Do you want to learn how to compost at home? It’s easier than you might think. To get started, check out some of the best books on composting I’ve read for beginner and intermediate home composters.
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So you’re compost curious but aren’t sure where to start? I feel ya. Seven years ago, we moved into our current house. I had no experience gardening or composting. Heck, I struggled to keep a small house plant alive, and I barely knew what composting was.
The previous owners of our house, however, were avid gardeners and composters. They left a great garden and compost system for us. And I was really interested in learning more about how to make composting part of our sustainable living journey.
We moved from a very urban high-rise apartment in Chicago to the outskirts of the suburbs in Philadelphia, and I looked forward to the opportunity to try my hand at gardening and composting. I particularly liked the environmental benefits of composting to reduce waste and replenish soil quality.
I’ve Read a Lot of Books on Composting
But…I had no idea where to start. Many of the resources online seemed overly simplistic or entirely too focused on the precise science of the chemical reactions within a compost heap, so they didn’t feel helpful to really get into the weeds of managing a compost pile without getting lost in the thicket of chemistry.
As an avid reader, I turned to books to figure out where to start. I read many books about composting for beginners (so many, in fact, that the librarian took notice and asked about my interest) in search of the best composting books. Like the internet resources, some of the books made composting seem very scientific and complicated. I promptly returned those to the library; they were not in my wheelhouse. But there were a few good books that made composting for beginners feel much more accessible.
After a bit of research and my own trial and error, I assure you that composting isn’t hard, even for beginners. It takes a bit of research to understand the different types of composting. Shameless plug: you can find most of that basic introductory information on our site on our composting resource page.
There are several types of composting systems, so due diligence up front helps determine what system will work best for you and your living circumstances. After some basic research, however, it’s pretty straightforward and hard to mess up.
In addition to the books below, also check out my You Can Make Dirt composting series. I highlight regular families composting as a part of their everyday lives in a variety of locations and living circumstances. If you already compost and want to be featured, be sure to send me details to be considered for a feature.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or shoot me an email. I will do my best to answer as quickly and thoroughly as I can.
10 of the Best Books on Composting
The Compost Coach: Make Compost, Build Soil and Grow a Regenerative Garden – Wherever You Live! by Kate Flood
I stumbled on Kate’s content on Instagram where she shares a ton of really relatable tips and education about how to compost at home in various ways. She explains the details of making your own soil amendment with worm bins, compost heaps, Bokashi bins, and more. When I saw her book coming out, I knew it would be chock full of great information on residential composting!
The fantastic book includes lots of photos, approachable explanations, and practical tips about how to choose the right composting system for your lifestyle, things to consider with each one, and tips to make the process work well for your own compost. She even touches on making compost tea and having backyard chickens, two other ways to use nutrients from organic material waste to replenish the soil.
She has so much information to offer without it feeling too overwhelming or scientific. If you’re looking to compost at home and make your own soil amendments, this book is definitely a great place to start for easy composting!
This book is the second-best book I’ve seen about composting for beginners (after Kate’s book above). It has such great descriptions and explanations. It isn’t too technical but does explain the basic science, which helps to understand why some aspects of composting are more important than others.
It doesn’t suggest any “perfect” magic formula but is just really reasonable and focuses on making composting accessible for everyday households.
I highly recommend this book if you’re looking to understand the basics of composting beyond knowing just what to put in a compost bin and letting it slowly turn into nutrient-rich dirt. It takes a beginner through the entry-level information and goes just beyond to provide a baseline for stepping into the next level of composting.
This is such a great book to help beginner composters apply the principles of gardening to their own home in a low-stress way. The authors don’t make the content too complex or feel overwhelming.
They often discuss ways to simplify the process or include discussions about how they keep their compost piles and systems as easy to manage as possible. In a genre filled with highly technical books that can make composting feel overwhelming, this book does a great job of making composting feel accessible.
Composting is easy and fun, saves you money, and helps you to grow lovely plants. This book shows you how to compost everything that can be composted – at home, work, or school, and in spaces big or small. It features a comprehensive A–Z guide, which includes what organic materials you can and can’t compost, concepts and techniques, and common problems and solutions.
This small handbook is a quick reference guide that I think is very helpful, especially for beginner composters. This is straightforward and written in layman’s terms. It doesn’t address the nuances of composting, but definitely is a greater starter guide and a handy quick reference to keep on hand when you’re learning how to turn your kitchen waste into black gold.
The Rodale Book of Composting: Easy Methods for Every Gardener by Grace Gershuny
The Rodale Institute is a premier leader in the regenerative agriculture space. Lucky for me, they are located just a couple of hours from where I live, so I have been fortunate to attend some of their events on their main farm location. As expected, this book did not disappoint. The Rodale team is a wealth of knowledge about sustainable food-growing and land management practices.
This book is a nice balance of beginner resources paired with some more technical and advanced discussions about the science of composting and more complex or larger-scale composting systems for intermediate experience. It wasn’t, however, overly technical and would be very helpful for anyone looking to try composting beyond a simple bin or pile of kitchen food scraps and everyday cardboard.
Grow Your Soil!: Harness the Power of the Soil Food Web to Create Your Best Garden Ever by Diane Miessler
This book is not a step-by-step guide to composting but applies the concepts of composting to managing soil in a home garden. It’s a great book to read for someone who has a basic knowledge of composting and seeks to step up their attention to care for their soil and the ecosystem of plants in their yard.
This book is really interesting and has a lot of new information beyond composting 101 that was both accessible and even funny at times. I highly recommend this book after you’ve learned the very basics of composting at home.
Great Composting Information + Sustainable Gardening
This book includes tons of ideas about how to make your garden more sustainable, including a section on various types of composting in your home garden. I found it really helpful for my garden in general, and I included it in this list because I think the book does a nice job of showing how composting can fit into a sustainable garden (though a garden is certainly not required to be a diligent home composter).
Beyond composting, High-Impact, Low-Carbon Gardening is a one-stop reference for making a garden more green. From simple actions like installing a water barrel or eliminating pesticides to more long-term investments like choosing permeable, locally sourced paving, and planting the most water-wise plants, there are hundreds of large and small choices home gardeners can make to reduce the environmental impact of designing, planting, and tending a garden.
Community-Scale Composting (if you’re feeling ambitious)
Community-Scale Composting Systems: A Comprehensive Practical Guide for Closing the Food System Loop and Solving Our Waste Crisis by James McSweeney
When I started WasteWell, a local curbside composting company, this was the first book I read, and it was really helpful. Everyday home composters certainly don’t need to read this book to be good stewards of their own household waste. But if you’re curious about how composting at a larger scale fits into our community waste management systems, this book is a great place to start.
You probably don’t need to buy it unless you’re starting your own business or advocating for community composting in your own area (run by a local community group or your municipality, for example). But you could certainly check it out from your library and take a scan through if you’re a curious composter looking to put your food waste in a grander context of waste in general.
Large-scale or commercial composters really need to understand the science behind composting. Basic composting at home or for backyard gardens, however, doesn’t have to be difficult. And you definitely don’t need to understand the science to drop off your scraps at a community garden, use ShareWaste, or sign up for your local compost pick-up service.
Hopefully, these books and other resources I’ve shared on composting can help you feel comfortable getting started! If all of these families can do it, you can definitely do it too.
Complete Guide To Composting At Home
For more information about how to compost at home, check out our Complete Guide To Compost At Home with loads of articles to answer all your questions about how to compost at home. We have resources, FAQs, interviews with everyday families who compost at home, and more!
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About The Author
Jen Panaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Honestly Modern, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and an advocate for sustainable living for modern families. In her spare time, she’s a serial library book borrower, a messy gardener, and a mom of two boys who spends a lot of time in hockey rinks and on baseball fields.
You can find more of her work at Raising Global Kidizens, an online space to help parents and caregivers raise the next generation of responsible global citizens.