What is Composting

Compost is decayed organic matter that has been decomposed through a process called composting. This process includes compiling “organic materials that will eventually decompose into a soil-like substance that is used to help plants grow.” (1) Rich in nutrients, compost can enrich your soil and reduce landfill waste that your household generates by sparking the production of bacteria that easily break down organic matter, thus reducing your carbon footprint. The act of composting reduces contributions to greenhouse gas emissions that are harmful to the environment. Composting is also a great way to recycle food and yard waste.

How to Compost

Compost is easily one of the best methods of nutrients you can give your garden. While the process might seem hard to do at home, it’s actually quite easy! The first step is to pick a container for your compost. There are three different styles: continuous, batch, and indoor. Each style has it’s own pros and cons, but ultimately, you want to pick one that suits your needs, budget, and living conditions. Next, you want to pick the right location. Your compost should be placed in an area that’s level and well-drained to provide easy access for worms and easy drainage for excess water. Worms are especially necessary for composting because they help finish the job of breaking down your organic content.

To compost properly, you want to begin with a base made of about 4-inches of twigs and straw. Then from there, you can begin to place your materials on top. Begin with a “green” layer, which are your “wet” products that are high in nitrogen and cover that with a layer of garden soil. Add water, and finally, a layer of “brown”. Brown items are your dry, high-carbon ingredients that will mask odors and keep pests like fruit flies from flocking to your compost. You want to ensure that your green and brown items are at a 50/50 split in terms of weight. This means that for every one bucket of “greens”, you should include at least 2 to 3 buckets of “browns.” It’s important to make sure that in adding these items, you chop them into small pieces so that they can be broken down more easily.

Green items include:

  • Fruit and veggie scraps
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags and leaves
  • Fresh grass clippings
  • Plant trimmings
  • Houseplants

Brown items include:

  • Dry leaves
  • Straw and dry hay
  • Woodchips
  • Sawdust
  • Dried grass clippings
  • Shredded paper
  • Egg and nutshells
  • Animal hair and fur
  • Paper
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Paper towels and paper tubes

In adding all of the right things, you also much make sure to avoid the wrong.

These are the things that don’t belong in a compost:

  • Meat or bones
  • Dairy products
  • Animal product leftovers
  • Oily/Greasy foods
  • Dog and cat waste
  • Garden waste treated with pesticides
  • Diseased plant materials
  • Weed seeds and roots

Finally, turn the compost every 14 days or so. The more you turn it, the faster your compost will be finished.

Using Your Compost

The finished compost will be a dark brown, almost black color. It can take as little as 14 days and as long as 12 months to produce finished compost. This spongy, textured soil is rich in nutrients and can be used to spread in flower beds, as lawn top dressing, in new and established planting areas, around trees, and in compost tea.

Why Compost

There are a million and one reasons to compost. As stated, one of the main reasons is because it reduces landfill waste and as such, is great for the environment. By recycling kitchen and yard waste in this method, you can condition and introduce beneficial organisms to the soil. Composting can make plants stronger and healthier than ever and reduce the need for gardeners to use fertilizers and other chemicals.