Composting Basics

Once you learn the composting basics, “regular” soil will never again be good enough for you…

Composting Basics: What is compost and how does composting work?

composting instructions

Compost is a mixture of decaying organic matter, water and soil that is used to improve soil structure and supply the nutrients that plants need to grow.

Think of it as “concentrated nature”…

In order to make healthy soil that allows plants, trees and grasses to thrive (and therefore allows the creatures that feed on them to thrive along with the creatures that feed on the creatures that feed on the plants, trees and grasses), nature has come up with a complicated and perfect cycle. When plants and animals die, they, along with animal excrements, are slowly decomposed by a combination of microorganisms, oxygen, water and heat. The smaller and smaller the decomposed plants, animals and animal waste (i.e. manure) become, the more they blend with the earth beneath them.

Once the plants, animals, animal waste and grasses have completely decomposed into the soil, they actually become the soil. The ground where the dead plants, animals and excrement once lay is now rich in organic matter, and any plant, grass or tree that sprouts on that spot will be able to use the healthier, more nutrient-rich soil to grow into an even stronger plant, tree or grass.

Composting simply speeds up this process to create the “perfect soil” for growing anything, also known as “garden gold”.

Composting Basics: Why is compost important for the gardener?

By creating conditions that closely mirror the natural cycle, gardeners can create nutrient-rich soil relatively quickly that is superior to “regular” soil in many ways, including:

  • More stable garden soil pH
  • Better able to retain water
  • Encourages colonization of “good” organisms by being a better source of food and by being more easily aerated

The end result for the gardener is a crop that is more nutrient-rich, has a better ability to fight off pests and disease and is healthier to eat.

Composting Basics: How to Make Compost

The process of creating compost can take one of two paths: the hot pile path or the cold pile path. One or both may have a place in your yard depending on your lifestyle and growing needs.

See our Compost How to Make page for detailed composting instructions.

Click here for the best compost bin designs.


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Finished compost photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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