Composting 101

Stop throwing the earth in the trash can.

Did you know, one head of lettuce can take 25 years or more to decompose in a landfill!

When food scraps are placed in plastic bags and added to a landfill, conditions are fit there for the scraps to decompose. If composted, a lettuce head can decompose in 8 weeks in a properly managed bin! The best part: the nutrients from the lettuce can be added to a garden to make more lettuce! It all comes full circle.

I know composting doesn’t sound sexy: Worms, dirt, microbes…

It’s actually easier than you may think.

For my fellow renters, apartment dwellers, and college students

Let’s be honest, not everyone has access to a yard.

Here are a few composting alternatives:

1. Find someone with compost near you that allows you to drop off your food scraps. Check out or

2. Most community gardens have compost bins. Send a kind email and see if they are accepting food scraps!

3. Team up with a buddy! Personally in college, I convinced a friend to build a compost bin in his home. I would drop off my food scraps there every other week. It helped us maintain a long-term friendship and he became interested in gardening and backyard chickens! Win-win.

4. Ask your city. Some cities like Denver and San Antonio have curbside composting. They will pick up your food scraps. You may pay a fee similar to your trash service.

5. Private composting. Small businesses are popping up all over the USA with composting services like Suncoast Compost in Tampa Bay. They will pick it up or you can drop it off for a monthly fee.

So you want to compost at home…

Here are 4 things you will need to get started!

1. You will need a bin

There are so many types of bins. A lot of cities give out FREE compost bins! Make sure to check first before buying one yourself. You can also build one if you are handy ( I am NOT). has free plans to build one yourself.

2. Once you have the bin, it’s learning the science between Carbon and Nitrogen.

Composting is a finding the right ratio: Carbon to Nitrogen

Carbon-rich matter can be dried leaves, sawdust, cardboard, brown paper bags, straw, etc.

Nitrogen or protein-rich matter is typically your food scraps, grass clippings, and green leaves.

To start with, try about 24 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Explore and test different ratios. Too much Nitrogen (aka food scraps) can attract bugs so I recommend trying a carbon-rich ratio first. In the fall season, save your dried leaves and use them for your compost bin!

3. Air

You’ll need oxygen for your bin to thrive. Every few weeks turn your compost bin with a shovel. Some composters don’t turn their bins. If you are going this route make sure your bin is designed for airflow! Some commercial composting bins don’t have enough airflow so consider drilling a few extra holes

4. Water

You want your compost to feel damp like a sponge but not wet. Water occasionally, or let the rain do the job. If your bin is too wet add more carbon rich items like dried leaves. If your bin is too dry it will not decompose properly.

What can go in the bin?

Honestly, a lot but here is a list of items to avoid for beginner composters. For example, meat can be composted but if not done properly it will attract animals and critters to your bin. It’s a mess, don’t do it.


● Dog feces

● Cat feces

● Butter

● Cooking Oil

● Meats

● Diseased plants

● Dairy products

● Coal ash

● Weeds that go to seed

● Colorful Newspapers or cardboard

Pro tip: Buy a composting thermometer. When a compost bin is working the temperature will be HOT! Around 140-160 F inside. “At this temp, diseases are killed off, and elements break down quickly. If your pile isn’t heating up, you may not have enough nitrogen or moisture.”

Play around, don’t be afraid to ask google for troubleshooting help.

After 8-12 weeks your food scraps will turn into what gardeners call black gold. This rich soil-like material is full of nutrients for your lawn, indoor plants, and garden!

Mix with your regular potting soil and watch your plants grow.

Cheers to summer gardens!