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In nature, composting can be described as the decomposition of organic plant material. This dead plant material is consumed by bacteria and other organisms which produces a nutrient rich soil-like material that will facilitate the growth of new plants.  This process represents the cycle of life in the forest or jungle where fallen trees, leaves, and other material is constantly be recycled to create new plants. The backyard gardener can take advantage of the natural composting process to grow a healthy vegetable garden.

Benefits of Composting

Creating your own compost can have a number of benefits to your garden. Most importantly, it will improve the quality of your soil and produce better tasting vegetables. If you are working with a clay soil, it will improve the texture and drainage. If you are working with sandy soil,  compost will improve moisture retention. Below are a just a few of the added benefits of making compost for your garden.

  • Helps retain soil nutrients
  • Reduces your impact on the environment by recycling organic waste
  • Provides the healthy bacteria plants need to defend against disease
  • Attracts beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, earthworms, and assassin bugs
  • Helps to balance the pH levels in soil
  • Helps control weed growth
  • Allows for proper airflow to your plants roots

The Compost Bin

The first step to creating compost is to choose a bin that will facilitate the decomposition of the organic waste. There are literally hundreds of options when it comes to compost bins, so you will need to find one that fits your own specific needs. The most important decision is determining the amount of compost you want produce. We have listed several different methods for making a composting bin below.

Typical compost bin layout and structure

Check out think link for more info on Compost Bins

Composting Materials

A wide range of biological materials can be used to create compost, such as plant material, animal manure, cooking waste, seaweed, hay, sawdust, etc.. It is extremely important to create a balance of between the materials being used. For example, if you use only green plant material it will decompose quickly and attract unwanted insects. On the other hand, too much manure will prevent decomposition and slow down the composting process.

Common Green Compost Material

The items below will provide nutrients to the soil, most important of which is nitrogen. It is important to note that these materials should be added while they are relatively fresh and still green in color.

  • Grass clippings
  • Unused vegetables or fruits from your kitchen
  • Seaweed
  • Weeds or unwanted garden plants (Make sure they have not started seeding)

Common Brown Compost Material

The items below will help slow the decomposition rate and provide a better texture to the compost.

  • Dried Leaves (except Oak or Pine Needles)
  • Animal Manure (Cow, Horse, or Poultry)
  • Sawdust of wood clippings
  • Straw or Hay
  • Wood Ashes
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Small sticks or tree material

Materials to AVOID in Compost

The materials listed below should never be used in your compost bin. These materials have the ability to spread disease or will not decompose

  • Meat Products (can spread disease)
  • Human, Dog , or Cat Excrement (can spread disease, and just plain gross)
  • Weeds that have been exposed to herbicides (unwanted chemicals)
  • Oak Leaves and Pine Needles (does not decompose adequately)

Controlling Compost Odor

One of the most common drawbacks of making compost is that it can produce a strong odor, as to be expected with any decomposing organic material. This odor is usually caused by the green materials listed above. You can reduce this odor by adding more of the brown material. This will slow the rate of decomposition and reduce the intensity of any foul smells.

Check out more on the Compost Troubleshooting page