Posts Tagged Composting

How To Build A DIY Composting Toilet With A Urine Diverter

How To Build A DIY Composting Toilet With A Urine Diverter

compost toilet with urine diverter


ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

I am all about living the off-grid life and being as sustainable as possible. When I heard about composting toilets, I knew I had to add one to my own tiny house!

ryan mitchell simple living expert

If you’re seeking a way to make the most out of the go, consider trying out a composting toilet. Composting toilets are a great way to stay off grid, help the earth, and create useable compost.

The best thing about composting toilets is that they are easy to make, easy to use, and, contrary to what you might think, they don’t smell or make a mess!

Steps To Make A DIY Composting Toilet With Urine Diverter

Steps To Make A DIY Composting Toilet With Urine Diverter

It’s honestly a pretty simple process to make your own composting toilet with a urine diverter. You don’t actually need a ton of materials to make it happen, and you can assemble it even if you are only at a beginner’s skill level.

Like I said, composting toilets are fairly easy to make and use. If you’re new to the building scene, make sure you have the right tools to get you going on your DIY compost toilet.

Materials Needed For A Composting Toilet

  • 5 Gallon Bucket
  • Plastic Urine Diverter
  • Straw Or Sawdust
  • Compost Pile
  • Caulk
  • Rubber Washer
  • Screws
  • Knob

The compost substance used in your compost toilet will be a mixture of several substances. Regardless of what elements you use to actually create your compost pile, you will want to use dry wood shavings and activated or mature sawdust as the primary cover material on the compost pile. By doing this, you’ll trap oxygen within your mixture and reduce odor.

how to start a compost pile

1Attach Plumbing Hardware To Toilet

The first thing you are going to do to start assembling your compost bucket is to cut a hole in the side of the bucket that your plumbing hardware is able to fit inside of. Then, you’re going to attach the plumbing hardware pieces together on the inside of the bucket.

2Prepare Your Urine Diverter

If you’ve bought your own plastic urine diverter, it is likely rimmed around the edges and made to sit upright on the inside of your composting toilet. However, you can also DIY your own urine diverter by cutting apart a separate plastic bucket.

budget diy urine diverter
To save some cash by creating your own diverter, just take a second plastic bucket and cut off about an inch from the bottom. You can throw the top half of your bucket away — you only need to hang on to the bottom half to create the urine diverter.

Now, cut the bottom of the bucket off and into two pieces from side to side, saving both pieces of the bucket. Each half should now look like a semi-circle. Now, connect the two pieces to each other using a cotton pin and a rubber washer.

Next, you’re going to attach your DIY urine diverter to the larger bucket you’re using for your compost toilet. This is where your zip ties and screws come in. Drill holes in the sides of the bucket and use zip ties to attach your urine diverter to your main bucket. When you attach this, you want to do so at a slight angle. Then, seal up the gaps with caulk.

If you want to forgo the hassle of making your own diverter, you can easily buy a urine diverter online. Bit setups can work great for your composting toilet.

3Add A Garden Hose To Your Composting Toilet

The next step is to attach your garden hose to your plumbing hardware. The garden hose will run from the composting toilet straight into a urine holding container that usually holds about 2.5 gallons. The hose is essential so your waste has somewhere to go!

4Attach Toilet Seat To Composting Toilet

Now, just install your composting bucket underneath your toilet seat. You can easily buy a plastic toilet seat online that works well with any composting toilet.

As far as what holds your toilet seat in place, there are several routes you can take.

Some DIYers use a wooden box that opens, a hole carved out of the top of the box for the toilet seat, giving easy access to the hose and compost bucket underneath. You can have this type of composting toilet outside or inside your home.

You can also build your composting toilet entirely into your tiny home or house either by attaching it to the wall or creating a wooden container that extends from the wall for your toilet to be located in.

toilet seat attached to composting toilet

5Give Your Composting Toilet A Try!

Now your composting toilet is all ready to start using. Once you get your composting toilet up and running, you’ll feel great about helping the environment, being off-grid, and being better prepared for those days when the plumbing system stops functioning properly.

septic system install

How To Use A Composting Toilet With Urine Diverter

How To Use A Composting Toilet With Urine Diverter

Now that your composting toilet is all ready to go, you’ll want to make sure you feel equiped to use it. Malfunctions with a composting toilet can get pretty gross pretty quickly, so you’ll want to ensure you know what you’re doing!

It’s Crucial To Keep Urine Out Of The Compost

One thing that is vital when using your compost toilet is that you’ll want to work to keep urine out of the compost at all costs. If the compost gets wet, anaerobic bacteria will start to grow in your compost.

If that happens, the anaerobic bacteria will release a very foul stench and it will not break down into fertilizer that is safe to use. Urine also contains nitrogen, which greatly hinders the composting process.

This is why using a urine diverter is so important! When you have a urine diverter, it will funnel your urine into a sperate collection chamber that you can dump in your yard and keep out of your fresh compost.

Using A Compost Toilet: Urine Verses Waste

When peeing in a composting toilet, you’ll want to sit entirely on the seat. If you hover above the seat, you are keeping the urine diverter from being able to do its job effectively.

With the urine diverter in effect, your liquid waste will go one direction and your solid waste is go elsewhere. You can throw toilet paper used when peeing into the same section with your solid waste and let it break down. You don’t have to use substrate cover material if you are just peeing.

When going number two, you definitely want to use substrate cover material over your waste. After each go, add enough cover material so none of your waste is visible. After doing this, go ahead and close the lid of your compost toilet.

tiny house toilet options

Empty Your Waste Bucket After Use

When you’re finished going, you’ll need to know how to effectively empty out your waste bucket. In order to make useable, safe compost out of your own human waste, your compost has to maintain a high temperature for a very long period of time. This is when the composting magic happens!

This high temperature isn’t actually going to be reached in the compost bucket connected to your toilet. In order to get your heap to finish curing, you’ll have to move your matter to a compost bin by emptying out your waste bucket.

How To Empty Your Compost Toilet

  • When your compost bucket is full, empty it into a large compost drum.
  • When your compost drum is full, cover it with a dry substance like straw.
  • Let that compost drum fester for an entire year.
  • After a year of composting, the contents in the bin will shrink and you can put fresh fertilizer on your plants.

Cleaning Your Composting Toilet

If it’s looking like time to clean your compost toilet, all you need is a squirt bottle and some vinegar to get the job done. Just pour vinegar in the spray bottle and give the inside of your composting toilet a nice spritz.

Whatever you do, don’t pour water into the composting toilet! Doing this runs the risk of getting your compost too damp and growing extra smelly bacteria. You can also install a new rubber seal to make your composting toilet cleaner and fresher.

Where To Buy A Composting Toilet With Urine Diverter

Where To Buy A Composting Toilet With Urine Diverter

If you don’t want to go through the process of building a composting toilet all on your own, there are plenty of places where you can buy one. When looking for a composting toilet to buy, consider what your budget is and if you’re needing to purchase the entire toilet or just the urine diverter or toilet seat alone.

privy folding seat

Separett Privy Kit with Folding seat

portable urine separating toilet

Separett Portable Urine Separating Toilet

45 degree funnel

Scribner Plastics 45 Degree D-Funnel

portable camping toilet with lid

Teencci Portable Camping Toilet with Lid

Where To Buy A Urine Diverter

There are several places you can buy your own plastic urine diverter.

Try the following places to get a urine diverter

we pee urine separator

Where To Buy A Plastic Toilet Seat

Where To Buy Just A Plastic Toilet Seat

where to buy a plastic toilet seat

Where To Buy An Entire Composting Toilet

If you don’t think the DIY route is for you, you can buy a composting toilet as is. It may be a little more expensive, but it will save you the hassle of having to build it all on your own.

Places To Buy An Entire Composting Toilet

where to buy an entire composting toilet

Your Turn!

  • Why do you think using a compost toilet will work for you?
  • Do you plan to build or buy your composting toilet?

How To Compost With Worms: Everything You Need To Know To Get Started

How To Compost With Worms: Everything You Need To Know To Get Started

how to compost with worms


ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

When I first started worm composting, I remember adding in a whole watermelon’s worth of rinds, thinking it would take weeks or maybe even months to break down. The next week, I couldn’t find them in the bin, my worms broke down them all!ryan mitchell simple living expert

When people think of composting, they usually picture throwing all of their food waste in a pile that they turn every once in a while. But what if I told you there is an entirely different form of composting you can try? Composting with worms!

With vermicomposting, you rely on an abundance of tiny worms to help decompose your scraps, and boy do they know how to get the job done. It’s the same process the worms would perform in the natural world, but when you give these little guys the perfect conditions, they go crazy.

What Is Worm Composting And Why Should I Start?

what is worm composting

Composting with worms, also called vermicomposting, is a composting method that uses earthworms to do the bulk of the hard work for you — sounds like a pretty sweet deal right?

worm compostIn a general sense, compost turns to soil by taking in water and oxygen and producing carbon dioxide and heat. The decomposition process is caused by various bacteria and microbes breaking down your scraps. Worms can do the same thing, but faster.

When you add worms to your compost bin, the worms expedite the process by helping the bacteria and microbes do their job. The vermicomposting method is regarded by composting pros as the easiest and most successful method for composting, especially if you’re just starting out.

How To Compost With Worms: Pros and Cons of Vermicomposting

Pros and Cons of Vermicomposting

I chatted with Nick Shaw about all things worm composting. Nick is a composting enthusiast and owner of Apex Organix Compost, a commercial composting service in Fairfax, Virginia. Throughout our conversation, he gave me insightful advice on why vermicomposting is a wise method for composting newcomers.

worm composting pro tip “Vermicomposting is much less work than building a compost bin, making sure it gets hot enough, turning it, and trying to sift out finished compost. And if you’re in a small apartment, it’s something you can still do!” – Nick from Apex Organix

Worm composting has benefits, but it also has its downsides. When choosing a compost method, it’s important to consider where you want to keep your bin, how quickly you want the process to go, and the type of environment you can provide. I’ve created this chart of the pros and cons for composting with worms to help inform your choice of composting method.


  • Easy to manage
  • Less prone to odors
  • Worm compost has more nutrients
  • Faster than traditional composting


  • Worms cannot decompose proteins
  • Requires specific worm species
  • Easy to overfeed worms
  • Smaller volume

PRO: Worm Compost Is Easy To Manage

When it comes to maintaining and keeping up with your compost bin, vermicomposting gets a lot of points for being user friendly.

Composting with worms takes up less space than a traditional compost bin, so you can easily adapt this method to a small studio apartment or the corner of your living room. You do not have to turn a worm compost bin as often as you do other types of compost.

PRO: Vermicompost Is Odorless

Vermicompost is the least likely to give off a smell when compared to other methods. If your nose is bothered by your worm compost bin, something is wrong.

Saying that worm compost is entirely odorless might be a bit of a stretch, as all compost does tend to emit a slightly earthy aroma. However, the odor coming from your worm compost should be pleasing to the senses. More points for the earthworms — especially if you’re composting indoors.

PRO: Worm Compost Has More Nutrients

Vermicompost is richer in nutrients than traditional compost. It is jam packed with more phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen, all of which are extremely beneficial in aiding the growth of your plants.

Vermicompost also holds nutrients for a longer time than traditional compost, so it can supply these high levels of healthy nutrients to your plants for even longer.

PRO: Vermicomposting Is Faster Than Traditional Composting

Vermicomposting is quick. This is because your earthworms are working overtime to do the bulk of the work it would usually take the bacteria and microorganisms many months to complete.

Traditional composting methods can take anywhere from eight to 15 weeks to produce results, but vermicompost gets the job done at two to five times that rate!

indoor compost bin

CON: Worms Cannot Decompose Proteins

Proteins, dairy products, meats, and cheeses are compostable when it comes to traditional compost methods. Experts certainly have varied opinions on whether or not you should compost these items though, as they can attract more pests and can also harbor pathogens.

However, when it comes to vermicompost, composting dairy and proteins isn’t an option at all. Earthworms have strong mouths but don’t have teeth, so thick products like meat and cheese are too difficult for them to digest. Stick with fruits and vegetables to keep your wrigglers happy!

CON: You Have To Tend To The Needs Of Your Worm Species

When going the vermicomposting route, it’s wise to tend towards buying species that are tolerant of the climate you’re in. When you add worms to your compost, temperature matters.

Location and climate are important considerations when buying worms. For example, African Nightcrawlers need warmer temperatures to survive while European Nightcrawlers enjoy cooler temperatures.

CON: You Can Easily Overfeed Your Worms

When composting with worms, the quantity of your scraps is vital. While the success of traditional composting methods is dependent on the way you layer your scraps, you can have as many or as few scraps as you like. That’s not the case with vermicompost.

Overfeeding worms can cause many problems with your compost like odors, acidity, excess moisture, pests, and sick worms, which you want to avoid.

CON: Vermicompost Needs A Shallower Container

Vermicompost works best in a fairly shallow container because it makes it easier for the redworms to feed in the upper layers of the bedding. You want the depth of the container to be between 8 and 12 inches.

how to start a compost pile

How Do I Maintain My Worm Bin?

How Do I Maintain My Worm Bin

Once you’ve made the decision to go the vermicomposting route, you’re going to need advice on how to maintain your bin. When I first started out, I had tons of questions, from what scraps worms prefer to what to do if my worms were eating too much to how often I should turn my worm bin.

What Should I Compost In My Worm Bin?

What Should I Compost In My Worm Bin

You can compost almost anything you would use in traditional compost in your worm bin, including:

  • Most fruits
  • Most vegetables
  • Roots and bulbs
  • Husks, skins, or peels
  • Eggshells
  • Dry leaves
  • Green leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Pine needles
  • Natural fibers
  • Non-glossy paper
  • Tea leaves or bags
  • Coffee grinds
  • Coffee filters
  • Wood ash
  • Sawdust

worm composting advice“They love watermelon. They go crazy for watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, and pumpkin. But if you really want to see them process material, give them some watermelon, wait about six hours, and they’ll go to town.” – Nick from Apex Organix

What Shouldn’t I Compost In My Worm Bin?

What Not To Compost In My Worm Bin

These materials can be harmful to the worms in your bin and are best to avoid:

  • Meat products
  • Dairy products
  • Citrus fruits
  • Onions or garlic
  • Cooking spices
  • Fats or grease
  • Bones
  • Breads & crackers
  • Pastries
  • Coated paper
  • Stickers
  • Envelope stamps
  • Cat or dog feces
  • Diseased plants
  • Pesticide treated plants
  • Treated wood products

Where Beginners Go Wrong Composting With Worms?

advice for worm composting beginners

When I first started out composting with worms, I didn’t want to make any rookie mistakes with my scraps, my worms, or my compost bin. Here are three example problems that keep composting beginners from reaching their best possible vermicomposting results.

1. Overfeeding Your Worms

Overfeeding Your Worms

I talked about this a little bit already, but this is a common misstep for vermicompost newbies. When you have a ton of kitchen scraps that you’re excited to start composting, it can be tempting to want to just throw them all on top of your pile and let the games begin. This can be harmful or even deadly to your worms.

pro advice on worm composting“When you overfeed, you can run into all kinds of problems that just aren’t good for the worms, especially if you keep the worms inside. The bedding material can become too acidic because, if you add too much food material, you are adding too much nitrogen to the soil, so add more carbon.” – Nick from Apex Organix

2. Putting Your Worms In A Compost Tumbler

Putting Your Worms In A Compost Tumbler

A compost tumbler is not an ideal habitat for composting with worms. Earthworms are going to do much better in a traditional outdoor bin or, if you want to compost indoors, a plastic storage bin or bucket with a lid.

For one thing, tumblers are designed to be rotated, but earthworms need a habitat that’s not being actively disturbed. Another issue is that compost tumblers are designed to heat up, so not only will you stress the worms out with excess movement, but there’s also a decent chance you’d end up killing them in the tumbler due to ammonia release.

do not use a compost tumbler for worm composting

3. Trying To Compost Perfectly On Your First Try

Trying To Compost Perfectly On Your First Try

Just like with anything else we try for the first time, it’s easy to be discouraged when things go wrong. Composting is a slow process without an exact recipe, and it takes a lot of guess and check to get right. Beginners tend to go wrong by letting their desire to get the perfect pile and soil on the first try keep them from trying vermicomposting out at all.

pro tip about worm composting“People get overwhelmed by the amount of information out there — they let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Just get started.” – Nick from Apex Organix

What Is Wrong With My Worm Compost Bin? Troubleshooting Your Vermicompost

Troubleshooting Your Vermicompost

Being a beginner vermicomposter can come with an array of challenges, and it’s easy for these challenges to make it feel like you’re failing.

However, many of these obstacles come with simple fixes. Below, I’ve compiled a list of common problem spots paired with helpful solutions for those starting out.

My Worms Are Sick Or Dying

My Worms Are Sick Or Dying

If you start to notice dead worms in your worm bin, you need to take immediate action to save your remaining sick worms. It doesn’t take much to keep earthworms happy, but sometimes things go wrong.

Here are some ideas of what might be wrong with your bin if you see dead worms, with quick tips on how to fix the problem:

Temperature of worm bin

Worms are not successful in a bin that is extremely hot or extremely cold. Use a thermometer to check that your bin is between 55º and 70ºF.

If your bin is too hot, feed the worms fewer scraps and rely on their natural ability to sustain themselves until your compost pile starts to cool off. If that doesn’t help, you can add ice cubes to the top of your pile.

If you bin is too cold, make sure you keep a lid on the bin to trap in heat. If your bin does not have a lid, use a black tarp to cover your worm bin. You can also try adding hay or straw to insulate your bin.

gardening 101

Moisture in worm bin

Worms don’t like it when the bin is too wet or too dry. To check this, think of the top of your compost pile like a wrung-out sponge. It should feel moist to the touch but it should not be holding water, dripping, or have any standing water.

If your bin is too wet, try soaking up the excess water with cloth or paper, or insert small rolls of newspaper in several holes throughout the bin.

If your bin is too dry, just add some more water to the top of the pile with a watering can or a hose. Be careful not to do this too quickly or you’ll suffocate your living worms.

Air flow in worm compost

Your worms need to be able to breathe! Make sure your bin has good holes for aeration and that the layers of your bin are not so compacted that they restrict air flow between layers and scraps.

Amount of light in vermicompost

Worms are used to living in a severely dark environment. Too much sunlight can be deadly for earthworms. The best way to make sure your worms stay happy is to keep the lid on your worm bin when you aren’t turning, checking on, or managing the pile.

Under or overfeeding your worms

Your worms could be dying off from a lack of food or overfeeding. If your worms do not have enough food, they will begin to eat their own castings. It’s common for composting beginners to be surprised by how quickly their worms eat away at their scraps, so check to see when you need to add more food.

It’s also common for people to make their worms sick by overfeeding them. If you see large amounts of food leftover after one to two weeks, you are probably overfeeding. I recommend you play it safe by feeding your worms an amount they can handle every two or three days.

basics of homestead gardens

Amount of space in your worm bin

Make sure your bin isn’t overly full of scraps, bedding, or even earthworms. Your worms prefer a nice full bin of food, but they can feel overcrowded if your scraps and materials are too compact. If you feel like the hatchlings are making the bin too full, you can take out some of the fully grown worms and move them to a new bin so all of your worms have enough space to move freely and feed as they please.

Type of water used in vermicompost

It is crucial that you use dechlorinated water to moisten your worm bin. Tap water often contains chlorine, which can be deadly to your worms. You can buy dechlorinated water at your local grocery or hardware store, or you can dechlorinate your tap water by boiling it.

Check the pH levels of your worm bin

Your worm bin should not be too acidic or too alkaline or it will harm your worms. You can check the pH levels of your bin with a pH probe. The goal is to have a neutral pH of 7.

If your worm bin is too alkaline, add some acidic foods like citrus fruit peels, onions, pineapple, tomatoes, or peppers — but be careful not to add too much and swing the pendulum the other way. Too much acidity can hurt worms more easily than a bin that is too alkaline.

If your worm bin is too acidic, make sure none of those acidic kinds of food are in your pile.

The Worms In My Compost Bin Are Not Having Babies

The Worms In My Compost Bin Are Not Having Babies

A healthy vermicompost pile produces hatchlings as your happy earthworms start to mate. It can take a few weeks for worms to hatch, so be sure to account for that time when considering the health of your worms. If there aren’t any mating earthworms, egg capsules, or tiny hatchlings in your worm beds, it is likely due to one of these two reasons:

Your worm compost bedding is unhealthy

It is possible that your worm bedding is too wet, too dry, too acidic, or just needs changing out so the worms have a comfortable environment to reproduce in. After your worms are initially added, your bedding should be kept moist but not too wet. The top 6 to 8 inches of the bedding should be turned every seven to 10 days. About every six to nine months, the old bedding should be replaced with brand new bedding. Use straw or hay, newspaper, coco coir, or shredded cardboard to do this.

Your worm compost bin is too cold

If your bin gets colder than 60 degrees, your earthworms will not breed or produce hatchlings. See above for tips on how to heat up a vermicompost bin that is too cold.

My Worm Compost Is Bringing In Pests And Fruit Flies

My Worm Compost Is Bringing In Pests And Fruit Flies

Pests and fruit flies in your worm bin are not ideal, especially if you are keeping your bin inside your house. Here are a few suggestions for getting rid of unwanted bugs in your vermicompost bin:

Add newspaper to your worm bin

Layer a sheet of newspaper on top of your worm bedding to help keep flies out of your
bin. If the flies start congregating on the paper, change it more frequently to see if this helps eliminate them. If the flies won’t leave, you may need to change out your worm bedding completely to destroy fruit fly eggs and larvae.

Build a moat in your worm bin

You can keep smaller bugs like ants or mites out of your worm bin by surrounding it with a water moat that the bugs cannot cross. Be careful with this trick though, as you don’t want the moat to leak over into your bin and completely soak your compost.

Use a bread slice to get rid of bugs in vermicompost

Another trick for small insects is to place a slice of bread on the surface of the bedding. Then remove the bread slice when it’s covered in tiny bugs and discard of the bread and the little pests.

My Worms Are Escaping From My Compost Bin

My Worms Are Escaping From My Compost Bin

When you first add worms to your compost bin, the little guys may try to escape, as they haven’t yet gotten used to their new environment. They can also react to barometric pressure, causing them to try to escape in the case of a storm.

One tip to control those more free-spirited earthworms is to keep a light on near the bin. Worms avoid bright spaces, so they will not try to crawl out towards the light if they are confined to the darkness of an enclosed bin.

My Worm Compost Bin Smells Bad

My Worm Compost Bin Smells Bad

One of the most common complaints for composting beginners is odor. However, vermicompost tends to be the most odorless form of compost. Your worm bin should barely smell, or, if it does, the smell should be earthy and satisfying.

If there is a gross smell coming from your worm bin, that’s a very clear warning sign that something is seriously wrong. Here’s what to do if your vermicompost stinks:

Try adding more oxygen to your worm bin

To do this, gently lift up the layers of food waste and bedding, enabling air to enter into your compost pile.

Try to scout out if the odor is coming from one specific source. If you track down the culprit, [BOLD]remove the moldy kitchen scrap from your vermicompost bin.

If you can’t find one specific smelly element in your worm compost bin, [BOLD]add a layer of shredded paper, hay and straw, or cardboard strips to the top of the bin, and gently work some of this bedding into the lower layers. The extra carbon you add will help to balance out any of the extra nitrogen that’s making your worm bin pungent.

Types Of Worms Used For Vermicomposting

Types Of Worms Used For Vermicomposting

You may feel like all earthworms are similar, but different species actually require different climates and can be good for vermicompost for different reasons. Check out the most common worms used in vermicompost and the specific ways to care for each species:

Vermicomposting With Red Wrigglers

Vermicomposting With Red Wrigglers

red wrigglers composting worms

Red wrigglers are the most common earthworms used for vermicomposting. The scientific name for red wrigglers is Lumbricus Rubellus. Wrigglers are one of the easiest worm species to take care of with the least number of problems for composters.

They can survive within a wide range of temperatures from 55° to 95°F (13° to 35°C) and are also one of the cheapest species to buy in bulk. You can anticipate receiving about 800 to 1,000 worms per pound when purchasing these red earthworms.

Cost: $30–$35 per pound

Vermicomposting With European Nightcrawlers

Vermicomposting With European Nightcrawlers

european nightcrawlers worms

Another earthworm species that is fairly easy to manage is the European nightcrawler, also known as Einsenia Hortensis. Think of these guys like the larger cousin of the red wrigglers who are a tad bit higher maintenance. These nightcrawlers like cooler temperatures, so make sure to be considerate of that when going this route.

Another thing to note with European nightcrawlers is they will birth hatchlings at a slower rate than other species, so you won’t have as many worm babies right away. Since these guys are larger, you should expect about 300 to 400 worms per pound when you buy them.

Cost: $35–$40 per pound

Vermicomposting With African Nightcrawlers

Vermicomposting With African Nightcrawlers

African Nightcrawler worms

African nightcrawlers are high-quality worms to use for vermicompost, as they are known for having better looking worm castings (as good looking as one could call worm poop), but they are also far more difficult to care for.

While their castings make them a popular option, African nightcrawlers require extremely hot temperatures in order to stay alive. They can begin dying off at 60°F (16°C), making them a poor choice for those who live in colder climates. Anticipate about 300 to 400 worms per pound.

Cost: $35 per pound

Vermicomposting With Indian Blue Earthworms

Vermicomposting With Indian Blue Earthworms

Indian Blue Earthworms

It is highly common for the Indian blue earthworms to be confused for red wrigglers due to how similar the species’ look. The Indian blue worm prefers warmer, tropical climates as opposed to colder, frigid climates.

One downside of using these guys in your compost is that they are highly sensitive to barometric pressure, so they commonly try to (and successfully) escape their worm bin with weather changes like hurricanes or thunderstorms. Indian blues are also harder to find and not as common in the U.S. If you can get your hands on them, expect 800 to 1,000 worms per pound.

Cost: $40–$50 per pound

Where Can I Buy Composting Worms?

Where Can I Buy Composting Worms

So where can you buy composting worms? There are several ways to get your hands on vermicompost worms in bulk. You can order earthworms online or purchase them for a local retailer or worm farm.

Many worm farmers and retailers ship their worms, but you can also purchase them on site. Here are a few sources for purchasing your vermicomposting worms:

planet natural

Planet Natural –

Planet Natural sells red wrigglers in bulk and will ship them directly to you. Your shipment will arrive in a cloth bag ready for you to use in your own worm composting bin. Planet Natural recommends that you use about 1,000 worms for areas up to 250 square feet and sells worms in groups of 250 to 4,000. You can order red wrigglers directly from their website.

Price: $35–$135 depending on quantity

uncle jims worm farm

Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm –

Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm sells several packages of vermicompost worms in bulk. They sell red wrigglers, European nightcrawlers, and mixed bags of composting worms in quantities from a mere 100 up to 2,000 worms. Each order is shipped and delivered straight to your door. You can purchase Uncle Jim’s vermicomposting worms on their website.

Price: $25–$70 depending on quantity

pet store

Local Pet or Hardware Stores

If you don’t want to order online, you can also purchase vermicomposting worms at your local pet or hardware stores.

You can buy common earthworm species like red wrigglers at these stores, however, it’s likely that they will come in smaller quantities than if you buy the vermicompost worms online and have them shipped to you in bulk.

Pet stores like Petco sell earthworms in groups of 45, while hardware stores like Cabela’s, Home Depot, or the Garden Center of Walmart typically sell them by the ounce.

If you buy your vermicomposting worms from a pet or hardware store as opposed to a worm farm, make sure the species is the right type for composting. These stores sell worms for many other purposes like fishing or feeding rodents, and not all earthworms are great for compost.

Price: $3.50–$5 per ounce

How To Build Your Own Worm Composting Bin

How To Build Your Own Worm Composting Bin

You can use most of the same materials and techniques when building a worm composting bin that you would use to build a traditional compost bin, but there are some specific elements to add when building a worm bin that are better for the health of your earthworms.

Features To Add To A Worm Bin

  • Build a 12- to 20-gallon bin
  • The bin should be dark
  • Give your worm bin a lid
  • Build a drainage mechanism
  • Give your worm bin aeration holes
  • Add 1-inch legs to your worm bin
  • Add a tray underneath your worm bin
  • Add bedding material
build a bin for worm composting

Read detailed instructions on how to assemble your very own DIY compost bin here.

how to build a compost bin

Your Turn!

  • How will you build the best environment for your vermicompost?
  • What type of earthworms will you add to your compost bin?

How To Start A Compost Pile For Beginners

How To Start A Compost Pile For Beginners

how to start a compost pile


ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

When I first started composting on my own, I had tons of questions. I got hung up on what I was doing wrong instead of what I was doing right. Composting is a science and an art, so you’re not going to nail it on your first try. There is a lot to learn and it’s okay to fail when you first start.
ryan mitchell simple living expert

In a society obsessed with instant gratification, it’s hard for us to let good things take time. Composting is a slow process that takes diligence, patience, and keen attention, but the process brings abundant rewards. Composting reminds us that we aren’t meant to be blind consumers of what the earth has to offer, and that our ecological footprint is important.

What Is Composting? Compost Defined

What Is Composting

what is compostIn the simplest terms, composting is the decomposition process of organic matter to create a smooth, dirt-like material that can be used to nourish plants and trees as well as fertilize soil.

There are several different types of composting which I’ll outline later, but all types serve the same purpose: turning organic waste into nutrient-rich soil.

How Does Composting Work?

How Does Composting Work

As your carbon-filled kitchen scraps begin to rot, microorganisms from the soil will break it down. This leaves you with humus, a thick black and brown substance full of a fiber, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that can nourish plants and trees.

The microorganisms are able to break the material down by taking in water and oxygen and giving off carbon dioxide and heat. And then, like magic, last week’s banana peel has decomposed to become fibrous soil!

how compost is made

Benefits Of Composting

Benefits Of Composting

Composting has many benefits, but here are just a few to convince you to start composting on your own:

Composting Gives Your Waste Purpose.

Organics make up 1/3 of the garbage that is sitting in our landfills. Throwing organic material away adds waste to landfills that could have been used for greener purposes.

Compost Prevents Plant Diseases.

Using compost causes your plants and trees to be more resistant to diseases and harmful insects because of the healthy nutrients in the compost.

Compost helps to conserve and clean water.

Adding compost to soil can reduce the amount of water needed for crops. Additionally, compost’s ability to filter water as it penetrates the ground actually cleans the water flowing into the ocean.

Compost improves air quality.

The composting process sucks carbon out of the atmosphere and puts it back into the ground.

Composting helps the economy.

Composting plants have been proven to create more jobs than other disposal facilities, such as landfill sites.

Composting lowers your personal carbon footprint.

Composting minimizes greenhouse gas emissions and reduces the amount of carbon your personally put out into the atmosphere.

composting has many benefits for the environment

Types Of Composting: Which One Is Best?

types of composting

Different types of composting require slightly different environments and processes, and they each produce a diverse outcome. There are three main types of composting, and it’s important to know how they each work and what they require when deciding which method you want to try your hand at.

Aerobic Composting

Aerobic Composting

aerobic compost pileTypically, when people talk about composting, they are referring to the aerobic composting method. With this method, microorganisms rely on oxygen to break down waste. When you hear composters discuss turning their compost pile, it means they’re using the aerobic method.

The act of “turning” or “spinning” a compost pile is crucial because it is in the rotation of scraps that the pile is able to aerate, and the organisms can take in the oxygen they need to get the decomposing show on the road.

When going this route, you’re going to want to add lots of nitrogen-heavy scraps like leaves, grass, and vegetables. This will raise the temperature of your pile and speed up the overall process.

Benefits of the aerobic composting method:

  • Relatively odorless
  • Does not take as long as anaerobic composting to see results

Anaerobic Composting

Anaerobic Composting

anaerobic compost pileAnaerobic composting is the exact opposite of aerobic composting: There is no oxygen used in the decomposition process. Anaerobic composting is what happens in landfills — waste breaks down over a long amount of time, completely on its own, just by sitting in a pile.

However, without oxygen to help the organisms break down matter, bacteria can take over and causes the pile to emit a highly pungent smell.

Benefits of the anaerobic composting method:

  • Takes very little effort to maintain — throw scraps into a compost pile and don’t touch it for a year or more to see results
  • Produces more usable nutrient rich humus per volume of organic waste put into the compost pile



vermicompost pileThis third type pf composting is in a category of its own. Vermicomposting is a method that uses worms (usually red wrigglers) to do the bulk of the hard work. The worms use oxygen and moisture to safely break down organic material, just like in aerobic composting.

With this method, the worms do most of the heavy lifting with a little help from other microorganisms and bacteria. Vermicomposting is regarded by experts as the easiest and most successful composting method for a few reasons:

Benefits of vermicomposting:

  • Very easy to maintain — no need to turn your worm compost as frequently because the worms are working overtime for you
  • Closest to being completely odor free
  • The fastest method as worms speed up the composting process

Composting Advice From Experts

Composting Advice From Experts

I was able to chat with several composting aficionados, including master gardeners, horticulturists, rot riders, and several others. These ‘posters gave us real-world insight and advice they wish they had when they were first starting to compost, as well as where beginner composters usually go wrong.

Advice For Composting Beginners

Advice For Composting Beginners

Our experts thought back to the very early years in their own composting journey and considered the advice they wish they had known when they first started out.

Janet Schofield
“I wish someone had told me to start as simple as possible. Figure out one method at a time and add others as you need and have time for them.” – Janet Schofield, Texas A&M Extension
Oz Kupoglu
“A compost pile on the ground is the best way to go. A lot of times new composters will use above-ground compost turners, but I’ve only seen those work for people who are avid composters and really know what they’re doing”. – Oz Kupoglu, Down To Earth Composting
nick shaw
“Make sure you have the ability to have airflow across, through, and around the material as it’s breaking down. This is super important, otherwise you’ll have a cold, smelly, anerobic compost pile.”
– Nick Shaw,  Apex Organix

Where Beginner Composters Usually Go Wrong

Where Beginner Composters Usually Go Wrong

We also asked our experts where they see new composters usually run into problems, and they gave some advice on what not to do when making your first compost pile.

Gary Pilarchik
“The biggest mistake people make is not getting started. Just fill your pile with grass, weeds, scraps, and leaves. You will have gotten through the biggest barrier to making compost and that is simply not getting started.” – Gary Pilarchik, The Rusted Garden
Lisa Hilgenberg
“Using materials that are too large to breakdown quickly is a common mistake — any twig larger than a pencil shouldn’t be added. Neither should animal products like meat, bones, or oils.” – Lisa Hilgenberg, Chicago Botanic Garden
Ian Kennedy
“One way new ‘posters go wrong is they do not seek the proper ratio of carbon to nitrogen. A correct ratio helps the composting process happen, as the microbes need this amount of each material to degrade food.” – Ian Kennedy, SeaGreens Microgreens

How To Make Compost At Home In Five Easy Steps

How To Make Compost At Home In Five Easy Steps

If you’re ready to get started, we’ve laid out five easy steps to make your very own compost pile! Just follow these instructions and your kitchen scraps will be magically transforming into humus in no time.

Step One: Gather Composting Kitchen Scraps

Gather Composting Kitchen Scraps

green food scraps for compostingSeparate your brown scraps (carbon heavy) from green scraps (nitrogen heavy), making sure you have a fair amount of each type represented.

As a general rule, when gathering your scraps, be sure to stock up on more brown matter than green matter — things like newspaper, cardboard, chipped wood, or dry leaves.

Step Two: Chop Compost Material To Size

Chop Compost Material To Size

cut up food scraps for compostingExperts recommend chopping your materials into ½- to 1½-inch pieces. Of course, composting isn’t an exact science, and the size of your scraps will depend on the type of scrap it is. You aren’t going to be able to cut up coffee grounds the way you cut up newspaper, but try to chop the scraps you can into even sized bits.

Step Three: Layer Your Composting Material

Layer Your Composting Material

Now you’re going to layer your brown and green matter strategically throughout your pile. When layering a compost pile, you want to alternate your brown and green scraps layer by layer.

Composting experts from the Texas A&M Agricultural Extension Agency recommend this setup for layering your pile to get the most nutrient-packed humus when the process is complete.

These are layered in the order that goes down first

  • Layer 7: Sawdust or wood ash
  • Layer 6, BROWN: more carbon-rich scraps
  • Layer 5, GREEN: more fruits and vegetables
  • Layer 4, BROWN: 1 inch of soil
  • Layers 2 & 3, GREEN: flowers, leaves, fruits, & vegetables
  • Layer 1, BROWN: leaves and branches
layers in a compost pile

advice for compostingI leave a silver bowl sitting on my countertop and fill it with food scraps as I go. I like to dump it in on the top where that first layer of leaves is and mix it around so the brown matter can touch everything new going in. – Oz Kupoglu, at Down To Earth Composting

Step Four: Add Water And Soil To Your Compost

Add Water And Soil To Your Compost

Now it’s time to add water to your layers. Add a little bit of water to the very top of your compost pile with a watering can or a soaker hose, but be careful not to add too much. Too much or too little moisture can hurt the composting process, causing your waste to decompose too fast or not fast enough.

You want to add just enough water to get your scraps wet without submerging them in standing water. Your goal is for the texture at the top of the pile to remain similar to that of a recently wrung out sponge — moist to the touch but not dripping or drenched.

composting tipA great trick that I’ve learned from my partner’s aunt: I soak my leaves in a four- or five-gallon bucket for about 24 hours so they can absorb moisture. Then, when I put them in my pile, it’s a slow moisture rather than water that’s going to run through the pile. A soaked leaf is the best way to give your pile water. – Oz Kupoglu, at Down To Earth Composting

Step Five: Turn Your Compost Pile

Turn Your Compost Pile

turning compost pileNow that your pile is ready to rumble, all you need to do is turn it often enough to keep those microorganisms happy and exposed to oxygen. You don’t need to turn the pile right away. Waiting at least two weeks allows the center of the pile to heat up and reach peak bacterial activity.

The average composter turns their pile every four to five weeks, but some like to turn it even more frequently than that depending on the stage of decomposition they find when they check their pile.

One method for turning compost can be performed using a long stick or the end of a broom. Take your stick and poke small holes in multiple places around the pile, then turn the stick around and around in the holes to help create airflow.

A second common method for turning compost is using a pitchfork to completely turn the pile. This method is harder on the muscles but even better for the microbes! With this process, your goal is to bring the materials from the outer edge of the pile to the center, and to bring the materials from the center of the pile back to the outer edges. Take your pitchfork, dig in, and start flipping that compost.

how to build a compost bin

What Can You Compost?

What Can You Compost

This is the million-dollar question: What can you compost? The internet is overflowing with lists of materials that you can compost, but sometimes these lists are unreliable.

What To Compost

What To Compost

The good thing about composting is that it’s a process that already occurs in the natural world and tends to take care of itself.

Giving your scraps the ideal environment to break down will help the process, but a few mistakes won’t destroy your pile. Mother Nature is smarter than we are. Still, you should try to be wise about what materials you use in the process.

For Brown Layers
(Carbon-rich scraps)

  • Dry leaves
  • Cardboard
  • Chopped wood
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Straw and hay
  • Pinecones
  • Nutshells (no walnuts)
  • Untreated sawdust
  • Untreated wood shavings
  • Eggshells
  • Paper and wood ash
  • Twigs and branches

For Green Layers
(Nitrogen-rich scraps)

  • Grass clippings
  • Fruit/vegetable scraps
  • Cooked rice or pasta
  • Corn husks/stalks
  • Fresh leaves
  • Coffee grounds
  • Coffee filters
  • Tea leaves/bags
  • Flower petals
  • Melon rinds
  • Seaweed and kelp
  • Dried herbs

advice on how to compost“People are very focused on composting food scraps, fruits, and vegetables. Try thinking outside the box. We’re getting into the holidays — a lot of the wreaths and Christmas greenery can be composted.” – Nick Shaw, owner of Apex Organix

What NOT To Compost

What NOT To Compost

Keep these items out of your compost bin to keep your pile healthy:

  • Treated wood
  • Plants with pesticides
  • Diseased plants
  • Acidic fruit
  • Garlic and onions
  • Walnuts
  • Oils and fats
  • Bread and pastries
  • Magazine covers
  • Glossy paper
  • Leather products
  • Metal products
  • Stickers and stamps
  • Glass
  • Diapers
  • Feces

Can I Compost Meat and Dairy Products?

Can I Compost Meat and Dairy Products

Whether or not it’s a wise idea to compost meat and dairy products is something composting pros still argue about. The technical answer is yes, but the more popular answer is no.

You can compost meat, dairy, and cheese. These food stuffs will break down and turn to soil just like any of your other kitchen scraps. However, composting meat and dairy products can cause a whole host of problems that organic scraps don’t cause.

For example, composting meat and cheese is the leading culprit of disgusting odors in compost. These items are also more likely to attract rats, mice, and bugs to your pile.

The simple answer: Compost meat and dairy at your own risk. While they are compostable, be smart. I personally don’t have a ton of experience composting meat and dairy, but if you’re set on composting these items, more power to you. Do some additional research on ways you can reduce odor and vermin when adding these scraps.
composting with worms

Troubleshooting Your Compost Pile

Troubleshooting Your Compost Pile

Composting is a natural process that works for itself, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some missteps along the way. If things go awry with your compost pile, don’t freak out. It’s normal for beginners to make mistakes when composting for the first time. I’ve rounded up some simple tips, tricks, and solutions for common problems with compost.

My Compost Bin Smells Bad

My Compost Bin Smells Bad

One of the biggest concerns for beginner composters is whether or not their pile is going to smell, and what to do if it starts to. No one wants to deal with the gross stench of wet garbage. While compost piles should emit a slight earthy aroma, they shouldn’t stink. If your compost pile smells gross, something is up. Try these troubleshooting tips to address an extra smelly pile:

Turn the compost pile

Turning your compost pile adds more oxygen to your bin and helps aerate the scraps, which will likely minimize the odor. You can turn your pile by using a broomstick to make small holes in your compost, or using a pitchfork to completely flip the inner and outer layers of your compost.

Look for rotting compost scraps

Sometimes, a smelly compost pile is an indicator that you have a rotting food item in your compost mix. Sift around in the pile to see if you can track down a single source of the smell, then remove that scrap. As mentioned above, it’s likely that meats and cheeses are responsible for the stench, so check for those scraps first when investigating and remove them.

Add a cover to your compost pile

Another reason your compost might smell sour is excess moisture. If there is standing water in your pile, remove it from your mix. Then cover your pile with a tarp or cloth to prevent excess moisture from seeping into the pile and creating a moldy mess.

expert tips on composting“It’s really good to cover your compost pile if it’s smelling. The way I do that is with black square toppers. Then directly underneath, I add a layer or leaves or another type of brown carbon.” – Oz Kupoglu from Down To Earth Composting

Add more carbon

If you’re composting a bunch of kitchen scraps like fruit and veggie waste, it’s likely that you have too much nitrogen. Your nitrogen-rich green matter is probably outweighing your carbon-rich brown matter, causing your pile to smell.

There Are Flies And Gnats In My Compost Pile

There Are Flies And Gnats In My Compost Pile

Bugs are another unwanted problem when composting, especially if you’re composting inside. No one wants fruit flies, ants, or mites crawling around in their kitchen. Here are a few strategies to get rid of these guys if you see them around your pile.

Add a bread slice to your compost bin

If you see little mites or gnats in your compost, try adding a slice of bread to the very top of your compost pile. Breads and cakes are a bad idea when it comes to scraps you can compost, but bugs love them.

Set the bread slice on top of the bin and wait for bugs to cover the slice. Then, discard of the bread and the bugs at the same time.

Increase heat to kill bugs in your compost

To get bugs out of your compost, raise the heap’s temperature to well above 120°F (49°C) and smoke the bugs out.

You can heat up your pile by adding a lid or tarp to trap heat, or adding more straw or hay to the top of the pile to serve as insulation. You can also turn the pile more frequently to increase heat.

Build a moat around your compost to trap pests

You can keep smaller bugs like ants or mites out of your compost bin by surrounding it with a moat of water to drown the bugs trying to get into your compost. Be careful with this trick though, as you don’t want the moat to leak over into your bin and completely soak your compost.

Animals Are Eating The Scraps In My Compost Pile

Animals Are Eating The Scraps In My Compost Pile

Building a compost pile outdoors has its pros and cons, but a huge con is that animals love compost. Think of it like the Over the Hedge movie — a giant pile of food waste just lying around is a magnet for rats, mice, cats, skunks, opossum, foxes, racoons, and other critters. Here are some tips to protect your compost from vermin.

Layer your composting scraps wisely from the start

When animals try to get into compost piles, they’re going for your kitchen waste. Try strategically intermixing your food scraps with wood ash, sawdust, or soil into one layer when you create your pile to hide food from critters. This might keep the night animals from messing with your pile in the first place.

Add a lid or wall to keep animals out of compost

Once these pesky animals have found your compost pile and start to rummage, they will definitely come back. If this is your situation, I would suggest adding a lid or covering, or a fence or barrier to the top of your compost bin to keep creatures out. You can also try lining your pile with chicken wire or another kind of mesh fencing material.

composting tips from experts“Living in Reno, we have a lot of critters. Keeping raccoons and squirrels out of my pile is a challenge! Covering your compost pile can really help you out. Tupperware works well because it’s totally covered. You can also add a wooden lid or find a corner tucked away in your yard that would be best to have your pile in so that critters can’t get to it.” – Oz Kupoglu from Down To Earth Composting

My Compost Bin Isn’t Heating Up

My Compost Bin Is Not Heating Up

With traditional hot composting, keeping your microbes and bacteria happy and healthy means keeping your compost pile hot. Hot compost bins work best at temperatures between 40° and 77° Celsius, or 104° and 170° Fahrenheit. So, what can you do if your pile is too cold?

Turn your compost pile more often

The best frequency for turning your compost pile is something that takes trial and error to get right. If your pile isn’t heating up, it’s likely that you need to turn your pile a little more often to give the microbes access to the oxygen they need to get the pile burning.

Trap the heat in your compost pile

Heat rises. This is one of the downsides of having an open face pile — it makes it super easy for the heat to escape, which is damaging to the pile. There are two basic ways to trap heat in your compost.

First, you can cover your compost with a lid or a tarp to keep the heat from exiting the pile. You can also try to insulate your pile by putting carbon-rich materials like cardboard, paper shreds, sawdust, wood shavings, cloth, or straw near the top of the bin to pack in the heat.

My Compost Pile Is Too Wet

My Compost Pile Is Too Wet

As mentioned before, the top of the perfect compost pile should feel like a wrung-out sponge to the touch. It should feel damp, but when you press down, no water should squeeze out.

If any area of your pile is soaking, dripping, or covered in standing water, that will cause problems for the microorganisms and the health or your pile. Here are some ways to dry up a soggy compost pile:

Soak up water from the top of your compost pile

If you’re trying to get rid of standing water from the top layer of your pile, you can always scoop up water with a cup or bowl, or try covering the top of the bin with cloth to soak up standing water and keep out moisture in the future.

Soak up water inside your compost pile

If your bin is soaking from inside, try this trick. First, make tiny holes in the inner layers of your pile. Next, cut small pieces of newspaper or cloth and roll them up, then slide the rolls in the holes throughout the bin. This can help soak up extra water.

Common Questions About Composting From Beginners

Common Questions About Composting From Beginners

When I made my very first compost pile, I was full of questions. I am no expert and can’t answer everything, but I do want you to feel as confident as you can when getting started.

Chances are, the questions you have, someone else has already asked and had answered. Here are some of those popular questions for new composters and answers from the experts.

How Long Does Compost Take?

How Long Does Compost Take

how long does compost take to processThe most basic question is how long does compost take to break down? And this question has hundreds of answers. The time your scraps take to turn to soil depends on a plethora of factors: the type of composting you’re doing, the type of bin you have, how often you turn your compost pile, the size of your scraps, the climate where you live, etc.

In short, there’s no magic number for how long it takes organic waste to become compost. Some brands of countertop cyclers break down your scraps in as little as 24 hours, while a cold compost pile can take over a year to fully degrade. These are the extreme cases, though. Most traditional, hot composting piles take a few months to break down, depending on how you manage your pile and where you live.

What Is The Ideal Carbon To Nitrogen Ratio For Compost?

What Is The Ideal Carbon To Nitrogen Ratio For Compost

“Golden ratios” for carbon to nitrogen in composting are all over the internet: 3 to 1, 5 to 1, 10 to 1, 30 to 1, 50/50 — But the perfect ratio of scraps is going to depend on much more than the scraps themselves.

It’s hard to say that one ideal carbon/nitrogen ratio exists, but I would suggest generally aiming for more carbon-rich brown matter than nitrogen-rich green matter.

best way to compost“I always see those golden composting ratios everywhere, and it’s so hard to say which one will work. Go heavy on the carbon and see how your pile reacts to it. Most times, the pile loves having more and more and more carbon — as much as it can get.” – OOz Kupoglu from Down To Earth Composting

How Often Should I Turn My Compost Pile?

How Often Should I Turn My Compost Pile

compost binsThis one is also not an exact science and depends on many additional factors like the type of scraps you’re using and how quickly your compost pile is heating up. There is much about the process of composting that takes guess and check, trial and error.

A good rule of thumb for turning your compost pile is to wait for the bacteria and microbes to have a chance to start their work before flipping your scraps. Some enthusiastic composters want to turn their pile immediately after building it, but that’s too early. Wait until some hot microbial action has taken place before turning your compost.

It usually takes about two weeks for things to get started in a pile. After that, you want to turn your pile as it starts to cool. Don’t disturb your microbes when they’re hot.

Lack of heat is a tell-tale sign your bacteria needs more oxygen. The best time to turn it is when the pile starts cooling down to below 100°F (38°C), which usually means turning your pile every two to five weeks.

As I’ve said, composting isn’t an exact science, so it might take a few piles to hone in on your rhythm. Remember that not turning your pile enough won’t ruin your compost, it will just turn it anaerobic. This is how it functions in the natural world, without any people there to manage its decomposition.

Can I Compost In The Winter?

Can I Compost In The Winter

Yes! Composting is a habit that can be exercised in every season of the year, even in colder months. However, there are some things to consider when composting in the middle of winter to keep bacteria in your compost bin happy.

If your pile seems to be getting cold too quickly, try adding a layer of cardboard, paper, leaves, straw, or another source of insulation on top. You can also cover your pile with plastic and cloth to trap the heat.

If winter where you live is dry and frigid, you may need to give your pile more water or cover your pile to trap in the moisture it already has.

Can I Compost Indoors?

Can I Compost Indoors

Absolutely! There are several methods for building a compost bin that are conducive to composting inside.

Indoor composting can bring its own set of challenges, like bugs or extra mess inside your home. However, a lot of composters have come to love the kitchen composting method, because you can toss your organic waste into your pile without even having to leave the house.

lomi countertop composterThere are several brands of countertop composters and food cyclers that have grown in popularity within the composting community. The Lomi composter by Pela is taking the world of indoor composting by storm as a food cycler that turns waste into compost in just 24 hours.

If your wallet doesn’t allow you to splurge on a fancy cycler, you can easily build a DIY indoor compost bucket or bin for your kitchen counter out of nylon and old Tupperware.

Vermicomposting with worms is another easier method for composting inside than traditional hot composting. Worm bins take up less space and require less maintenance, so they’re a popular compost bin to keep on an apartment balcony, or even in the corner of a kitchen. Just be careful not to make it easy for the earthworms to crawl out of their bin and into your home!

how to compost“Look in your area and see if you can compost with an outsourced composter. It’s incredible how many companies like Down to Earth are all across the country. Getting your hands on something like that is a great way to start.” – Oz Kupoglu fromDown To Earth Composting

How Do I Know If My Compost Bin Is Working?

How Do I Know If My Compost Bin Is Working

As your scraps decompose in your compost pile, look for the following signs to ensure that your compost is healthy and your microorganisms are efficiently breaking down your organic waste:

Signs of a health compost pile:

  • You see steam rising when turning the compost pile
  • Your compost has a pleasing, earthy aroma
  • The volume of your compost pile is shrinking
  • There’s white mold forming in your compost
  • Your scraps are degrading into smaller pieces
  • Your materials are becoming dark, crumbly soil
adding scraps to compost pile

Composting 101: Resources For Beginners

Resources For Beginners

There are so many resources out there for composting beginners, but not all of them are trustworthy. With the help of Nick Shaw, we’ve compiled an essential list of books and podcasts to check out if you are starting composting for the first time, or even if you’re an experienced composter looking to learn more:

Composting 101: Resources For Beginners

organic book of compost

Organic book of Compost

by Pauline Pears

worms eat my garbage

Worms Eat My Garbage

by Mary Appelhof and Joanne Olszewski

let it rot

Let It Rot

by Stu Campbell

community scale composting systems

Community Scale Composting

by James McSweeney

the community composting podcast

The Community Composting Podcast

by Charlie Pioli

the rodale book of composting

The Rodale Book of Composting

by Grace Gershuny and Deborah L. Martin

Your Turn!

  • What steps will you take this week to get started with composting?
  • What scraps are you going to add to your compost pile?

How To Build A Simple DIY Compost Bin

How To Build A Simple DIY Compost Bin

how to build a simple diy compost bin


Why Should I Build My Own Compost Bin?

why build a compost bin

When I first started composting, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on fancy, overpriced composting bins or compost tumblers. I wanted to use the materials I already had lying around to try it out and see if I liked it. There are two simple approaches to building a composting bin that I like to recommend for beginners to get started quickly.

The first is a simple wooden compost bin that you can assemble yourself with just wood, screws, and glue. The second is a trash can composter, which you can make from an old trash can and a drill.

How To Build A Simple Wooden Compost Bin In 10 Easy Steps

How To Build A Simple Wooden Compost Bin

The reality is, you don’t need to spend a ton of money to create soil to sprinkle across your vegetable garden or fertilize your fruit trees. Just gather your supplies and follow 10 simple steps to assemble your wooden compost bin.

Supplies You’ll Need To Build A Simple Wooden Compost Bin

Supplies To Build A Simple Wooden Compost Bin

While you can make your compost bin any size you want, the board sizes included here should be enough to build a small bin about 30″ wide by 24″ deep by 24″ tall. Keep in mind lumber sizes are nominal, meaning a 1″ x 4″ is actually 3/4″ x 3-1/2″, and a 1″ x 6″ is really 3/4″ x 5-1/2″.

  • 2-1″x4″x8′ boards (we recommend cedar)
  • 8-1″x6″x10′ boards (we recommend cedar)
  • Box of 1-1/8″ galvanized screws
  • Box of 2″ galvanized screws
  • Screw gun or screwdriver
  • Hammer (to tap boards into place)
  • Carpenter’s square (to check alignment)
  • Wood glue
wooden compost bin

tiny house tools

10 Steps To Build A Simple Wooden Compost Bin

10 Steps To Build A Simple Wooden Compost Bin

Step 1: Cut your wood

The first thing you’re going to want to do is cut your wood to a proper size. Regardless of the exact method you choose to use, your bin should be big enough to handle to process of turning the compost. For this specific compost bin design, you’re going to cut up these pieces:

  • (10) 1x6x30″ for the horizontal slats for front & back
  • (10) 1x6x24″ for the horizontal slats for the sides
  • (8) 1x4x24″ vertical legs for the corners
  • (5) 1x6x31-½” slats for the lid
  • (8) 1x4x12″ battens for the lids and slide-in front panels
  • (1) 1×4 cut 24″ long, then rip in half to make rail pieces
cut wood pieces for compost bin

Step 2: Build the back of the bin

Once you have your lumber cut, you’re going to want to build the back of your wooden compost bin first. Place two leg pieces flat on the ground, then place six horizontal slat pieces between them. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but using the carpenter’s square to check for alignment when building each panel will help things go much easier when assembling the entire box structure. Screw your horizontal slats to the vertical legs with 1-1/8″ screws. Keep the ends of the horizontal slats 3/4″ inch from the outside edges of the leg pieces. Leave a 3/4″ gap between each of the six horizontal slats as you screw them in.
build back of compost bin

Step 3: Build the sides of the bin

Now you’re going to make the left and right sides of the bin the exact same way — laying the leg pieces flat and aligning the five horizontal slats between them. Space the slats the exact same way as you did for the back of the bin and screw them in. Once you have the sides made attach them to the back using 2″ screws and wood glue. The structure you’ve assembled so far should look like this example.
build sides of compost bin

Step 4: Attach the rail pieces at the front inside of the bin.

Next, attach the thin rail pieces to the horizontal slats on the inside front edges of the side panels with 1-1/8″ screws. These should be set back about 7/8″ from the front of the boards on each side to allow the removable front pieces to slide in and out easily.
add slide rail peices to compost bin

Step 5: Connect vertical legs to the front corners.

Using the 2″ screws and wood glue, screw the legs on the sides on the front of the bin. The sides of the front legs should be flush with the fronts of the legs on each side.
attached front legs to compost bin

Step 6: Build the bottom half of the slide-in front panel

The front facing panel is going to be split into two portions that slide into the structure. For the lower panel, use three horizontal slat pieces and space them ¾ inch apart. Then, use two batten pieces and space them 3-1/2″ inches from the ends of the slats. Attach the wood with your 1-1/8″screws.
build removable bottom panel on compost bin

Step 7: Attach your three flat sides to the leg pieces

You’re going to do almost same thing to make the upper panel, but this time using 2-1″x6″x30″ slats and make sure the batten pieces extend past the bottom slat to create the 3/4″ gap between the top and bottom panels when assembled. The finished parts should look like this example when finished.
build top wooden panel for compost bin

Step 8: Check to make sure you can easily remove both front panels

Double check at this point that both the removable front panels will easily slide up and out of the groove. You don’t them binding or getting stuck. If necessary, detach the rails you installed in Step 4 and move them back about 1/8″ or more to allow for a wider groove for the front panels.
check that front panels will easily slide out

Step 9: Add the lid

Finally, construct the two lid portions in the same way you built the front sliding panels, only make the slats 31-1/2″ long so they set on top of the sides.
construct lid for compost bin

Step 10: Add in your scraps

Your new wooden compost bin is ready to go. All you need to do now is mix in your brown and green materials, add a little water, and you’re all set to create earthy compost to nourish your garden!
add scraps to finished compost bin

How To Build A Compost Bin Out Of A Trash Can In Five Easy Steps

How To Build A Compost Bin Out Of A Trash Can

The trash can compost bin is even easier to put together than the wooden bin. Gather your supplies and follow these simple steps to assemble your compost bin from a common trash can.

Supplies You’ll Need To Build A Compost Bin Out Of A Trash Can

Supplies To Build A Trash Can Compost Bin

  • Plastic trash can
  • Screwgun
  • 3/4″ spade drill bit
  • 3 bricks
  • Bungee cord

Five Steps To Build A Compost Bin Out Of A Trash Can

Five Steps To Build A Compost Bin Out Of A Trash Can

Step 1: Drills holes in the can

First, take your drill and ½-inch bit and drill small holes through the sides and bottom of your track can to allow air to get in.
drill holesd in trashcan

Step 2: Add in your scraps

Next, layer your brown and green materials on the inside of the can. Brown materials include things like fall leaves, pine needles, twigs, chipped tree branches/bark, unlaminated paper, sawdust, coffee filters, dryer lint, or cardboard. Green materials include things like fruit and vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds, grass clippings, weed clippings, or flowers.
add scraps to trashcan

Step 3: Add water to your compost bin

Add a little bit of water to the top of your can, but be careful not to add too much! You want to add just enough water to make your scraps barely wet, without submerging them in standing water.
add water to compost pile

Step 4: Mix your compost

Now, let’s get ready to mix up your compost. This is the work that compost tumblers do, but you can do this yourself with a simple bungee cord. Make sure the lid on your can is secure, then wrap the bungee cord vertically around the bin to keep the lid super tight and in place so nothing falls out when you roll it. Then just give your bin a quick roll around the yard to blend in all the nourished contents and make the most out of your mixture.
roll trashcan to mix compost

Step 5: Wait for your compost to turn to soil

Lastly, place your freshly mixed compost bin on top of your bricks (this trick will help to ensure good airflow) and wait for the compost magic to happen.
set trashcan composter up on bricks for airflow

composting with worms

Outdoor Compost Bin Verses Indoor Compost Bin

Outdoor Compost Bin Verses Indoor Compost Bin

When I set out to build my first compost bin, I wanted to make sure I knew where I was going to put it once I had the thing built. I had to consider the benefits and setbacks of keeping my bin outside verses inside.

Outdoor Compost Bin

Outdoor Compost Bin

ouotdoor compost bin

One of the first questions beginner composters ask themselves is whether or not they should keep their compost inside of outside. Here’s the scoop on outdoor compost bins.


  • Less Mess
  • Conveniently Located
  • Faster Composting Time


  • Might Attract Animals
  • Influenced By Weather
  • Further From The Kitchen

PRO: There’s no mess or odor inside your house or apartment.

A helpful aspect of outdoor composting is the lack of mess you bring into your living environment. Composting can bring unwanted bugs, odors, and other pests around if not done properly, and those aren’t things you want in your clean kitchen. Keeping your compost outside keeps the mess outside too.

PRO: Place your bin right next to your garden for easy access when the soil is ready to be used.

If you’re compost bin or pile is outside, its way easier to start using your fresh soil immediately after if it is ready. You can easily keep your pile in the back corner of your yard or right next to your garden bed to dump onto your plants when the hummus is at completion.

PRO: You can put your bin or pile in direct sunlight.

Sunlight speeds up the composting process by adding heat to the pile, which helps the bacteria and fungi work faster. Indoor composters have a lid or take place in enclosed bins or cyclers. If you keep your compost outside, you can put it in direct sunlight to achieve faster results.

CON: It’s easier for nighttime critters to mess with your scraps.

One bad thing about having a giant pile of food and trash in your yard is that, unfortunately, animals love food and trash. Keeping your compost inside keeps it out of reach of racoons, squirrels, rats, mice, or whatever critters you may have around. When you have an outdoor pile, you run the risk of having some unwanted guests messing with your scraps and compost process.

CON: Weather and climate changes can affect the speed of your compost turning into soil.

Keeping your compost outside makes it more susceptible to the elements than if you were to keep it indoors. Conditions such as temperature, wind, and rainfall influence the composting process. Where you live and the general climate in your area will influence decisions like how big to make your pile, what scraps might be most successful, the best location for your pile, and how often to turn it. With indoor composting, you don’t have to consider these things.

CON: You have to walk outside to add new scraps to your pile and manage your compost.

If your pile is outdoors, every time you cook and want to add more to your mix, you’ll have to walk outside where you have your compost bin. This can make it more tempting to just chunk scraps in a kitchen garbage can instead.

Indoor Compost Bin

Indoor Compost Bin

indoor compost bin

There are also pros and cons to keeping your compost in your kitchen. Here’s the scoop on indoor compost bins.


  • Easy Access
  • Protected From The Weather
  • Safe From Animals


  • Odor Inside Your House
  • Messy Kitchen
  • Attract Pests or Flies

PRO: You have easy access to your compost and can add your kitchen scraps immediately.

Because your compost bin is sitting on your counter, you can easily throw your scraps into your pile after you’re done cooking or even while you’re cooking. This can make it easier to keep up the environmentally conscious habit.

PRO: Your compost is entirely protected from weather and the elements.

An indoor bin is protected from rain, wind, extreme cold, and extreme heat. You won’t have to adjust the makeup of your pile to fit particular climate conditions. This extra step won’t be something you have to adjust your pile for.

PRO: Your compost is entirely protected from animals that could mess with the process.

Critters can’t bother your pile if it’s indoors. This prevents racoons, foxes, or rodents from weaseling their way into your pile, eating your scraps, and disrupting the progress those active bacteria and microbes have been making in your pile.

CON: If your compost produces an odor, the inside of your house or apartment could smell.

Compost can be smelly. Ideally, the scent coming from your compost pile will be a sweet, earthy aroma that is pleasing to the nose. However, when things in your pile go wrong, those kitchen scraps can produce quite an awful stench. This isn’t as much of an issue when your pile is in open air and kept in the yard, but a gross odor isn’t something you want filling up your house.

CON: Your compost or scraps could make a mess inside your kitchen if you aren’t careful.

Keeping your compost inside makes it easier to make a mess in your kitchen. The composting process is messy, packed with scents, garbage and bacteria. Having your compost pile spill all over your kitchen isn’t exactly ideal.

CON: Your compost could attract pests or fruit flies.

Fruit flies, ants, mites and other small insects can gravitate towards your indoor compost pile. These are not desirable for the outcome of your compost, but they’re also just gross to have around. If your bin is outside, these bugs won’t be as big of a deal — but once you have those guys inside, they can be hard to get rid of!

What Type Of Compost Bin Is Best?

What Type Of Compost Bin Is Best

A simple compost trash can or wooden bin can certainly suffice to produce nutrient-rich compost, but there are perks to trying different bins, containers, and methods. I’ve listed various types of compost bins below with pros and cons, whether each belongs indoors or outdoors, and an estimated cost. I hope this helps you make a wise, informed decision about the type of compost bin that’s best for you.

Compost Trash Cans

Compost Trash Cans

A compost trash can is the easiest type of bin to build yourself, and it’s also one of the cheapest options. You don’t need a ton of extraneous supplies to make this composter work and you can build it in an hour or less. It’s also beneficial if you want to use the supplies you have laying around the house already to build a compost bin.

plastic compost trashcan

Pros: This type of compost bin is the easiest and cheapest to make yourself, DIY style.

Cons: It’s harder to turn your compost in this type of bin due to the shape.

Wooden Compost Bin

Wooden Compost Bin

Want to build one of the simplest, most popular compost bins? Wooden compost bins are helpful because you are in charge of how big or small you want your bin to be. They also aid in managing the moisture levels of your pile. Cedar is one of the best options to use to create this bin based on its durability.

outdoor compost bin made of wood

Pros: This type of bin can be assembled easily for a moderate price.

Cons: Wooden compost bins rot easily due to moisture from rain.

Wire Compost Bin

Wire Compost Bin

If you’re in need of a compost bin that holds your compost tightly as well as aerates it evenly, a wire bin might be the way to go. You can mend the shape of the wire mesh to fit the size of your pile. A compost bin made from chicken wire or wire mesh is a fairly popular option for storing compost because it is the best method to provide ventilation to your decomposing compost. You can also combine this method with the wooden bin by creating a wooden frame and filling in the walls with wire mesh to aid air flow.

simple wire compost bin

Pros: The holes in the wire helps regulate air flow for the microbes

Cons: Holes in wire bins make it easier for critters and pests to get into your compost

Compost Tumbler

Compost Tumbler

outdoor compost tumbler

A compost tumbler is a sealed, metal container which can be rotated to mix the composting materials without having to manually turn your pile. Compost tumblers were invented to make composting more user friendly. They have open bottoms and are lifted entirely off the ground, which is different from bins which sit on the ground directly. It’s recommended that you spin your tumbler about three or four spins a week to keep the scraps mixed up and the microbes happy.

Pros: The pro on this one is obvious: lack of intense manual labor. The tumblers do the hard work of turning the pile for you.

Cons: Experts say that expensive tumblers aren’t usually worth it — the turning process on compost tumblers isn’t as effective to produce high-quality compost as turning your pile yourself. Large outdoor tumblers are expensive.

Countertop Composter / Food Cycler

Countertop Food Cycler

Food cyclers are different than any other kind of compost bin because it does all the hard work for you right from your kitchen. You just throw your food scraps into the cycler, seal the lid, and press the power button to let the cycler quickly decompose your scraps. Several experts have started to go the countertop composting route because they have easy access to their bin while cooking. Plus, these cyclers are electronic, and the turnaround rate is fast. A food recycler breaks down food waste using a three-phase cycle. Each of the three cycles can last between three and 48 hours, depending on the type of cycler you are using and what scraps you choose to compost.

countertop food cycler and composter

Pros: Food cyclers turn your kitchen scraps into fertilizer for you, so there is very little management on your part.

Cons: Food cyclers are made small to fit on your countertop, which means they can’t hold as much organic waste as a pile or bin. Countertop cyclers are expensive.

Lomi Compost

Lomi Compost

The Lomi composter is a specific brand of countertop kitchen composters that will turn food scraps, bioplastics, boxes, and more household waste into soil in a single 24-hour cycle. This is one of the fastest methods for composting scraps into useable soil. The Lomi composter is highly convenient. All you have to do to use it is place it on your kitchen counter, give it your food waste, and press a button.

lomi composter

Pros: Lomi is the fastest method for composting. It turns your compost on its own and gives finished results in 24 hours.

Cons: The Lomi Composter is small, just like other kitchen composters. It cannot hold a large amount of organic waste at one time. It is one of the more expensive methods to compost your kitchen scraps.

Bokashi Compost

Bokashi Compost

Bokashi composting is a fermentation process, which sets it apart from other types of composting. The Bokashi method uses anaerobic bacteria instead of aerobic bacteria to break down organic waste, meaning the pile will work in the absence of oxygen.

To use the Bokashi method, composters use a Bokashi bucket. The Bokashi bucket has a tight lid and a spigot at the bottom to drain off the liquid that is created as your kitchen scraps decompose. Draining the liquid is a crucial element of the Bokashi process. If you don’t drain the excess liquid, the compost bucket produces an awful stench. The excess liquid, called bokashi tea, can be used as a nutrient rich, natural fertilizer.

bokashi composter

Pros: Bokashi composting does not require manual turning or monitoring of any kind, it works on its own. You can compost kitchen scraps that don’t breakdown easily in traditional compost bins, like dairy, meats, and oil.

Cons: The Bokashi method produces a sour, acidic, pickle-like smell as it ferments. This can be bothersome to some composters. Bokashi composting doesn’t produce soil at first. The method preserves scraps in a semi-decomposed state for you to bury and turn into mature compost later.

Hot Composting

Hot Composting