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What is Compost?

Compost is simply decomposed organic material.  The organic material can be plant material or animal matter.  While composting may seem mysterious or complicated, it’s really a very simply and natural process that continuously occurs in nature, often without any assistance from mankind.  If you’ve ever walked in the woods, you’ve experienced compost in its most natural setting.  Both living plants and annual plants that die at the end of the season are consumed by animals of all sizes, from larger mammals, birds, and rodents to worms, insects, and microscopic organism.  The result of this natural cycle is compost, a combination of digested and undigested food that is left on the forest floor to create rich, usually soft, sweet-smelling soil.

Backyard composting is the intentional and managed decomposition of organic materials for the production of compost, that magical soil enhancer that is fundamental to good gardening.  Anyone can effectively manage the composting process.  In fact, if you have organic matter, it’s virtually impossible to prevent decomposition.  The trick is to maximize the process of decomposition, while avoiding the unpleasant effects of the natural process of decaying matter. Compost is good, but sloppy garbage heaps and rotting food is bad.

Why Is Compost So Good?

Compost is good for two very compelling reasons.  It’s great for the garden, and it’s environmentally responsible.

Garden Benefits

Compost is great for the garden because it improves the soil, which in turn supports healthier and more productive plants. Compost provides virtually all of the essential nutrients for healthy plant growth, and releases those nutrients over time to give a slow, steady, consistent intake of the elements essential for growth. Compost also improves the soil’s structure, the texture of clay and sandy soil; indeed, compost is the best additive to make either clay or sandy soil into rich, moisture holding, and loamy soil.  And, as an added benefit, compost improves plant vitality and provides for improved immunology from diseases.

Environmental Benefits

The most obvious environmental benefit is that composting can significantly reduce the amount of solid waste that would otherwise find its way into the trash collection and dumping cycle.  Clearly, the more we compost, the less we contribute to the cost of trash removal and the volume of solid materials in landfills.  Using compost to feed your lawn and garden reduces your dependency on chemical fertilizers.  So, you save money and reduce – if not eliminate – the potential of chemical pollution to your little piece of the environment.  Using compost instead of chemical fertilizers ensures that your lawn and garden thrive in soil that is alive and healthy.

What’s The Best Way to Compost?

To make compost, you’ll need to dedicate some outdoor space for the process.  Ideally, the location of your compost production should be convenient to the garden, and close to the source of the raw materials (kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, etc.), yet not an unappealing eyesore.  Finding a good spot for your compost pile might be a bit easier if you have more land; but, even suburbanites and city dwellers can effectively maintain a compost pile with a little effort and creativity.  And, the benefits- both to the garden and the environment – far exceed the effort!





1. Get the Optimal Balance of Compost Materials

It’s important to get the right mixture of ingredients in your compost to ensure that it heats up nicely and breaks down effectively.

2. Turn the Compost More Often

By turning your compost pile frequently, you add the fresh oxygen that in turn helps your compost break down faster.

3. Check the Moisture Level of you Compost

Achieving the correct moisture content is an important factor in keeping a compost pile working efficiently. Moisture levels should be 50-60% on a total weight basis.

4. Shred some of the Ingredients

It is particularly helpful to shred the “brown materials”. If there is one secret to making compost faster, it is finely shredding the carbon rich ingredients such as leaves hay, straw, paper and cardboard.

5. Use More Than One Pile

If you have a lot of material to compost it’s a good idea to start a new pile rather than adding to an existing pile.

6. Compost is ready to use

when it is dark brown, crumbly, and has an “earthy”  or dirt smell

7. DO Compost:

  • Yard trimmings: leaves, grass clippings, weeds, chipped brush, garden plants

  • Kitchen Scraps: fruit and vegetable peelings, egg shells, coffee grounds

8. DO NOT Compost:

  • Meat or bones, or fatty foods such as: cheese, salad dressing, and cooking oil.
    These foods can ferment or putrefy creating odor problems and draw rodents.

Download or print our composting brochure.

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