Composting without Going Crazy: Tips for Newbies

I think I know why you’re here. If you’re like me, you want to do what you can to help the environment (and help yourself in the garden at the same time), but you haven’t yet nailed down this composting thing. And let’s be honest: the thought of keeping smelly scraps in your kitchen doesn’t appeal to you. Am I right? Well I’m here to help with this list of tips that includes info on what you can (and can’t) compost, how to start a compost bin, how to go about making compost (and making sure it doesn’t smell), and other DIY compost shortcuts.

Want easy-to-use composting supplies for your home and garden? Check out our compost bins and garden composters.

 Okay, So What Can I Compost?

  • Fruits and vegetables (except citrus fruits and tomatoes)
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Egg shells
  • Nut shells
  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Oatmeal
  • Jelly, jam, and preservatives
  • Beer and wine
  • Herbs and spices
  • Soy, rice, and almond milk
  • Tea and tea bags
  • Grass and yard clippings
  • Houseplants
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Cardboard and shredded newspaper
  • Paper towels and napkins
  • Hair and fur
  • Dry cat or dog food
  • Dryer lint

What Can’t (or Shouldn’t) I Compost?

  • Meats and fish
  • Bread and bread products
  • Bones
  • Dairy products
  • Fats and oils
  • Citrus peels
  • Onion and garlic scraps
  • Pickles
  • Walnuts
  • Plastics
  • Metal
  • Glass
  • Weeds
  • Cat and dog waste
  • Coal or charcoal ash

How Do I Start a Compost Bin?

You’re now ready and excited to go all Rumpelstiltskin on your garbage—turning it into gardening gold. But first: how do you even start a compost bin? Don’t worry, I’m with you. Well, there are a few ways to do it, but if you’re looking to keep it simple, you’ll need a compost bin for your kitchen to conveniently keep all those food and organic scraps. Look for kitchen composters with a ventilated lid that aerates the compost and prevents odor. And remember to turn the contents in the pile regularly to encourage the breakdown of the materials and keep it from smelling (a point we will discuss further now).

How Do I Keep My Compost Pile from Smelling?

If you’re keeping your compost pile indoors, you shouldn’t have an odor problem if you’re avoiding the “what not to compost” list above. However, if you’re sticking to the script and your compost pile is still smelling up your home, here are some tips on how to keep it “funk-free”:

  • Get an indoor composter with a carbon filter that helps with odors
  • Keep your compost bin in a cool area and covered at all times
  • Turn the compost pile over food scraps when you add them
  • Cover the compost pile with a thin layer of soil
  • Transfer your indoor compost pile to a rotating outdoor composter every few days

When Will My Compost Be Ready to Use?

Okay, so you’re in the composting game, you’re throwing your scraps in the compost heap and feeling like a champ…now what? How long do you wait before you can get that food-trash-turned-garden-goodness into your soil? Well, the short answer is that it depends. The type of materials in the pile, the temperature it’s kept in, and the number of times the pile is turned will all factor into the timeframe. You’ll know it’s ready when it turns a dark, rich color and has an earthy smell to it. As a rough estimate, it typically takes between two to five weeks for compost to break down adequately so that it’s ready to use. Which leads to the next question….

Where Can I Use My Compost?

You can use compost all around your garden or yard: add a layer of it on top of your grass and work it gently into your lawn with a rake and some water. Dig 2 to 4 inches around your plants and flowers and mix some compost with the rest of the soil. Add some of your compost into your mulch and spread it into the soil around your trees, plants, shrubs, and flowers—or on whatever greenery you want to see thrive!

Where Can I Get More Composting Resources?

Here are some fabulous resources I found for you newbie composting rock stars:

Ready to start your compost project? Visit us at to get the tools you need! For more questions or to place an order, call us at 1-888-427-3362.


Photo credits (top to bottom): KittyNic McPheeLindsay, and Melystu. Blog post featured image: Fabulousfabs



0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

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