What is compost?
Compost is decomposed organic material made from ingredients like leaves, grass clippings, shredded twigs and some kitchen scraps. Composting is a practical and convenient way to reuse your lawn, garden and certain household wastes.
The composting process involves four main components:
- organic matter – includes plant material, food scraps and animal manure
- moisture – supports decomposition
- oxygen – accelerates decomposition of plant material
- bacteria – turns organic material into nutrient-rich soil additive
What are the benefits of composting?
Homeowners often have difficulty disposing of leaves, grass clippings and other garden refuse. Some landfills won’t accept lawn waste . Disposing of it in storm drains, lakes, rivers and streams clogs drains and pollutes water.
- Diverts a large amount of waste from landfills.
- Reduces pollution and clogging of the storm sewer.
- Reduces soil erosion and water runoff.
- Reduces the need for fertilizers by adding nutrients to the soil.
- Promotes healthier plants that are less susceptible to disease and insects.
- Improves water absorption in soil and plants reducing the need for irrigation.
- With the addition of compost, sandy soils hold water better and clay soils drain faster.
Making your own compost pile
- Locate your pile on a well-drained site that would benefit from nutrient runoff, but avoid areas adjacent to streams and other waterways. Often, a corner of the garden works well.
- Start your pile with a three-inch layer of course plant material such as small twigs, or use a wooden pallet. Then build successive layers of leaves, grass clippings, food scraps, and other green matter. For more rapid decomposition, chop and mix components together.
- Cover layers with 1–2 inches of soil or manure to add nitrogen to the process.
- During dry weather, keep the pile moist. In cold winter months, cover the pile with black plastic to insulate and shed excess water.
- Mix compost with a pitchfork after six weeks. This helps aerate the pile, and keeps the bacterial processes from overheating.
Links and resources
PDF brochure of this information