Easy Composting for A Healthy Garden

by Tammy Taylor

*This post contains an affiliate link

Black gold, gardeners delight, compost – it’s all the same thing.  All organic matter will eventually decompose, and in that decomposition will turn into rich healthy soil full of beneficial bacteria.  Backyard gardeners flock to the store to buy bags of the stuff, but it’s beyond easy to make yourself.  Not only will it be less expensive, but composting is good for the environment.  When food scraps that can be composted go into your compost pile (and then ultimately organically feed your plants) instead of just rotting the landfill, everybody wins!   But how do you make compost?  What can be composted and what cannot?  What kind of container do you put it in?  There are lots of different answers and methods to those questions.   Let’s start with the container.

So Easy & Inexpensive To Make Your Own Compost For A Healthy Garden!  Compost Tumbler #TaylorMadeRanch

I have a * compost tumbler that I purchased a few years back and I love it. In past years I used an open-ended barrel shape made from chicken wire and while it was effective it was difficult for me to turn the compost properly.  Because I didn’t turn it as often as I should the compost was too slow in completing the composting process to suit me, although it was obviously my lack of action that was the problem.  The turning of the compost is very important – the pile needs to be turned several times each week to properly redistribute the compost as well as add oxygen. These days everything goes in the tumbler and I give it a quick turn and walk away. When we moved to the ranch we built our house right in the middle of a cow pasture so I figured there’s bound to be at least field mice that might get into my compost.  That also made the tumbler worth its cost to me since it’s enclosed. But you don’t have to have a container like mine to make compost.  Many successful composters use various containment methods such as three sided hay bales, pallets, a circle of chicken wire or even an open pile in the corner of their yard.  As long as you can add material, water the pile periodically and turn it often almost anything will suffice.

What can go in the compost pile?  Well I put all veggie scraps – the peels, skins, etc for the parts of our vegetables and fruits that are not consumed  Peel a banana?  The peel goes in the compost.  Peel a potato?  The peel goes in the compost.  Eat an apple?  The core goes in the compost.  Keep in mind the smaller the pieces are that you place in the compost, the quicker it will decompose, so chop the larger pieces up if you can.

But your compost not only needs a percentage of “greens” but also a percentage of carbons, or “browns” to work properly.  Greens are very nitrogen rich and tend to heat the compost quickly.  Browns are usually more carbon rich materials and they’ll not only balance out the greens but also serve to feed the microscopic critters that are working hard to make your compost for you.  A few examples of both greens and browns are:

Greens:

  • Grass clippings
  • carrot tops
  • apple cores
  • banana peels
  • egg shells
  • coffee grounds

Browns:

  • black & white newspaper
  • toilet paper rolls
  • used kleenex or paper napkins
  • waded black & white paper
  • dry leaves
  • coffee filters

What to avoid:

  • Meats / bones (attracts vermin)
  • Waxy paper (slow to decompose)
  • Weeds with seeds
  • Grease or fats

This is only a quick list of examples but there are LOTS of things around the house that can be composted from your vacuum cleaner’s bin to that handful of weeds you picked out of the flowerbed that haven’t yet gone to seed.  The generally-accepted percentage is to add three parts brown matter to one part green matter, but it doesn’t have to be exact.  If you have too many greens your compost may begin to smell.  Simple fix – add some browns.  If you have too many browns your compost will slow down it’s composting progress.  Again, simple fix – add greens.  If your compost is too wet it may begin to smell – you want it lightly damp like a wrung-out sponge.  Don’t forget to turn it often to keep it all properly mixed and to add that important oxygen.

Some are concerned there may be a bad smell to compost.  No worries, properly balanced compost will not smell bad, and will actually smell like deep rich healthy soil.  It’s easy to keep the compost balanced, in with my kitchen scraps and grass clippings (greens) I add some shredded paper or cardboard (browns)  For me almost anything goes for the browns – I’ve composted wadded up bank statements, receipts, torn up pizza boxes and toilet paper rolls.  I’ve read that most inks used now are soy-based so I don’t really fret too much about what kind of paper goes in the composter, although I shy away from heavily-colored and slick-textured papers “just because”.  Don’t forget to stir your compost often to distribute oxygen and add enough water so it’s slightly moist.

What about rodents, flies and other pests being attracted to your compost pile?  Well, a properly maintained compost pile does not smell bad and I’ve never had a rodent problem with any composting method I’ve ever used but I guess depending on where you live and what you include in your compost your experience may be different.  Do avoid adding any meat, grease or fat products and that definitely should help avoid that issue.

So what have we learned today?  Your compost needs “greens” and “browns”, to be turned regularly and to be kept evenly moist.  No kidding folks, it really is as simple as that! So get out there and start your own compost pile – your garden will thank you many times over!

~TMR~

* A word about our Affiliate Link – We are currently enrolled as an Amazon Affiliate.  Occasionally I will insert an affiliate link into one of my posts if I think it may be of interest to you, in this case a compost tumbler.  I purchased the tumbler myself and receive nothing from the manufacturer, but I love it & thought you might too. If you click on any of my affiliate links and buy something (almost anything, not just what was linked) I get a small referral percentage from Amazon.  But here’s the really important part – the price you pay for your items is UNCHANGED.

When you buy something through the affiliate link it’s a great way to support this blog without anything coming out of your pocket so please click often!

* * * * * * * * * *

Shared with some of my favorite hops

Share Button

27 thoughts on “Easy Composting for A Healthy Garden

  1. gina

    Very helpful! I have my compost on the ground but recently found my dog eating my ‘greens’. Now I see what you are using and that looks handy. My household trash has reduced so much since composting. Thanks for the info.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Gina – LOL. I guess leftover dinner plate scrapings and the like may be enticing to your four-legged friend. In your case you’d definitely need to enclose your compost pile some way. Chicken wire wrapped into an open tube may work, you’d just need to remove the tube from time to time & re-shovel your compost into your container to keep it mixed. Of course the compost tumbler works well too since it’s pretty fully enclosed but it comes with a higher price than the chicken wire option. There are a wide variety of options and prices for your to consider based on your needs. But never fear because composting is E-A-S-Y. ~TMR~

      Reply
  2. Blossom

    Great post! I got a tumbler in April and honestly didn’t have a clue how to use it. It needs to be turned a few times a week? The directions (what little there were with my tumbler) said once every week OR TWO! Well, that explains a lot. Off to turn my compost. Btw, my compost is smelling absolutely wonderful, if though I can see food stuffs breaking down- no nasty smells. Can’t wait to use my ‘black gold’ :) Again, really great post!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Blossom – you’re gonna LOVE your tumbler! Yes, I usually turn it each time I toss in my compostable materials. I don’t think you can Overturn the compost so in my opinion the more often the better! ~TMR~

      Reply
  3. Dorothy

    The only inks you really have to worry about these days are the metallic or fluorescent ones. Everything else is soy-based or aniline dyes, which are nitrogen-based and breaks down readily in a compost pile. The slick paper breaks down more slowly because the kaolin clay coating repels water, but if you rip the paper up to make fuzzy edges to the bits, it will absorb water that way and the bits will break down faster than a full sheet will. The coating won’t hurt anything because hey, it’s clay. You’ve got that in your dirt already anyway.

    Reply
  4. Sue from theT2women

    This is great! Thanks so much for linking up with us this weekend at One Sharendipity Place!! Sue @TheT2women.com

    Reply
  5. Holly @ Backyard Chicken Lady

    I just bought two 55 gallon plastic barrels to make my own compost. The hubby is going to build frames for them so they are off the ground and easily flipped (turned) as often as needed. Thanks for the suggestions on what to put in your compost, it really helps me. Do you now turn it every day when you throw something new in it? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Yes ma’am Holly, I turn it every time I dump something in there. I don’t think it’s possible to OVER turn it but I know for a fact it’s possible to UNDER turn it. Turning it this often keeps all the clumps broken up and ultimately makes the tumbler easier to turn. ~TMR~

      Reply
  6. Jenny

    Great post! My husband is in charge of our compost and he has made sure to add both the green stuff as well as the brown. Thanks for sharing this at the HomeAcre Hop! We’d love to have you back tomorrow: http://wp.me/p2urYY-127

    Reply
  7. Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

    We LOVE our compost! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures Thank you for sharing this link at Tuesdays with a Twist!

    Reply
  8. Nancy Davis

    I have been wondering about a composter. Right now mine is on the ground in cement blocks. I have a question. Do you put your stuff in to be composted until it is full and then stop until it is all composted before starting over again or how does that work? Also the reviews said that the parts (I think it was the parts) rusted. Have you had any problems with that? I think I want one but just not sure yet. Thanks. Nancy http://cozythymecottage.blogspot.com/

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Nancy, I’ve had no trouble at all with my tumbling composter & I think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread! Since compost would not complete if it’s constantly being added to, I used to remove partially-composted material & set it aside to complete the composting process before adding again to the tumbler, but I recently built a finishing bed right in my veggie garden. I wrote about it here –> http://taylormaderanch.com/blog/building-a-garden-composting-area/ ~TMR~

      Reply
      1. Nancy Davis

        Thanks for your input. I don’t have enough room to do the partially finished compost like you do but what do you think of this idea? Might it work? Fill the compost tumbler as full as I am allowed. Then any extra compost after that put in my cement block open container I use now until the compost in the compost tumbler is finished. When it is finished empty that around my plants and fork the coment block started compost into the tumbler and continue to add to tumbler till full again. Input about this way please. I just have a small city lot but love to garden. Would love to have a tumbler like yours. Nancy

        Reply
        1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

          I’d suggest doing it the other way around – fill the compost tumbler as full as allowed then empty no more than 75% of it to a bucket with holes punched in it to allow drainage. The compost can then finish composting in the bucket and you can continue putting compostables into your tumbler. The reason I’d do it this way is because the compost tumbler already contains the microbes & beneficial bacteria to keep the composting process going. Plus you can use the finished compost from your bucket which is smaller than your tumbler & might be more convenient. At least that’s the way I was finishing my compost before we built the compost bed and although the finishing bucket worked well, I was looking for a way to finish my compost right in the garden area so we built the compost bed. So far, so good! ~TMR~

          Reply
  9. Kimberlee

    I have been composting for about 4 years now. It really helps improve the hard Texas soil we have and my plants are growing a lot better.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Yes ma’am Kimberlee it does. We have a decent mixture of soils and thankfully we don’t have that Texas gumbo clay but our veggie garden was created right smack dab in the middle of a cow pasture so I wanted to add fertility to help my veggies grow. ~TMR~

      Reply
  10. Pingback: Weekend Wandering | What I Loved This Week | Living Well Spending Less

  11. Nancy W

    Composting is such a wonderful way to improve your garden. Thank you so much for sharing your post on the HomeAcre Hop. I’m going to feature it on the Hop tomorrow. – Nancy The Home Acre Hop

    Reply
  12. Pingback: From The Farm Blog Hop is LIVE! And a Garden Composting Favorite!

  13. Gaye

    Visiting from the From the Farm blog hop. Thanks for the encouragement to get my tumbler going again. Also, the tip about paper – I didn’t know you could use it along with, or in place of, leaves as the “brown.”

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Thanks for stopping by Gaye. I always have some kind of paper to get rid of such as receipts or shredded paper, and the composter does a fine job of taking care of it! ~TMR~

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *