Composting Q&A – a Summer Update

What is compost?
Compost is the stable end-product of the decomposition of organic materials.

Why should I compost?
Composting provides the perfect nutrients your plants need for optimal growth. It also helps in waste reduction by recycling food waste, keeping it out of the landfills, and creates a wonderful resource you can’t get anywhere else.

What are the benefits of compost?
Finished compost: Improves soil health, Makes minerals more readily available to plants, improving growth, Increases water holding capacity of soil, reducing erosion and watering

What are the essentials of composting?

  • Volume. Best area is a cubic yard, or 3’ x 3’ x 3’
  • Moisture. Your compost should be as wet as a wrung out sponge
  • Aeration. You need to turn the pile about once a week to accelerate decomposition
  • Surface area. i.e., the more surface area, the faster decomposition
  • C:N ratio: Carbon to Nitrogen or simply, Brown:green. Also 2:1. Finding a mix of greens and browns that is in balance can be important. (See below)

Where do I begin???
Determine what materials you have. What type of waste do you generate? What is its type and quantity? Know what system you need. Select a location. It should be close to water, convenient, close to source of materials. It should be away from aggressive roots

What are some types of systems?
Home made or manufactured. They can be made of plastic, wood or metal. They can be open or closed. Your choice will be determined by your particular location, needs and ability.

What tools do I need?
You may or may not require the following: pitchfork, machete, thermometer, turner, spade. All these are optional and depend on the amount of time and effort you are able to spend on the pile.

What can I compost?


Garden waste

Kitchen scraps like fruits and vegetables

Animal manures (like chicken, rabbit, cow)

Houseplant clippings



Fats oils


Pet waste or meat eating pets

Poisonous plants

Diseased plants

Aggressive plants

Weed seeds

The basic rule for backyard composting is that you can compost


What if I don’t have an outside bin?
You can use VERMICOMPOSTING techniques. It is very easy to keep these, in a closed bin in a cool basement or under your utility sink. You should use red wrigglers (not earthworms). There are many resources available to find out more. Children and schools especially are appropriate places to use this method.

What are the uses of finished compost?
There are multiple benefits, including Mulch, Moderates soil temp, Retains moisture. It also Controls weeds and Protects trees and shrub from mower blades. You can use iot as a Soil amendment and a Potting/see mix. Some people even make Compost tea (recipes available online).

When do I know it’s ready?
In a few months (for your initial pile) You should observe a dark color. It is crumbly, good tilth. And It smells GOOD!


dry leaves

shredded paper


chipped branches

tree trimmings,


Browns decompose at low temperatures unless combined with a source of nitrogen.


grass clippings

fruit and vegetable peels


inorganic fertilizer,

vegetable kitchen scraps,

green leaves

Not all “greens” are green in color.  For example, coffee grounds are a nitrogen source

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