6 Composting Myths Debunked

Posted on June 13, 2012 by Courtney

Please welcome today’s guest poster, Daniela.

Environmental Protection Agency statistics from 2010 show Americans composted and recycled over 85 million tons of trash. That’s a lot of trash, but it’s not even half of the more than 250 million tons that were generated in 2010. Perhaps more Americans don’t recycle and compost simply because they don’t know much about it, especially composting.

If you’ve been thinking of starting to compost but suspect it’s too hard or requires too much space and time, you might be surprised. Here are six of the most common myths about composting that often turn people away from this simple, rewarding way to go green. 

Myth #1: You need a fancy composting bin. While some compact composting bins can be helpful for active composting or simply for composting in a smaller space, the truth is that you can just compost your organic scraps in a pile. Wire mesh and wooden bins can help you keep the pile tidier, but they aren’t strictly necessary.

Myth #2: You need to add special ingredients to help the compost go faster. There are lots and lots of items on the market that are said to help with the composting process – from yeasts to bioactivator powders to lime. The truth is that composting is a natural process, and you really don’t need much to get it going. It is helpful, though, to introduce living organisms to the compost pile to help things along, but all you need for that is some old compost.

Myth #3: Compost piles have to be huge. Many people who have small yards don’t compost because they assume the compost pile would take over the entire yard. If you’re composting all your paper and cardboard and food scraps and yard scraps, you may need a large compost pile. But if you only have space for a small one, you can just use a small one.

Myth #4: Composting always involves worms. This myth is only partially true. If you build a compost pile, you’ll probably get worms in it eventually just because you’re creating an environment that is attractive to them. However, composting and vermiculture – which is basically composting with worms – aren’t strictly the same thing. Recently popularized vermiculture uses red worms to break down organic matter, and lets you end up with fertilizer. It’s not strictly the same thing as the humus created from a compost pile, but it can be used in a similar way.

Myth #5: You must compost in layers with a certain amount of each type of material. While there is some merit in layering your compost if you happen to have everything for each layer on hand at once, it’s not necessary. In fact, it can be lots of work for nothing, since a compost pile must be turned evenly and intermingled to properly break down. Also, it’s not necessary to have a certain amount of different types of materials. As long as you pay some attention to your compost pile and keep it turned, the natural materials in the pile will eventually break down.

Myth #6: Composting smells. Many people avoid composting because it seems like having a big pile of discarded stuff in your back yard would be smelly. But the truth is that composting is actually a very natural process that happens all the time in the forests that smell so good to us. If your compost pile does stink, it’s probably because you’ve got something a little off – like not enough drainage or the wrong types of food scraps. Fixing the problem will fix the offensive smell.

Starting a Compost Pile

So now that you’re convinced composting is for you, how do you get started? It’s pretty easy. Here’s what you need to do:

  • First, figure out how and where you’ll compost. For a small family, you only need about a 3×3 space for composting. If you’re in an apartment or have no yard to speak of, consider setting up a vermiculture composting bin under your kitchen sink.
  • Next, start collecting scraps. While there’s no magic recipe, compost piles should be a mixture of dry, fibrous plant matter – like leaves – and other things like food scraps and grass clippings. You can also use paper products in place of the leaves to balance out your compost pile.
  • Be sure you save the right foods for composting. The ideal composting grocery list includes fruits and vegetables, but you can’t compost meat leftovers. You can check out the best credit cards for grocery shopping to save some money as you shop for compost-friendly groceries. Plus, you can pick up a newspaper or two at your local grocery store to help balance out your scrap pile, particularly when dead leaves aren’t around in abundance.
  • Then, layer your scraps. The basic rule is just to cover your food scraps with plant scraps. It’s as simple as that.
  • Keep it well-drained, and turn occasionally. A compost pile should be moist but not soggy, and it should be turned often to keep oxygen flowing into the pile. If your compost pile starts to smell, it may be getting too much water or not enough oxygen.
  • Use your compost. It takes time to get compost from a compost pile, and even if you can accelerate the composting process, the compost needs at least a month to mature before it’s really the best thing to put on your plants. Once you have mature compost, though, you can use it on your garden or even give it away.

Creating a compost pile at home is one great way to get a better garden and to go green at the same time. Now that you know the truth about composting and the basics of getting started, you can create your own compost pile at home.

Daniela Baker is a blogger and eco-conscious mom. With summer driving season around the corner, she is busy helping families compare gas credit card rewards at http://www.creditdonkey.com/gas.html


  1. I just started composting about six weeks ago. The best thing may be that we no longer put anything in our trash can that might start to smell before trash day because it all goes in the compost bin.

    June 13th, 2012 at 10:24 am
    Comment by mickey
  2. I love composting! It creates the best dirt for gardening :)

    June 13th, 2012 at 3:29 pm
    Comment by ris
  3. I have been composting for years right outside my kitchen door. I just throw scraps on top and turn it into the soil eventually. If i wait too long, sometimes I get a few flies but no biggie. NO SMELL, NO WORK! EASY< EASY < EASY

    June 15th, 2012 at 11:52 am
    Comment by Freewill78

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