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Breaking It Down: A Beginner’s Guide To Composting

Posted November 11, 2020

Composting can be intimidating for some beginners, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Understanding the basics of composting and using the right compost bin can make the experience very rewarding.

Learning about the various benefits of composting can also be helpful. Composting provides a free nutrient-dense soil amendment and helps the environment by diverting organic waste from landfills.

Our Beginner’s Guide to Composting will explore how compost works, environmental benefits of composting, and tips on maintaining a successful compost pile.

Let’s start with the Basics: What is Compost?

Compost is decomposed organic matter that makes a great soil amendment to promote healthy plant growth. The process of composting is an aerobic method, which means it requires the presence of air to decompose organic solid waste.

To work effectively, composting organisms require four equally important ingredients:

  1. Carbon (Browns): provides energy
  2. Nitrogen (Greens): assists in growing and reproducing more organisms to oxidize the carbon
  3. Oxygen: oxidizes the carbon, which facilitates the decomposition process
  4. Water: helps with decomposition and keeps the pile’s temperature regulated

Environmental Benefits of Composting

The benefits of composting go far beyond creating nutrient-rich fertilizer for your flower and vegetable gardens. Composting diverts organic waste from landfills, where it lacks the oxygen needed to safely decompose. When organic matter gets trapped in landfills, that lack of oxygen in the surrounding environment causes it to break down and release methane gas—a greenhouse gas roughly 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 22 percent of what goes into municipal landfills is food waste. Much of this organic material could be composted and returned to the earth. While not all food waste should be composted, a lot of what gets tossed in the trash could be added to your compost bin.

What Can You Compost?

  • Kitchen scraps such as vegetables, eggshells, fruit peelings, and coffee grounds
  • Garden and yard material such as grass clippings, leaves, annual plants, and vegetables
  • Manure from plant-eating animals only (NOT from household pets)
  • Cardboard (including the GEOBIN box)

What Shouldn’t You Compost?

  • Meat scraps can attract flies and maggots and slow down the composting process.
  • Dairy can attract unwanted pests.
  • Cooking oil can attract unwanted pests and upset the compost’s moisture balance.
  • Bread products can attract unwanted pests.

Maintaining a Balanced Compost Pile

When making your compost, you want to maintain a ratio of 3 parts brown material to 1 part green material to ensure that you have the right balance of carbon and nitrogen. Brown materials are rich in carbon and include straw/hay, wood chips, cardboard, and dry leaves. Green materials are rich in nitrogen and include grass clippings, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, fruit and vegetable scraps, and trimmings from perennial and annual plants.

Layer your brown and green material and add water as necessary during drier times. If you begin to notice an unpleasant odor coming from your compost bin, the culprit could be excess nitrogen. You can fix this by mixing in some dried leaves, straw, or another carbon-rich material you have on hand.

Depending on the compost bin you choose, you will periodically need to turn the pile to aid aeration.

The GEOBIN® Composting System Is Perfect for Beginners

Now that you have the basics down, it’s time to start composting. With its easy 3-step setup, the GEOBIN® Composter is a great compost bin for beginners. The GEOBIN has excellent ventilation, which helps speed up decomposition with little effort.

The GEOBIN Composter is expandable up to 3.75 feet (216 gallons), allowing it to grow with your compost pile. It’s also the most affordable composting system on the market, allowing you to get started with a smaller investment.