Homestead Hack: Tips For Using Cardboard In Compost

by Texas Homesteader ~ 

I use cardboard in my compost to satisfy the carbon, or ‘browns’ requirement of proper composting. But it takes lots of grip to tear up all that cardboard. Come see this Homestead Hack tip that makes it EASY!

I use cardboard in my compost. But it takes lots of grip to tear up all that cardboard. Come see this Homestead Hack that makes it EASY! #TexasHomesteader

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Making Homemade Compost

Y’all know I have a compost tumbler and I’m a big advocate for making your own compost. It’s healthy for your plants, cheap to make & a great way to make good use of kitchen scraps and paper trash that would otherwise just be wasted.

And it’s super easy too, you just make sure to have a proper mix of browns & greens. Add a little water, do a little compost turning and BOOM! Black gold for your garden. A few previous posts about composting:

Properly balanced compost doesn't stink. It smells only like rich earth. #TexasHomesteaderSince proper composting requires a mixture of ‘greens’ and ‘browns’, for greens you can use grass clippings, vegetable peels, etc.

And for ‘browns’ you can use carbon-heavy items such as dried leaves, paper, twigs, etc.

Why I Add Cardboard to Compost

I often use corrugated cardboard boxes to fill my ‘browns’ requirement.

Now I realize there are purists who refuse to use corrugated cardboard in their compost. Some say they don’t feel it’s pure since there’s glue residue combining the cardboard layers.

But y’all know there are precious few areas where I’d classify myself as a purist. LOL!

But if you’d prefer, use fallen leaves instead. Me? I’m a big fan of ‘use whatcha got’ and my community volunteer work is ripe ground for picking up free used corrugated cardboard boxes.

I used to bring that cardboard home, take it to my composter & just start ripping. But ugh, tearing all that cardboard requires some elbow grease #amiright? 

At first I’d rip them into reasonable-sized chunks but as my hands got tired I’d become more & more tolerant of larger chunks too! HA!!  Then I decided there must be a better way.

Easier Cardboard Tearing For Compost

Enter my rainwater collection area. You see, I have a large overflow tub next to my 55-gallon rain barrel. When the rain barrel is full, the extra rainwater is diverted into this large tub.

Rainwater catchment barrel and overflow tub. #TexasHomesteader

I typically dip water from this tub with my watering can for quick & easy watering. But today it’s going to simplify my cardboard tearing!

I bring home about a dozen box flats and drop them into the water. I give ’em a little push to submerge them and then walk away tending chores for a few minutes.

I use cardboard in my compost. But it takes lots of grip to tear up all that cardboard. Come see this Homestead Hack that makes it EASY! #TexasHomesteader

When I return the cardboard is soaked in water and has lost its rigidity.

l take all those wet cardboard flats to my tumbling composter and effortlessly tear it into small chunks.

I use cardboard in my compost. But it takes lots of grip to tear up all that cardboard. Come see this Homestead Hack that makes it EASY! #TexasHomesteader

This not only gives me a hearty supply of browns for my compost, but adds a little water to the mix as well. A 2-fer-1 of sorts! I give the composter a quick tumble and I’m done!

Tumbling Composter Makes Composting Easy!

I love my *Lifetime tumbling composter, it simplifies the compost-turning process, makes compost faster & helps keep critters out too!  It was such a great purchase when we moved out here!

My compost tumbler is enclosed to protect the contents from rodents. And it makes that gardening black gold compost too. #TexasHomesteader

RancherMan always says “Work Smarter, Not Harder” and this certainly fits the bill!


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12 thoughts on “Homestead Hack: Tips For Using Cardboard In Compost

  1. candace

    I have ben a composter since childhood when my favorite grandmother always had a pile of yard debris behind the brick outdoor fireplace. Over they years I have put everything from soup to nuts in my compost bins which, even though I think I would love a tumbler, are big plastic (of some ilk) things. They have a not very handy (read mostly useless) little pieces that are supposed to slide up allowing you to get finished stuff from the bottom. The birdman who lives with me forks it into the back of the pickup to drive it from up by the house down the long driveway to the garden area. Gotta love a man who can wield a pitchfork. Sooo I have read (probably in Mother earth news) about various things that are compostable including meat (never any left overs of that with the birdman) and bread (same same with bread here) but all the kitchen compost and garden trimmings etc go into either the one here by the house or down to the ones in the garden. I have started putting the bones from making bone broth into mine. After boiling all day I break the bones up with the kitchen only pliers and boil some more. I figure how much different can that be than adding bone meal to the dirt. Cardboard always goes to suppress weeds. as do lots of newspaper that doesn’t get used to start a fire in the stove in the winter chill. Here in the NW we have a lifelong battle with weeds if we want to garden. So I have no idea if I’m good with the browns to greens ratio but we seem to grow a garden from which I’m still eating Kale right off the stalk.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Sounds like you’ve got it goin’ on with your compost, Candace. I like to use something to suppress weeds too – can’t stand to spend more time weeding than tending to and harvesting from the garden! But with all the paper cattle feed sacks that accumulate here, I typically layer them beneath the mulch for weed control. Works great! ~TxH~

      1. candace

        We work with what we have, don’t we? Feed sacks, cardboard, hair, bones. It all makes life good.

  2. Ken

    Wow! I’ve been composting 30 years and never considered cardboard. I compost in a bunch of haydyke blocks. Even hair. (From Fido) LOL. And yes Walnut has some baaad stuff in it. I’ve just about used up the compost from last year in the raised beds and am ready to start anew. Although if you remember I live in the SW part of your county so need to wait until it dries a little to do so. Regards Ken

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      There’s so much you can drop into the compost, Ken. As Candace mentioned above, I even now will drop softened bones from my bone broth into the composter. And RancherMan’s hair when I give him a haircut. And the contents of our vacuum cleaner. And weeds (as long as they haven’t gone to seed of course). It’s pretty wet here too, but dang I’ll be dropping the seedlings in the ground in a day or so – can’t wait! ~TxH~

  3. Ellen C.

    What brand tumbler do you have? The link took me to Amazon and there were many types listed.
    Great idea to soak cardboard first – it would not have occurred to me. Thanks!

  4. Patty

    Great idea! I sort of ‘naturally’ compost any cardboard that comes my way by using it under the mulch in my garden areas. I read about using cardboard as a weed barrier. It eventually breaks down, but does do a good job at limiting weeds. The weeds that sprout on top of it are easy to pull out. I’m afraid my compost pile is primitive – I just pile leaves, grass, etc. at the back of my property as I collect them. I had numerous areas in my front couple of acres with the remains of round bales (picky horses wouldn’t finish them, lol). I raked up the hay and spread it in the back too. I noticed last year that I have a nice patch of Bermuda growing back there 🙂

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Cardboard is great to use beneath the mulch in your garden areas. Work smarter, not harder, right Patty??!! RancherMan saves all the paper feed sacks from cattle cubes for me to use beneath my mulch and like you mention, it breaks down over time so paper or cardboard weed barrier has just got to be more environmentally sound. And like you, we use wasted hay either dropped and stomped by the cows around the hay bales or the bottom-most part of the hay that the cows turn their noses at. I use it to mulch heavily around my trees in the hot Texas summer months when yet another drought threatens to kill off the trees in our yard. Like the paper weed barrier, the hay will preserve moisture, prevent weeds competing with the tree for the limited moisture available plus decompose & improve the soil in our ‘botanical hole of death’ over the years. Any hay seeds that sprout are taken care of with RancherMan’s lawn-mowing maintenance so we haven’t found it to be a problem. Use Whatcha Got, am I right?? 🙂 ~TxH~

  5. Evelyn Edgett

    Great idea! Real quick, can you compost black walnuts? I have a tree on our land, and there are a lot of old nuts on the ground beneath it. I was wondering if I could just rake all that up and plop it into my compost pile. I figured if anyone can tell me it would be you.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Ya know Evelyn, we don’t have black walnuts here but I thought black walnut twigs, leaves & hulls had a chemical in them that stunted plant growth? Maybe I’m wrong? I’d sure do my research first on that one. Check with your local extension agent to be sure. ~TxH~

      1. Evelyn Edgett

        Now that you mention it, I recall reading about that. Hmmmm….well, I guess I’m tossing them all in the burning barrel and lighting it off. Thanks!


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