Composting for Beginners

Recently I set up a compost bin in my backyard, but my composting journey leading up to this has been a long winding road.  An embarrassingly long time ago, I requested a free compost bin from the City of Orlando (if you are a resident in Orlando, you can request a free compost bin).  Upon receiving the compost bin, I realized pretty quickly that I had no idea how to compost and the information I found felt pretty daunting and far more of a process than I what was ready for. So I moved the bin into my shed and promptly ignored/forgot about it.

My experiences this month during my 30 Day Challenge of Plastic Free July gave me the much needed motivation and confidence to once again try to get my compost bin set up.  Composting is the natural process of recycling organic materials like food scraps and yard waste into a rich soil.  Compost is coveted material for gardeners for the rich, life-supporting organic material that it adds to soil, making way for beautiful blooms.  Admittedly, I do not garden but I have wanted to get into composting because it is one of the best ways to divert food waste from the trash.

My Backyard Compost Bin- set up and ready to go!

Research & Preparation

Some of my hesitation with setting up my compost bin were the potential pitfalls that come with compost bins.  While I of course, may end up experiencing some of these issues, understanding how to combat the problems made me feel a lot more ready and comfortable to get started.

Some of the resources I found that were especially helpful to me were:

  • An article about setting up compost bins from the NRDC
  • A guide to setting up backyard compost bins with some troubleshooting from The Kitchn
  • A video that shows how to set up the “Green Machine” compost bin

Potential Problems and Pitfalls (and how to avoid them)

  • Compost smells– In one of my first apartments, a neighbor had set up a compost bin that ended up smelling really terrible.  Every time I left my apartment, I was hit in the face with the smell of hot, rotting garbage.  I was very worried that I would have a similar problem. Through my research, I found out this was likely due to either not enough air circulation or too much water. To avoid this, make sure the compost has enough air circulation and add more dead leaves/paper/cardboard
  • Compost has stalled– If the compost has stalled or isn’t decomposing it is likely too dry.  To avoid this, add more vegetable/food scraps, grass clippings, or coffee grounds, then add water and turnover the contents.
  • Unwanted Pests– Without a doubt, my biggest concern was the potential compost bins have to attract unwanted pests like rodents.  Through some additional research, I found some ways to set up the bin to hopefully avoid that issue by laying down wire and placing blocks in front of the bin door.

Setting Up

Admittedly, while composting is a free process and my compost bin was free, setting up a compost bin is not without some start up costs.  But in all fairness, I should mention that I do nothing that even comes close to gardening, so I had essentially no supplies whatsoever to begin with.  I needed to buy some basic supplies like a garden hose, gloves, shovel and starter soil.

Once I had my supplies, I cleared away some plants in the area that I had designated for the compost bin.  I laid down the chicken wire with some bricks and screwed the bin into place with the 4 anchor screws.

I laid about 6 inches of soil onto the bottom of the compost bin, followed by about 3 inches of shredded paper and 1 inch of food scraps (which I had been accumulating in the freezer).


I am excited to hopefully minimize my waste and produce some lovely, rich compost.  Wish me luck!

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