them outside to the RSI Compost Tumbler.
- My husband mowed the yard with our EGO Battery Powered Mower and I placed some of the grass clippings in the compost tumbler. This mower is so quiet that the first time I heard him use it, I didn’t think it was working. However, he excitedly let me know that it worked better than mowers that he’s used before.
- We use the EGO Cover for Walk Behind Mower to protect the EGO lawn mower from the elements while it is stored in our shed.
- The next step is starting a mini garden with a greenhouse similar to the Pure Garden 4 Tier Greenhouse. When my first round of compost is complete, I’ll be able to use it to fertilize the plants and produce that I am growing!
Tips for How to Compost at Home
In my trials and errors, I have learned a few things about composting. I hope what I’ve learned can help you divert your food scrap waste, as well.
What is Compostable?
The scraps that come from your produce are the most well-known compostable items, but here’s a list of what you should and shouldn’t put in your compost bin.
- Fruits & vegetables
- Tea and coffee grounds
- Paper tea bags
- Paper coffee filters
- Eggshells (crushed)
- Nut shells
- Water that boils any of the above mentioned items
- Stale starches (pasta, rice, bread
- Wine & Beer
- Herbs and spices
- Houseplant parts (trimmings, entire plants, leaves, etc)
- Fireplace ashes
- Wood that is broken into small pieces: sawdust & wood chips
- Grass clippings & yard trimmings
- Hair & Fur (human and animal)
- Paper, newspaper, & cardboard (NON-GLOSSY, and broken down into smaller pieces)
- Cotton & wool (towels, pants, etc – cut into small pieces)
- Hay & straw
- Compostable packaging that doesn’t require industrial level composting conditions
- Fisher tank water
- Herbivore waste (rabbits, gerbils, goats, etc)
- Fresh baked goods
- Acidic food and items (citrus, tomatoes, and pickled foods)
- Black Walnut tree leaves or twigs/wood (potentially hazardous due to leeching toxic chemicals)
- Fats, Grease, Oil or foods that use them (i.e. refried beans or sautéed vegetables)
- Diseased plants or produce
- Plants or produce that are overtaken by insects
- Treated sawdust, wood, or wood scraps (contains chemicals because it was treated)
- Cat or dog manure/waste or litter
- Human waste
- Chemically treated plants or yard scraps (i.e. anything that has been exposed to pesticides)
- Charcoal & charcoal ash
- Pyramid/plastic tea bags (they leech plastic, even though they have been hailed as “compostable” in the past)
- Plastic or metal
- Toxic materials/liquids
This list could go on for a long time, but hopefully these examples help you better understand what types of items can go into a compost bin/pile, and what items should never be placed in it.
Brown (Carbon), Green (Nitrogen), & Water
Remember this: brown, green, & water. Your compost needs a mixture of browns and greens, and the right amount of water in order to work. Green items tend to be those rich in nitrogen – they are more fresh and contain moisture. Brown items are typically rich in carbon – they are dry and lack moisture. There are recommended ratios of brown:green, but they are dependent on exactly what you use in your compost pile. This video, Compost Carbon:Nitrogen Ratios Made Simple, by Give it a Grow on Youtube explains it the best I’ve ever heard or seen. The widely accepted ratio for brown/carbon to green/nitrogen compost materials is 25-30:1 C:N – so a heavier concentration of brown stuff/carbon. Different items have different levels of carbon and nitrogen, though. I highly recommend watching the short C:N video above to quickly and more thoroughly learn about that.
- wood chips and sawdust
- dried/fall leaves
- cotton fabric
- paper & cardboard (shredded)
- trimmings and clippings from lawns and gardens (i.e. grass – also, only pesticide-free)
- produce & stale starch
Tips to Compost Successfully
- Cutting your compostable organic material into smaller pieces helps it to break down faster.
- Turn your compost tumbler about two times a week.
- For the compost to be complete, you have to stop adding to it and allow it to completely break down. That is why I prefer a two-stage tumbler where I can have an active pile that I add to, and a pile that is finishing up.
- The Home Depot Garden Club blog also has tips to help your beginner compost journey thrive!
I could continue this post endlessly talking about all that I am learning on my composting journey, but I’ll save it for another post update. I’ve checked out several and found even more books about all types of composting. My city offers a Master Composter course (like a Master Gardener course) that requires hands on learning about composting. The class requires classroom training and 20 hours of volunteer community service, talking to city officials about the value of composting, hosting workshops or presentations, amongst other duties. I plan to take both courses within the next two years. I can’t wait to update y’all with what I learn there!
Have you taken any efforts to compost or reduce the food waste in your home? Let me know in the comments below!