Composting for Beginners

compost bin

My recent passion is growing beautiful flowers and I am also venturing into gardening. Composting is a vital part of this process. In this post, I will share the basics of composting for beginners, which include the purpose, things to put in (and not put in), containers or areas, the magic formula, and how to use compost.

On a personal note

When it comes to gardening, I miss my Dad who passed away a few years ago. He became a Master Gardener in his mid-70s and loved trees, plants, and flowers. I know he is tending Jesus’ garden in Heaven.


Composting produces enriched organic material full of nutrients to improve the quality of soil and thus your garden, plants, and flowers will be healthier. It also reduces the need to use chemical fertilizers. I also like that it beneficially uses discarded materials. Hence, I wanted to share some basic composting tips for beginners.

What Things to Put in Your Compost

      • kitchen scraps such as fruits, vegetable scraps, eggshells, nutshells, coffee grounds, etc.
      • grass clippings after cutting the yard
      • leaves after raking the yard
      • garden & house plants such as old tomato plants at the end of the season, dead leaves from house plants, discarded flowers from bouquets, jack-o-lanterns from Halloween, etc.)
      • sawdust (but not from treated lumber)
      • twigs and sticks
      • newspaper (if there is such a thing these days)
      • weeds (If you add weeds, you must turn the pile frequently and it must heat to 145 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. This will keep the weeds from germinating.) HERE is a helpful site about composting.
      • Dirt (Sometimes, I dump leftover soil from flower pots after the growing season. This acts as a starter for my next batch of compost.)

What Things NOT to Put in Your Compost

    • meats or fatty materials (will attract rodents and make a mess of your compost)
    • bones (from chicken, steak, etc.)
    • dairy products
    • trash such as plastic, glass, etc.
    • wood ashes (from fireplaces or campfires)
    • invasive plants and weeds such as poison ivy

Add more brown matter if your compost

  • too wet
  • smells like ammonia
  • smells like rotten eggs (not enough oxygen so also stir or turn over with rake)
  • flies and insects are overly prevalent

Stirring Compost

You can also add finished compost and/or brown leaves, or turn over with a rake or shovel to add oxygen. Stirring compost helps speed up decomposition.  It distributes moisture and increases needed oxygen.

Be Patient When Composting

It takes about 2-8 weeks for the compost to be ready if using a tumbler.

Using Mature Compost

  • Add to potting soil for flowers and plants
  • Use as mulch around trees and scrubs
  • Work into garden or garden beds
  • Mix it  into your lawn

Using Coarse Compost (not fully mature)

You can mix coarse composting material with potting soil for flower pots. The coarser compost also works well as a nutritious top dressing around outdoor plantings or tilled directly into your garden. I save some of the finished compost and use it as a starter for my next batch.

Check out Flowers that Not Only Survive but Thrive for this “Wannabe” Master Gardener.

Tell me what you think or if you have any questions about composting for beginners by commenting below.

Be sure to revisit this post because I will be adding more tips and advice over time.

Happy Composting!

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  1. Charles on 12/26/2023 at 11:40 AM

    Great options! I am starting a garden this spring so this was helpful.

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