Do you know how to compost at home? Depending on where you live, there are probably certain ways to compost at home that work better than others. This “most okayest” gardener decided to compost because she knew it was a great way to reduce waste, feed her garden, and feel good about a successful compost pile even for those without a green thumb.
The Compost Chronicles series highlights families in various circumstances who have all found a way to compost at home that works for their lifestyle. Hopefully, you can be inspired to give it a go and help our planet become a little healthier.
Did you know that composting can transform your trash into new life? And that new life, in the form of microbes, fungi, earthworms, and more, provides the foundation for much of all other healthy life on Earth?
Composting is a great way to create healthy soil to support people and our planet. Healthy soil is also a magical carbon sink that absorbs carbon from our atmosphere and helps cool the planet. While dead dirt has few living organisms, a teaspoon of healthy soil has more living organisms in it than the entire population of humans on Planet Earth!
We need everyone to learn how to compost at home and make it a part of everyday life.
Don’t think you can compost? We’ve got a whole set of resources on Everything To Know About How To Compost At Home, including more Compost Chronicles interviews. All of this information about how to compost at home will hopefully prove that just about anyone can make space and find a system to turn their food scraps into nutrient-rich compost to enrich our soil, feed our food cycle, and limit the food waste that ends up in landfills.
In this edition of Bring Your Trash To Life, we are hearing from Tyson. She started composting several years ago and has enjoyed how easy it is. She even considers her trips to the compost bin a bit of calm from the everyday happenings of home. I also love that she’s made composting a family affair such that her son did his school science project on the benefits of composting for plants.
If you’re looking for a “clean and simple” composting option, Tyson has a great bin that makes the process pretty straightforward and can work even in smaller yards. Read on for more from Tyson about how she makes composting work for her family!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you live, your family, etc…?
Cheers, I’m Tyson! My husband and I, both born and raised Midwesterners, have three boys, ages 9, 11, and 13…they keep us busy for sure. We’ve lived in the greater Houston, Texas, area for five years.
In the past, we had many cross country moves with my husband’s job. In one stretch, we moved three times in six years. Now in Texas, our family has been able to settle a bit and put down some roots.
We have two cats. One is a boy tabby that would love to dethrone me from my Alpha position, but he’s happy with Beta (just don’t tell him I called him a cat!). The other is a girl tortie that is scared of her own shadow but is super sweet even if she’s socially awkward.
While I’ve been composting for almost five years, I’m new to attempting to be more sustainable, reduce waste, support slow fashion, try plastic-free swaps, and more actively support social justice.
Tell us a little bit about why you decided to start composting?
When we moved here five years ago, we knew we’d be here long-term and immediately built a raised two-bed garden. That led pretty quickly to composting! Reduce food waste and my garden benefits? Sign me up!
What method of composting do you use?
Our compost bin, Soil Saver Classic by Algreen (28”x28”x32”), has an open bottom that sits on the grass/soil, comes with a locking lid, and has four doors that slide up to access the black gold.
Generally, it’s cold composting. I don’t have to worry about the brown to green ratios that way. I just toss stuff in, food waste, yard waste, newspapers, cardboard, etc… Often it hits within the right brown to green ratio range and hot composts itself for a bit.
Only one time I can recall that it ever really got out of balance and smelled. That happened because it had too many greens in it and was too wet. To fix it, I just needed more browns and one thorough stir. I think this bin would be great even in a smaller back or side yard.
How do you store the scraps until they are taken to your compost pile?
I consider my daily compost container that sits on the counter next to the sink a highly fancy antique. It’s a 20+ years old Tupperware two-quart container for which we lost the lid years ago. Funny fact, my husband used to make his microwave Mac & Cheese in it during college.
We have no issues with smells, as I take food scraps out to the compost bin at least daily. I take the scraps out immediately if it gets full or just to use as an excuse to step out of the house for a bit and get some peace for a few minutes.
Have you had any issues with animals or pests getting into your compost pile?
There are many critters and pests in Texas! I’ve had random lizards, salamanders, and insects visit our compost bin. Soldier fly larvae in the summer are about my limit of gross, but they do great work helping with the compost! Only recently, after almost a week of straight rain, a rat & I greeted each other one morning! I think we both screamed!
Over the years, the bin has gotten slightly askew and while the lid still locks, it leaves a slight gap in the top now. My favorite visitor was last summer, a banana spider I named Verna. She built her web as close to over one corner of the bin that still gave me enough room to open the bin without tearing her web. She had many good meals!
The worst are the fire ants. I’m allergic to their bites and simply loathe them. The first winter with the bin I made the mistake of adding too many pine needles. Fire ants made themselves a nice home. I was very personally offended they invaded my space!
I didn’t want to use chemicals to get rid of them, so I used diatomaceous earth. It seemed to work, and they were gone in a day or two. It’s my go-to now if they get any funny ideas and try to move back in.
Do you have any special tools, containers, or products that help make composting easier or more accessible for you?
I have a shorter spade that I use for turning the pile, but that’s about it. I try to give it a good mix up every few days.
Do you have any other supplies that you store until you need to add them to your compost pile?
Typically since I’m not hot composting, I’m not concerned with having extra composting materials. We live on about an acre of land that provides many leaves, sticks, and yard waste. Also, our farm share biweekly paper bags and daily newspapers provide plenty of brown materials to go with the food scraps.
How does your family feel about composting?
At first, I don’t think my husband was thrilled about having food waste sitting on the counter. Now it’s just a habit for us all. The boys (when in school) leave peels, tops, or stems of their fruits or veggies in their lunch kits to bring home to compost.
My oldest did his 7th grade Junior High Science Fair project on whether or not Compost is Beneficial to Plants. He’s considering this year doing one about how much food waste an average family can prevent going into the landfill by composting.
Have you experienced any benefits from composting, especially ones that might have surprised you?
It may seem silly, but composting is good for my mental health. I’m the world’s “most okayest” gardener and sometimes feel like a failure. I can’t really mess up composting and am helping the environment at the same time! Not all things you do in life can be that easy and a win-win.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers about your composting practices, especially to help beginners gain confidence that they too can compost?
The big thing I like about composting is that it’s easier than you think. Trust me, no superpowers here! My most recent challenge to myself is to get the most life out of scraps before they go to compost. For example, freezing some veg scraps to make veggie broth, strawberry tops in your ice water, banana peels in water for a plant fertilizer, or orange peels in vinegar for a cleaner.
I would also like to start a yard waste compost pile at the edge of our property. The food scraps would have to stay in the bin with a lid. It would be nice to have that second pile to add to my bin if needed.
Where else can we find you and learn more about what you’re up to?
I only recently joined Instagram in April of this year with plans to use it as a free space to curate my life and encourage creativity and growth. I also wanted to be surrounded by like-minded individuals or groups. It could also be a mid-life crisis, not totally sure as of yet.
Along the way, I found that the sustainability/eco-friendly communities and garden communities have really drawn me in and have me on a new adventure, full of learning, without having to leave home. Please come join me @tlhatzl on Instagram. I would be honored if you stopped by to say hello!