All About Compost

In gardening, the rule is: feed the soil and it will feed the plants. Compost is good because it feeds the soil.

What is Compost?

In a nutshell, compost is decomposed organic matter. The earth composts every day. Ever walked on spongy forest soil? Composting is a natural process of recycling organic material such as leaves and vegetable scraps into a rich soil amendment. It energizes the soil food web—beneficial bacteria, fungi, earthworms, and other organisms that create healthy soil, which is the key to successful gardening.

Where to Get Compost

Buy bags in the store, or make your own. Check out the composters, available in-store and online, which make it easy to turn collected vegetable and fruit kitchen scraps into compost. Or you can make an open-air composter for leaves and garden refuse from a length of concrete reinforcement wire bent to make a circular cage.

What Goes into Compost?

The simplest recipe is "3 part browns" to "1 part greens." Mix these together in your composter or pile. Stirring or "turning" a pile speeds the process. If your composter isn't the tumbler type, you can do this with a garden turning fork and benefit from an upper body workout, too.

Browns »

  • Leaves
  • Pine needles
  • Hay or straw
  • Newspapers or cardboard
  • Sawdust

Greens »

  • Kitchen waste
  • Grass clippings
  • Fresh green weeds
  • Coffee grounds
  • Manure, organic fertilizers

Tips from Experience »

  1. Good compost smells rich and earthy. An odor signals too much water or too many green ingredients. Turn more often and add dry browns such as leaves or straw.
  2. The speed at which compost makes depends on temperature—the higher, the faster, so you will get a lot more finished compost to use in summer than in winter.
  3. Have a second pile. This gives you a place to add new material while the first pile is finishing.
Posted in: Growing Basics