Book Review: The Complete Idiot’s Guide Composting


The Complete Idiot's Guide to Composting
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When it comes to composting, I’m only semi-literate. Well, I was until I read Chris McLaughlin’s new book.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting closed the knowledge gap for me in most areas. As we’ve come to expect from this series, the information is provided in a clear, easy-to-read format. It helps, of course, that McLaughlin is a good writer, contributing regularly to and serving as the San Francisco Gardening Examiner at 

Here McLaughlin’s created a light, lively text that lays out composting’s nuts-and-bolt for, well, all of us composting idiots. There’s no pretense or hooks, just the facts laid bare. The tone is conversational, much like what you’d expect from chatting with a more seasoned garden pal in person or online. Between the covers of this slender volume, expect to read up on the “why” and “how” of compost piles as well as the oh-so-trendy vermicomposting, mulching, and green manures and cover crops. My personal fave–sheet mulching–is mentioned, too. (It’s my fave, honestly, because it’s the only type that I’m familiar with.) Considering that I’ve been considering a tumbler bin, it was nice to see McLaughlin write about container options, site selection, and maintenance.

As an added bonus, McLaughlin provides an Appendix section on teaching school-age kids about composting. The illustrations throughout the book, although somewhat small on the page, are as accessible as the text. Finally, for the vermicompost fans (who are almost as rabid as Justin Bieber fans–SQUEEE!), there’s a “wise worm” offering tips periodically. There’s a glossary and bibliography, too, making this book a terrific jumping off point for further exploration of the topic.

All in all, I’d say this book is worth its $14.95 price for a newbie or aspiring composter. In fact, I’ve already got a spot reserved for it on my book shelf. Now which compost tumbler to buy…

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting by Chris McLaughlin. Alpha: 2010. 186 pages. $14.95

Explore More:

• Chris McLaughlin is on Twitter (@Suburban_Farmer) and has another book forthcoming, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Heirloom Vegetables. The composting book has a Facebook page, too.


  1. I am looking for a compact spinning barrel type composter in San Antonio – any ideas?

    Also, where are all the other garden bloggers in San Antonio? Austin’s got gazillions – so far I’ve just found you.

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