Composting and vegetable gardening go hand in hand. Not only does compost provide nutrients for your plants, it also improves soil structure, helps retain moisture, and attracts beneficial organisms to the garden—all while reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
That’s not even to mention what composting can do for our planet. Composting is a simple (and, in my opinion, fun!) way to minimize our carbon footprint, keep food scraps out of landfills, and turn yard waste into “black gold” for our plants.
When I first started composting, there wasn’t a whole lot of information available online, so I turned to books to help me learn the basics.
Now, there are a lot more free resources on the World Wide Web to help you get started (including *wink wink* our beginner’s guide to composting).
Even with all the free resources out there, I still think it’s worth it to grab a book or two to answer any lingering questions and educate yourself a little further on something more and more of us agree is so important. Books, unlike blog posts, can go into further detail about the steps to compost and also the actual science of composting
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A LIST OF THE BEST BACKYARD COMPOSTING GUIDES
- The Rodale Book of Composting: Simple Methods to Improve Your Soil, Recycle Waste, Grow Healthier Plants, and Create an Earth-Friendly Garden by Grace Gershuny and and Deborah Martin
- Let it Rot: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting by Stu Campbell
- No-Waste Composting: Small-Space Waste Recycling, Indoors and Out by Michelle Balz
- Worms Eat My Garbage, 35th Anniversary Edition: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System: Compost Food Waste, Produce Fertilizer for Houseplants and Garden, and Educate Your Kids and Family by Mary Appelhof and Joanne Olszewski
- The Complete Compost Gardening Guide: Banner Batches, Grow Heaps, Comforter Compost, and Other Amazing Techniques for Saving Time and Money, and Producing the Most Flavorful, Nutritious Vegetables Ever by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin
+ THE BEST COMPOSTING BOOK FOR CHILDREN
Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals and Ashley Wolff
Now, let’s look briefly at each book to help you choose the best one for your space and composting goals.
The Rodale Book of Composting Is the Best Complete Guide to Composting
This book is truly the ultimate guide—one of the originals, in fact. It covers everything from how to compost on a small balcony to how to handle municipal waste on a large scale. You’ll get a lesson on the chemical reactions involved in the composting process, the history of composting, the different types of compost systems you can build or buy, and the fascinating lifeforms that live inside your compost pile.
You’ll also get way more information on the “ingredients” to put inside your pile than just whether they’re greens or browns. This guide explores the actual NPK ratio of every desirable item you might toss in your compost bin, plus step-by-step instructions for maintaining the right nutrient balance.
Let It Rot: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting Is a Light Read for Beginner Composters
If you’re looking for a lighter, shorter version of the Rodale Book of Composting, then Let It Rot is a great book to add to your library. It’s often referred to as the “composter’s bible” and covers all the basics in layman’s terms, instead of giving you tons of information. Basically, it walks that fine line between extremely scientific and overly simplistic.
This book has a great overview of each compost system, including their pros and cons. It also goes into how to make your own compost tea.
No-Waste Composting: Small-Space Waste Recycling, Indoors and Out Is the Best Composting Book for Apartment Dwellers
A lot of people think composting in small spaces isn’t worth it (which is so not true). If you live somewhere that makes having a compost heap difficult or out of the question, then this is the book for you.
Not only does it go into how to create a small, efficient composting system, this book even gives you 10 creative ways you can repurpose old household items into compost-making machines. My favorite idea is creating a system to go under you kitchen sink out of terra cotta pots. (And if you’ve ever wondered how you can compost indoors with worms, this book is for you!)
For those of you who don’t have vegetable gardens, this book also covers ways you can still utilize your nutrient-dense homemade compost, including fertilizing your houseplants.
Worms Eat My Garbage Is the Best Family Guide to Vermicomposting
This is a super useful, beginner-friendly book to help your family get started with your own little worm farm. It might sound a little rotten, but vermicomposting, or using worms to break down organic materials, is a clean, easy, and productive way to create compost at home. I was initially a little grossed out myself by the idea of having worm farms in my garden, but it’s now my preferred way to compost my kitchen scraps.
Worms Eat My Garbage is a best-selling guide to creating a small-scale, self-contained worm bin that can recycle your food waste and turn it into nutrient-rich fertilizer. Since these bins can be kept indoors, even under the kitchen sink, this is another great option for those who live in the city and lack outdoor space.
The Complete Compost Gardening Guide Covers All the Different Ways You Can Integrate Compost into Your Vegetable Garden
This is one of the best books for those gardeners who are looking to level up their backyard composting game. The authors, Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin, have created a complex compost gardening system that involves creating compost heaps right in the garden bed. Basically, your veggies and your compost live together from the get-go in one nutrient-rich, sustainable environment.
This book also explores the merits of “hot” and “cold” composting techniques and easy methods to reduce the effort required to create lots and lots of compost at home.
Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth Is the Best Step-by-Step Guide for Children
I love the idea of using an engaging children’s book to teach a new generation about the importance of composting and taking care of our planet. Honestly, with all the bad news stories about climate change lately, this book is also like a refreshing balm for adults who feel overwhelmed and just want to do their part.
Compost Stew introduces children to the concepts of organic materials and making soil in a fun way using beautiful pictures and the letters of the alphabet. Grab this book for your kids (it’s recommended for ages 2 to 6) and get them excited about tossing ingredients into their very own “compost stew”.
SOMETHING ROTTEN’S COMING YOUR WAY!
I hope you’ve discovered an inspiring read to help you get started turning this year’s trash into next year’s garden treasure.
Whichever book you purchase will pay for itself after you’ve created your first incredibly nourishing batch of compost at home and can skip past that overpriced synthetic fertilizer at the garden center. Plus, you’ll have a better understanding of what’s actually going on in that pile!