The Basics Of Composting

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 simple 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 organisms. 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; sloppy garbage heaps and rotting food are 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 it almost always releases those nutrients over time to give plants a slow, steady, consistent intake of the elements essential for growth. Compost also improves the soil’s structure, making it easier for soil to hold and use the right amount of moisture and air. Compost will improve the texture of both clay and sandy soil; indeed, compost is the best additive to make either clay or sandy soil into rich, moisture holding, loamy soil. And, as an added benefit, compost improves plant vigor 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 will also reduce your dependency on chemical fertilizers. So, you’ll 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 will ensure that your lawn and garden thrive in soil that is alive and healthy.

What’s The Best Way to Make Compost?

To make compost, you’ll need to dedicate some outdoor space to the process. Ideally, the location of your compost production should be convenient to the garden, as well as close to the source of the raw materials (kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, etc.), without being an unappealing eyesore. Finding a good spot for your compost pile might be a little bit easier if you have a lot of land; but, even suburbanites and city dwellers can effectively maintain a compost pile with a little bit of creativity and effort. And, the benefits – both to the garden and the environment – far exceed the effort!

Entire books have been written on the subject of composting. In fact, a recent search on Amamzon.com indicates that there are no fewer than 8,900 books that discuss the subject. But, don’t become overwhelmed. The process is fairly simple; and, as I’ve said, the rewards are wonderful.

Open Bins or Containers

There are two basic kinds of compost piles: open bins and enclosed containers.

Open bins can be constructed with wood, chicken wire, or recycled plastic. Of course, municipal large scale composting is often conducted in large open piles without the use of any bins at all. These compost heaps are often turned by bulldozers or other pieces of heavy equipment, so container walls are not practical.

Enclosed containers for composting usually consist of one of two designs: upright box-like containers, and rotating drums.

Advantages of Open Bin Composting

Disadvantages of Open Bin Composting

Advantages of Compost Containers

Disadvantages of Compost Containers

Two Chambers are Always Better than One

Whether you choose to use an open bin or a compost container, two chambers are always better than one. In fact, if you are really serious about composting, having two chambers is a necessity. Because the composting process takes at least several weeks under the best conditions, you cannot add additional materials to the heap without “resetting the clock” to day one (Mantis Makes a pretty good two chamber compost tumbler). To create an ideal batch of fully composted material, your mix needs to “cook” for at least several weeks; if you add additional material, you’ll have a mix of fully decomposed material, partially decomposed material, and fresh materials. It’s simply much easier, and much more desirable to use a consistent mixture of fully decomposed compost for gardening purposes. After all, you wouldn’t want to buy a bag of potting soil that contained a rotting tomato in it!

Tools You’ll Need

After you’ve built or bought a compost bin or container, there are only a few tools that you’ll need to make compost. If you’re already a gardener, you probably already have the tools that you need.

Pitch fork, or turning fork – The best hand tool for mixing and turning a working compost pile. The tines of the fork will penetrate layers of leaves and grass clippings, and make the mixing process much easier than using a shovel.

Shovel – The best tool for removing finished compost from a bin or heap, and for tossing compost onto the garden.

Garden Cart – the best tool for moving compost from the heap to the garden. Garden carts can also be very useful in “catching” compost from a rotating drum composter. The Mantis Loadumper cart is especially practical for moving compost; it’s cleverly balanced, and has big, easy rolling wheels. And, it’s designed to be very easy to dump.

Compost Thermometer – not essential, but you might be interested in checking the temperature of the “core.” A properly established mix will heat up to 160 degrees F., whether you have a compost thermometer or not. Having one just might be interesting.

Key Ingredients for Great Compost

One of the great aspects of composting is that the key ingredients are often things that you’d be tempted to throw away. So, with just a little effort, you can contribute less to the trash stream (good for the environment) and make great compost (good for your garden).

Compost is created when you provide the right mixture of key ingredients for the millions of microorganisms that do the dirty work. These microorganisms will eat, multiply, and convert raw materials to compost as long as the environment is right. The environment doesn’t have to be absolutely “perfect,” so you don’t need to be a microbiologist or chemist to have successful compost. You need to provide: food, water, and air.

The water and air are easy. The food is a little more complex. Food for your little micro friends consists of two classes of materials, simply referred to as “Greens” and “Browns.” Green materials are high in nitrogen, while brown materials are high in carbon. The green materials provide protein for the micro bugs, while the brown materials provide energy.

Typical green materials are:

Typical brown materials include:

Just like us, the little microorganisms need a balanced diet, along with water and air. Too much, or too little of any ingredient significantly reduces their productivity. It is hard to have too much of the brown category. As noted earlier, leaves in the forest decompose without significant quantities of “green” components (although animal droppings do contribute to the green part of the mix) – but, the decomposition takes a little longer.

Too much green is usually the problem. A pile of kitchen garbage will never become useful compost; it simply becomes a smelly pile of garbage. Landfills are not composting sites. Most municipal composting operations begin with the huge quantities of dry leaves that are collected each fall.

A good mix of browns and greens also helps the pile maintain the right amount of moisture and air. A pile that is 100% grass clippings, for example, will quickly become a matted, soggy mess, with too much moisture and too little air. It will decompose, quickly at first, but then stall. Mix in some dry leaves, and you’ll have a significantly more efficient mixture. The dry leave help maintain air pockets within the pile and also provide a more balanced diet for the bacteria and fungi that cause the decomposition.

The Ideal Combination of Browns and Greens

The best combination of browns and greens is about 4 parts of “browns” to one part “greens” by volume. Of course, this is a rough approximation. If you have more browns, you’ll still get compost. it’ll just take a little longer. If you are on the side of too much green, you’ll likely have a smelly garbage heap.

The best source of brown material is dry leaves. In many parts of the country, the annual fall clean-up of leaves from deciduous trees is seen as a necessary chore. I choose to see it as the harvest for next year’s compost pile! Harvesting, shredding, and storing dry leaves is the best thing you can do to create great compost. Use a leaf vacuum or a lawn mower to shred the leaves, and collect them when they’re dry, if at all possible. I like to store my stash of dry leaves in large plastic bags that I can hide under my deck or porch until I need them to keep the greens in my compost bin balanced.

"Hot" vs. "Cold" Composting

As noted earlier, decomposition occurs naturally, and, except for extreme conditions, it’s virtually impossible to stop it. But, decomposition doesn’t necessarily occur efficiently.

When we provide the micro bugs with a good mixture of browns and greens, as well as some water and air, decomposition can be very efficient. This is known as “hot” composting, sometimes call “aerobic” composting, because the microbes that require air have sufficient air to live, eat, and reproduce quickly. The compost pile can attain temperatures as high as 160 degrees Fahrenheit, which will kill some weed seeds, make most of the microbes very active, but will deter worms and some other critters. As the pile cools, the worms will return to assist in the decomposition. Hot composting is fast, and a well maintained compost heap can fully decompose in several weeks. While some ads claim that you can make compost in 14 days, I’ve never experienced that phenomenon in over 25 years of careful composting.

"Cold" composting is slower, primarily because the environment is hospitable to some of the micro bugs, but it’s hardly ideal. This is the form of composting that almost always occurs in the forest, where the mix is often comprised of dry leaves and dead wood. It will decompose over time, but the temperature never gets very high, and the process can take years.

Our goal is to create a composting environment that is "hot". At least during the late spring, summer, and early fall.

Getting Started – Activators, Worms, Microorganisms

You’ve built or bought a composter. You have some dry leaves and you’ll be adding green materials (lawn clippings, kitchen waste, plant scraps) all summer. To some extent, you’ll be layering these materials to provide both a balanced diet and the best mix for air and water penetration. Also if you want to try compost activators go ahead they won't hurt.

How can you be sure that the composting will start?

Do you need to buy a “compost activator” or a batch of worms?

What if there aren’t any microorganisms in the mix?

No. No. and, Don’t Worry.

The microorganism essential to composting are plentiful in nature. (That’s why mom always told us to wash our hands after playing outside!) If you’re starting with leaves and other natural materials, you’ve got bacteria and fungi that are eager to help you make compost. And, if you want to give the mix a little boost, one excellent and free additive is simply a shovel full of good garden soil. Assuming that it hasn’t been polluted with nasty chemicals, the soil is full of microbes that are eager to devour the goodies in your compost pile.

Compost activators won’t hurt, but they may not help enough to justify the cost. Mike McGrath, former editor of Organic Gardening magazine and host of the radio show “You Bet Your Garden,” says that compost activators can be more helpful when the compost heap is almost finished, vs. using them at the beginning of the cycle. Mike has written a lot about composting; you can see his articles on the Gardens Alive web site.

Worms can significantly improve your composting effectiveness, just as worms in the garden can improve soil tilth. My open bin compost piles have a healthy supply of worms, probably because I occasionally add a shovel full of good garden soil to my bins.

Worm composting, or Vermicomposting, is a separate form of composting, which is discussed later in this article.

Critical Mass – When is Enough Enough?

For efficient hot composting, you need to have a critical mass to generate a heat core. Most experienced composters agree that you need a minimum of 1 cubic foot of raw materials, of course, more is better.

As soon as decomposition begins, the volume of the pile will decrease. You might be tempted to add more materials; but, as previously mentioned, this resets the clock on that batch to “Day 1.” You’ll have much better success if you refrain from adding raw materials to your batch of working compost, and simply start a new batch with new raw materials. That’s why it’s essential to have at least two chambers, regardless of the type of composter you use. Single chamber composters are often called batch composters; don’t continuously add materials to a single chamber.

Size Matters – Smaller is Better

While it’s nice to have a larger pile, to develop a good heat core, and to produce a nice quantity of compost, the raw materials should be shredded whenever possible. Smaller particles are simply easier to mix and easier for the little microbes to digest. Of course, the micro bugs don’t eat the whole particle, but smaller particles of raw materials means that you’ll have more surface area for the millions of microbes to do their work.

So, in summary, you should aim for "big heap, small particles."

Turn, Turn, Turn – with apologies to the Byrds

Those of us who were music fans in the 70’s will remember the great Byrds song “Turn, Turn, Turn… to everything there is a season…” a song that was based on verses from the Book of Ecclesiastes, in the Bible. And, indeed, for most of us, composting is a seasonal activity. You’ll maximize your composting efforts if you continuously turn, or mix, the heap. Mixing your heap will help to keep the browns and greens in balance, will distribute moisture, and add essential air (oxygen) to the mixture. The core (the inside) of the compost heap is always hotter and is the center of activity. The outside is generally less active and much cooler. To increase the efficiency of the composting process, mix the heap to bring more of the raw materials from the outside to the core. Bring more food and water to the busy little micro bugs on the inside.

While the compost is working, or “cooking,” the best tool for turning is a pitch fork or garden fork. When the compost is completely, or almost completely done, I use my Mantis Tiller to mix the compost in my open bins. This final mix provides a great consistency, and makes removing the compost (by shovel) very easy.

Worm Composting (Vermicomposting)

Worm composting is the process of using worms in a container to digest kitchen vegetable scraps. The worms (red wigglers) eat the kitchen scraps and cast off their waste to produce a very rich fertilizer. Most worm composting is done indoors, usually in one’s basement. You’ll need to build or buy a worm composting “farm” if you want to dispose of your kitchen scraps by vermicomposting. You can buy a very effective worm composter and red worms from Gardens Alive! Search for “worm composting” in the search box.

Compost Tea – Yum!

Don’t drink it, unless you’re a houseplant or garden plant. Compost tea is simply the result of soaking a bag full of compost in a bucket full of water for an hour or so. The water soluble nutrients and beneficial microorganisms leach out of the compost, resulting in a brown liquid that can be used to water houseplants, your lawn, or garden plants. Compost tea will give your plants a boost of needed nutrients and help to prevent a lot of plant diseases; but, the tea won’t do as much to improve the soil structure as using fully decomposed compost.

What NOT to Do

Don’t add these ingredients to your compost pile:

Meat, Fish, animal fats – Unless you can completely bury them, you run the risk of attracting unwanted visitors to your compost. You might be able to add very small portions (remember the Native Americans used fish to fertilize their corn), but they must be completely buried, and adding them makes turning or mixing the working compost very problematic.

Shredded Newspapers or Office Paper – Recycle them instead. The paper very likely contains chemicals that are not good for your compost. Newspaper shredders were very popular years ago, but the risk of adding ink chemicals isn’t worth it. By all means, recycle your paper and save trees, but don’t put them in your compost pile.

Ashes from Your BBQ Grill – Another no-no. Wood ashes can be very useful in small quantities. And, wood ashes can be helpful for certain lawn applications. But, never put BBQ grill ashes into your compost pile.

Dog and Cat Feces – Are never good for your compost. There’s simply too much risk of adding nasty diseases, not to mention the unpleasant odor! Chicken, horse, cow, and rabbit manure is fine…in moderation. If you have access to these very high nitrogen sources, compost them. They’re too “hot” for most direct applications to the garden. But, remember your brown to green ratio of 4-to-1. And, chicken manure is green, in composting terms… even though it’s brown in appearance.

Be Careful When Adding These Ingredients!

Sawdust – Because of it's very high carbon content, and its very small particle size, sawdust can overwhelm a compost pile. But, it can also be quite useful if you have an overload of green material. I add some from my woodworking shop when I have a lot of extra fruit in my pile at the end of the season. Avoid using sawdust that came from Black Walnut wood, as it contains a chemical that will stunt or prevent the growth of some plants, tomatoes in particular.

Wood Shavings, Chips, and Bark – Like sawdust, the carbon content can overwhelm, and shut down, an otherwise good compost mix. Set them aside, if possible, and let them decompose the old fashioned way, over time ("cold" decomposition).

When and How to Use Compost

Soil Building – Compost is the single best additive for good, even great, garden soil. It improves tilth, fertility, water retention for sandy soils, water drainage for clay soils, and improves your soil’s disease fighting characteristics. Add compost in spring and fall, and till it in.

Garden Fertilizer – Compost can be used throughout the season as a garden fertilizer. Simply side dress vegetables and flowers for a slow-release food source and improved disease prevention.

Lawn Feeding – Screened compost (compost that has been sifted to collect the smaller particles) can be applied as a lawn fertilizer throughout the season. It will provide a wonderful slow-release food as well as assist in lawn disease prevention. And, given that the nutrients aren’t as concentrated as in chemical lawn foods, you’ll avoid the stripes that can easily occur when incorrectly applying chemicals. You’ll avoid chemical run-off, and you’ll save money. Your lawn will be alive, with earthworms (natures aerators) and beneficial microbes.

Compost vs. Mulch – Mulch is any material that is applied to the garden’s surface to prevent weed germination and to reduce water evaporation. Compost will help build the soil, and it will help retain moisture; but, it won’t do a lot to prevent weeds. It’s an ideal growing medium; so, weeds are likely to be very comfortable in it. Use shredded leaves for mulch, or a combination of shredded leaves and lawn clippings. The combination of lawn clipping and shredded leaves creates an attractive mulch that won’t blow away (as leaves alone tend to do) and allows water penetration (as grass clippings alone tend to matt and repel water).

Potting Mix (seed starting, potted plants) – Compost can be used to create a very good seed starting mix, or it can be added to potting soil to create a nutrient-rich mixture. Most commercial potting mix is made from Canadian peat moss, which is virtually void of nutrients, so the addition of good compost provides a real boost. "hot" compost, which has been produced at higher temperatures, is less likely to contain a lot of weed seeds. However, some of the fungi in compost may contribute to “damping off” of seedlings when compost is used for seed starting. To be safe, you should consider “sterilizing” the compost before using it as a potting mix. You can sterilize compost by microwaving it, baking it in an oven, or pouring boiling water over it. Of the three methods, the boiling water treatment is the neatest and cleanest. Simply put the compost in a large flower pot and soak it with boiling water from a teapot or saucepan.

For more information on composting, go to HowToCompost.org.

If you have any comments, I’d really like to hear from you.

OZ Gardener
The Garden Of Oz

Feel free to share this article however it has to be copied and published the same way as on this website, without any changes and please include a link to the original material.


Read Reviews (182)
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March 4, 2013

By: Teddy

What a wonderful information, but there was a question I have which might be u can help me how to make the compost result can be given for animal as nutrient drink? Thank you....

February 16, 2013

By: Aspiring Composter

Excellent and thorough rundown. Thank you for your time in creating this.

January 17, 2013

By: Bluenoodles

Very helpful info, helped a lot with my report. Thands!

December 17, 2012

By: Mfikwa

The work is very good but i would like you to put specific examples of microorganisms involved. Thanks for your work!

December 8, 2012

By: Esmi

Thanks a lot

June 4, 2012

By: e


May 8, 2012

By: Chrysoula Holtzhauer

I've never had a green thumb but since I bought my house last year with a good size yard, I've suddenly become enamoured with nature, flowers, birds & butterflies! Most of the plants that came with the house were severely dried out, brittle and stems just broke off and others were a wild bunch of twine! I am really hoping that your compost instructions will help me cure some of these problems! Many thanks!

May 4, 2012

By: achieve


May 4, 2012

By: achieve


May 3, 2012

By: Grace

Very infomational

April 24, 2012

By: wad ahmed

it is very nice to come across this article, but it will be more helpfull if include something regarding quantities of raw materials forming compost (QTY of raw materials for preparing one ton) for example.

March 13, 2012

By: veet deha

Nicely laid out, and easy to read for a beginner. Good to check some of your "facts", though, so as to give people a good basis for making decisions.

February 13, 2012

By: shihani

very nice article....its very useful for us....keep it up

January 25, 2012

By: Deirdre

This was a great article about getting started composting. Thanks for the clarity and simplicity. I think I'm ready to start!

January 23, 2012

By: Kristi

It is January in Colorado, so all the leaves have long fallen (with none saved). We want to start composting, and have plenty of green material. Any suggestions on where to get more brown material from? We also have a lot of sawdust, but weary about this being the only brown...

December 19, 2011

By: Hugo


November 6, 2011

By: Judy Morley

I'm just getting started, I got creative with my bin, hopefully it will workout. Thanks.

October 24, 2011

By: Kate

I'm starting my first compost journey soon. I was wondering if there was any use for the potted soil mixture that I have from my container gardening? Doesn't seem to fall into brown or green?

October 15, 2011

By: Angesom.gebrezgabiher

Thats nice presentation and attractive flow to read and get the required information. Wonderfull presenting and i like this very much thank you.

October 13, 2011

By: Barbara

This was great information. It is now mid-October in Pennsylvania, but I'd like to try composting, I guess next Spring. Should I start saving the leaves now in bags? We have a stairwell that is enclosed, but not often used (the enclosure was simply built to stop rainwater from coming into the basement), is okay to keep the leaf bags there?

Any other tips you can give me would be SO appreciated!

Thanks for the great info!


October 13, 2011

By: Barbara

This was great information. It is now mid-October in Pennsylvania, but I'd like to try composting, I guess next Spring. Should I start saving the leaves now in bags? We have a stairwell that is enclosed, but not often used (the enclosure was simply built to stop rainwater from coming into the basement), is okay to keep the leaf bags there?

Any other tips you can give me would be SO appreciated!

Thanks for the great info!


October 2, 2011

By: kate & tony

great article!! just moved into a new place with our *own* garden and have set up our first of two 1 cubic metre open bins... have lots of green and brown to go around.

one question which we didn't find here: how often do you turn it? / how do you know when it needs to be turned?

thanks again! :-D

September 27, 2011

By: Kim

Thank you so much your info is fantastic needless to say I was doing it all wrong grrr. With your great info I can now have hope for good compost thank you very much for your help . :)

September 27, 2011

By: Jake

Very easy to resaerch

September 27, 2011

By: Jake

Very easy to resaerch

July 25, 2011

By: Kay

I have a problem with my compost barrel the stuff is balling up what can I do? How much water do I add?
Thank You

July 22, 2011

By: sukumar

its great and very useful.tq

June 28, 2011

By: Branden

Really informative! I had no idea what the purpose was of composting. I saw a compost mixer for sale at Sam's Club and wanted to read some information about it. I was buying potting soil there and it was next to it. Kind of ironic.

Just not sure where I will get the brown from. Got a big lawn, so the green is easy. Thanks!

May 29, 2011

By: Omwansa

Well thanks a lot for the good work you are doing and i know God will always bless you.
Am doing research on large scale composting like in flower farms indulging in composting of flower cuttings. What are the likely environmental impacts that can arise from such activities?

April 26, 2011

By: Callin Ledall

I own a lawn care business and obviously have TONS of green grass clippings and haven't stored leaves do you have any suggestions on carbon rich materials i could add to neutralize all this nitrogen i would be adding.

April 20, 2011

By: Leslie

I'm doing this in science class! Really helpful! My teacher thought so too! Thanks! E-mail me if you can!

April 15, 2011

By: Tricia

Extremely valuable information. Never having composted before, I'd love to have a "recipe" with exact measurments...e.g., 4 stalks celery, one watermelon rind, 50 oak leaves.... :)

April 10, 2011

By: holley

hey thanks bro composting is chill

April 9, 2011

By: Maggie

Just bought a home that has land and an established compost pile. This article has helped me understand how I will utilize what I have, and keep it going. Thanks!

April 6, 2011

By: ashley

it was great infomation

April 4, 2011

By: Angela

More to it than I thought. This is not something to do on a whim, it needs to be well thought-out. That is very good to know.

April 2, 2011

By: Alice

I live in the suburbs, but I grew up on a farm raising most of what we ate. With this valuable info I plan to start composting and to help my son who bought a home on 2 acres to start also. THANKS!!

March 30, 2011

By: joyce harvey

anxios to start. a little overwhelming but
going to do it. thanks for info on starting!
joyce. p.s. are flies a problem?

March 28, 2011

By: sarah long

very helpful!

March 18, 2011

By: Rene

I have learned I can do it and that is what I was looking for. Thanks for not scaring me into not doing something I know I should do. I live in a city with a small property and I am now going to try it this year and see how it goes.

March 2, 2011

By: Kristy

This is so informative! I am pretty sure I will be starting a compost.

February 22, 2011

By: Peter Grant

Thanks------ VERY helpful to this beginning composter!

February 20, 2011

By: gardeninthespring

I like all the information you present but I have found (and agree with) others who think composting "just about anything that was alive" creates the best compost. It's just a matter of letting it compost long enough to kill off anything dangerous.

February 20, 2011

By: James

Thanks for all your hard work! I have learned a great deal. On my way to better composting.

February 15, 2011

By: bailey


February 2, 2011

By: Vera Santos

helped me a lot.
Thank you

January 31, 2011


Are you a wizard!!!

January 29, 2011

By: Rosavelle Henry

Thinking about starting a compost and gardening business, geat to know anyone can be successful with the right information. This is a great resource.

December 31, 2010

By: Cindy

Very informative. Content is well written, educational and presented in a way that I as a novice can easily understand the process of composting. Thanks.

December 14, 2010

By: Kelly Carson

This was helpful. I mean, it is actually my first time to read about Composting, yet I think I've understood it already. :) Thanks.

December 13, 2010

By: Celia Mizinski

Little effort are great solution for the nature.

Lest do recycle.

A work to help the enviroment.

December 12, 2010

By: Aurel

Thank you so much for sharing this important information that helps us save the environment

December 2, 2010

By: ?

i loved it, i am doing a science project and it helped a lot thanks oz

December 1, 2010

By: ?'[

this was so helpfull thanks oz

November 15, 2010

By: Heather

Great site

November 7, 2010

By: Felipe

It was a very informative article, very objective and nice, I'm felling much more wise than I was before read it. Thank you!

November 4, 2010

By: mfh

this article needs more

November 4, 2010

By: FL Master Gardener

Not all wood chips should be categorized as "carbon" additive specifically. When a tree is removed and "chipped," there is "green" or "nitrogen" in the product. It composts exceptionally well when nothing is done to it but allow rains to keep it moist.

The breakdown can take 8-9 months before a usable "compost" can be harvested. Before that, it's excellent mulch. In the final stages of composting, it can be sifted for an excellent seed starter mix.


October 27, 2010



October 26, 2010

By: Diane Murray

Garden Benefits (near top) states that compost "provides for improved immunology from diseases." That should be "immunity" -- immunology is the study of immune systems. I built two open air compost bins out of wooden pallets lined with 1/2-inch hardware cloth -- a very inexpensive system. Manure from my neighbor's horses is like gold when added to the fallen leaves in my yard. I'll return to this website for ongoing education and support about compost. Thanks so much.

October 26, 2010

By: Callie Martin

I have been a compost educator for the County for two and a half years now, and this is by far one of the best online resources for home composting that I have come accross. Many accolades for explaining things in a simple manner, yet making sure details and soil health are covered. I will recommend this website to all who take my workshops and will continue to indudge in the well laid out information myself. Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge!

October 20, 2010

By: Brian

Thanks, very helpful resource to get started!

October 16, 2010

By: Warghuul

Thank you for this great site! My parents have a small hobby farm, and my mom has a large fruit and vegetable garden. I kept telling them they should start composting, but never did. So I told them I was going to do it for them, and this site has been a great help!

October 11, 2010

By: Meg

Thanks so much for this site! I'm composting for my science fair project and I was confused. This site helped clarify things though. THANK YOU!!!

October 11, 2010

By: Candace

This is great because I have to do a science fair project. I decided to do " How big will a compost worm grow if I change the food?" So, now I can add this site to my bibliography. I'm so excited for compost worms and to see what works better.

October 10, 2010

By: pe dua

very good

October 8, 2010

By: Kimerly

omg!!! this is the best website in the world!!!

October 6, 2010

By: Elle

I am not a gardener but am very interested in starting a compost for my house. This was very helpful.

September 16, 2010

By: Brian

Thank u come again

September 9, 2010

By: James East

still some stuf missing

September 6, 2010


Very helpful info. Thanks for putting it online.

August 18, 2010

By: jmast

thanks so much! i tried composting last year but NOW realize i was 100% green material - ending up in a smelly garbage heap. here's hoping it will go better this time around. : )

August 6, 2010

By: Lizette

Thanks! Great info to get us started!

July 30, 2010

By: wilson

Good content, well informative. Is it possible to get some science in it? i.e the fingus/bacteria that work on the compost materials and laboratory tests of various composts (nutriet composition) Thanks

July 22, 2010

By: Rachelle

This was a great article! Easy to read and very informative. I had no idea there was a green or brown additive or the need for a good ratio of it! I just added a bin full of shredded paper to ours tonight! I won't be doing that again! And our bin only has one side...not sure how to handle the need for two bins. We'll get creative! Thank you for taking your time to inform those of us who are still GREEN about being GREEN. Pun...totally intended.

July 19, 2010

By: June

wonderful, full info. thanks for posting!

July 11, 2010

By: cheryl

Very helpful... Thanks!

July 10, 2010

By: Joan

This was very helpful in getting started. My cousin gave me a composter so this gives me an idea of how to get started and get the most out of the composter. I have always wanted to try this so I hope it works. Thanks for the help!

June 25, 2010

By: Gem Jones

I am just getting started (compost), basically a beginner. The info was easy to understand. Thank you!

June 2, 2010

By: Capers

Thanks 4 the info! I just got a spot at a community garden,and i'm sooo excited to get started!!!!!

May 30, 2010


Excellent article. Tells me everything I need to know about composting.

May 18, 2010

By: Kaz

Great article! Thanks for all the great tips!

May 16, 2010

By: Susan

Thank you! Not only do I feel ready to start my very first (solo) compost pile, I have a deeper understanding of what my crazy father was up to all my life. He was the "leaf thief" - he'd drive around in his pickup, often with me as his reluctant helper, and grab all the neighbors' bagged leaves in the fall. He also had a secret ingredient he got from the local zoo - elephant poo. His gardens were amazing. Wish me luck in my endeavor to carry his torch.

May 7, 2010

By: nick

Yes very insightful indeed. Thanks OZ

May 1, 2010

By: Frost

This helped me so much, i don't think i can mess up anymore

April 19, 2010

By: Marlene

Thank you! Answered all the questions I had.

April 18, 2010

By: sg

No wonder my composter only produced big lumps. Too much green. Thanks!

April 8, 2010

By: Derrick

Very helpful, thanks oz

April 8, 2010

By: A reader

Thank you so much- this was such a helpful article that not only provided instructions, tips, and helpful solutions to potential problems, but also some background science information on how composting works and how energy is transferred. These days it is so hard to find any useful sites among all the advertisements and lame stuff on the web. This really helped me and decreased the amount of work and research I would otherwise have to do. Now my earth day project will be wonderful and easy!:)

April 6, 2010

By: mary

great article. just what i needed. loved the quick pros and cons of enclosed vs. open bins. seems like everything i need to know in one place. Thanks!!!

April 6, 2010

By: A reader

Thank you so much- this was such a helpful article that not only provided instructions, tips, and helpful solutions to potential problems, but also some background science information on how composting works and how energy is transferred. These days it is so hard to find any useful sites among all the advertisements and lame stuff on the web. This really helped me and decreased the amount of work and research I would otherwise have to do. Now my earth day project will be wonderful and easy!:)

April 5, 2010

By: Maryam

Thanks for the basics. I moved out of California and live in Nevada where Waste Management doesn't offer composting. With the help of this article, a starter kit and the advice of some seasoned composters, I hope to be up and running!

March 29, 2010

By: jumby

hahaha penises

March 29, 2010

By: Peter


March 28, 2010

By: CBKidder

Great information. Very helpful despite the many English errors.

March 28, 2010

By: CBKidder

Great information. Very helpful despite the many English errors.

March 17, 2010

By: Matt Taliaferro

I am just getting into this and this is the best article that I have read so far. Very informative and easy to understand. I highly recommend this article for anyone who wants to understand the basics of composting. Thank you!

March 17, 2010

By: Alexandria

AWESOME explanation. Really makes it sound easy and fun to compost. Thank you.

March 15, 2010

By: Sharon E.

I am going to print it out to keep as a guide for my composting this year. We are just starting out with this so we need all the help we need. I believe I will also get some Nematoads to keep the red ants out of there, since we live in TX and the fire ants are plentiful.

March 14, 2010

By: Tai

very informative, thanks very much indeed.

March 13, 2010

By: Someone

Thank You! I really wanted to start a compost and this is really helpful info.

March 8, 2010

By: Dirt Farmer

Newspaper is actually OK for composting. The inks used in the print have been soy-based for 15+ years.

March 8, 2010

By: Compost Crazy!

Very well explained. It is good for childrens reports or science expierments

March 8, 2010



February 28, 2010

By: Frank Stasi Jr

I don't have a lot of leaves in my area (Albuquerque, NM) could I add hay or straw as my brown? Please let me know distasio3880@comcast.net

February 21, 2010

By: Nyatuga

Its one of the best environmental articles read. Have had a lot of interest on environmental aspects and fill this is it....! Need more like this.

February 20, 2010

By: Alexis A

This is very helpful. I will let you know how it comes out at the end of this summer!

February 18, 2010

By: kevin horwood

This really helped me out, very thorough steps to success.

February 18, 2010

By: kevin horwood

This really helped me out, very thorough steps to success.

February 15, 2010

By: person

helpful will come back and ue again

February 15, 2010

By: person

helpful will come back and ue again

February 8, 2010

By: Piet Vijverberg

Many thanks Oz, for this info! I will start a biological garden in Norway this year. Very helpful and it was a joy to read too!

Takk skal du ha! (thanks)


February 7, 2010


Thank you for this wonderful article. Without it I would have been lost with what to do for my 7th grade science project.


February 7, 2010


Thank you for this wonderful article. Without it I would have been lost with what to do for my science project.


January 25, 2010


very helpful it saved us all

January 7, 2010

By: kierra

thake you.:-(

January 7, 2010

By: jillian


January 7, 2010

By: Rue

I started my first compost pile tonight, thank you so "mulch"!

December 21, 2009

By: Scotty Rock

Thank You Oz, you have it all in there...just as I was taught when I was a little boy, greens, browns and don't forget the egg shells...thank you again

December 17, 2009

By: Mr. TEK Kimsong

It is good for the living thing. I wish i could have change to go there and learn a lot about making compost.

December 2, 2009

By: Barbara J. Zuver

GREAT ARTICLE!! Started my 1st compost shortly after harvesting my small garden this fall. Wasn't sure I was doing the right thing. Can't wait for Spring to put results to good use. Thanks much.

November 28, 2009

By: K. A. Wilson

I have composted for years. I have a 10 bu. rotating tub and 3 separate bins. I am more satisfied with the bins. Turn! Turn! in the article is excellent advice. Green/Brown ratio is very important. Don't over/under water. Composting 101 confirms what I did right/wrong. Thanks!

November 17, 2009

By: tara medeiros

thankz a lot because now that i learned a that i can get started on my project and i think that i might get an a+. so thankz again i really learned a lot! -(= -(=

November 17, 2009

By: tara medeiros

thankz a lot because now that i learned a that i can get started on my project and i think that i might get an a+. so thankz again i really learned a lot! -(= -(=

November 17, 2009

By: Daniel

I think this article has a lot of information, but I need an author's name for my science fair project. Can you add that in later?

November 12, 2009

By: cynthia

just started a compost in vegas we don't get rain do I water it down with the hose? And will egg shells hurt

November 4, 2009


Great information

November 2, 2009

By: Briana

This article helped a heap with my science fair project. Thanks a bunch, it gave me tons of help

October 31, 2009

By: Jerre

Oz, thank you for the great information and I am close to the end of my first batch of compost using a closed container. My question is, is what exactly is the final product supposed to look like? My batch currently has "broken down" like you mention in the article but has the texture of finely chopped up leaves. Should it be more like soil or is it ready to go?

October 29, 2009

By: ?

VERY HELPFULL!!!! thank you!!

September 24, 2009

By: Deva

Great article. I find seaweed a good new pile activator in hot dry weather. Just make a tea out of it in a bucket. Soiled hay from chickens or rabbits makes a good brown (plus a little green). Or if you don't mind a little cash outlay, buy a bale of straw. A lot of brown for a little cash. Also, my neighbors and their gutters love it when I harvest their unwanted leaves. And oak is awesome.

August 20, 2009

By: Clem Johnson

Bought our first house last year, planted our first garden this spring, ready to learn to composte. This was my first article read on the subject. I am not scared away but rather ready to dive into the "Greens" and "Browns" and the worm farm sounds like fun too. Thanks for a great first composting experience.....

August 10, 2009

By: gopal



rr gopal

July 30, 2009

By: Elio Hernandez

Excellent basic composting information. Thanks!

July 18, 2009

By: Gemma

Good basic article. Still feel like there is a lot of information missing.

July 18, 2009

By: kevis

good info

July 13, 2009

By: lisa

Great for a beginners. Not clear when you can start using the compost. Heard general wait time is a year.

I got standard (non rotating)bin. Started with a 'lot' of topsoil. Hopefully good brown/green ratio. However, it has a lot of grass clippings and smells pretty ripe. The thought of 'turning it' makes me queazy and it's also heavy.

Hope i didn't make a mistake by not getting a rotating bin.

July 9, 2009

By: Dale Palmer

thanks for the article. I have a question, I just have a few tomato plants and some herbs in pots and I take the left over lettuce and old vegetable pieces and grind them up in a food processer with water until all the chunks are gone. I then just poor over the mixture in the pots.. is this good for the plant? or could it be to acidy for the plants. I didn't want to wait for the compost and thought it would be a shorter way to use the items that have gone bad in the kitchen.

July 6, 2009

By: Edith

Thank you, I will now stop cursing next door's leaves and start collecting them.

July 4, 2009

By: AL

A great refresher,very helpful
Your the best.

July 2, 2009

By: Stu

Loved the article. I have a good compost started. It's really cooking at 160 degrees. I still need more brown. I never saw anything about flowers. Should they be added or not?

June 30, 2009

By: Linda M

Very enlightening! I have a double bin composter and am still confused about the method of using it. Do you put all the ingredients in one side and compost that to completion before using the other side or do you have two heaps going at the same time? Where do you find brown material in the spring and summer to start your compost? what do you do with kitchen scraps if you don't have brown material yet???

June 24, 2009

By: Gay Marie

I'm excited to start and still alittle confused. How do you turn or mix it when it is in a bin? And....But just like my new green house the best advice was stop reading every book and just start. Your info is the best I've read for getting started and correcting problems so I'm starting tomorrow. Thanks

June 14, 2009

By: Cathy

Thanks so much. This was just what I needed to get started.

June 11, 2009

By: Debra

Thanks for all the information.I now see where I must've gone wrong.Are there any saving graces for my garbage heap smelling compost?

June 7, 2009

By: High Springs Bill

Good information easy read. It looks like it may take some time to fill the compost bin and that it is not until all the engredients are in place that vigorous composting begings. How often do you turn the mix and how often do you add water?

May 30, 2009

By: Lee Moyer

Good article except it did not state how much water is needed for good composting.

May 19, 2009


Great helpful info!

May 10, 2009

By: Linda

I found this article to be very informative.I have been composting for several years and didn't realize that there was a proportion of brown to green components. Just one question. What about winter composting? I add all of my green kitchen scraps in winter. It freezes solid so I can't turn it. Is there anything else I should do?

April 29, 2009

By: Linda

Good information, eager to learn more and give it a try.

April 24, 2009

By: Cathy

How do I find Brown matter to add to my compost now when all is green????? I began my composting this winter so everything is basically kitchen scrapes and some top soil.

April 24, 2009

By: valerie

Just started composting yesterday. Articles were very helpful...but still a little confused about the whole process.

April 23, 2009

By: Doria

WOW......You make it easy ! Thanks alot for this information on composting.

April 23, 2009

By: green jeans

starting to go green wherever i can and this jusf helped me extremely for my garden i have recently started to supply food for the year thank you

April 22, 2009

By: anna

got barrel composter from a friend but did not know how to start - now I know! Thank you

April 22, 2009

By: Rissi

Excellent information. Thanks so much. I now have my questions answered and will start today.

April 22, 2009

By: blah blah

ehh its was okay info i wish u guys had info on when its ready and what kind of piles there are.

April 21, 2009

By: harry

it was great and alot of info but i need more info and im doing a project and this is horrible info goodbye

April 20, 2009

By: Jared

Great, thorough article, but one slight correction. The "cold composting" you discuss is not actually anaerobic decomposition, but rather aerobic decomp. without the concentrated mass of microorganisms that a pile has. Anaerobic decomposition generally occurs in flooded, oxygen deprived environs, like bogs, and releases very smelly fumes (like a swamp!)

April 19, 2009

By: Virginia

Thanks so much, just what I was looking for.

April 19, 2009

By: Wolfman

just got my composter from COSTCO and can't wait to have the brown gold for my garden....



April 19, 2009

By: Elisa

Thanks for the help. I feel more confident about starting my upright composting container now. Was a little unsure, now ready to get started.

April 19, 2009

By: Andrea

Most thorough article on composting I have read yet - great information! Thank you

April 18, 2009

By: molly

Wonderful resource for me as I"m just starting to compost!

Only thing I am still left to ponder on is how long does a compost pile usually take until it is 'done'?


April 17, 2009

By: student

this info was very helpful! i am in 7th grade and i am doing a report on composting, this info was AMAZING! thank you so much (we might start a compost pile at my school) woo hoo!


April 16, 2009

By: Robert Remes

Now I know what I did wroong - sawdust

"the carbon content can overwhelm, and shut down, an otherwise good compost mix"


April 15, 2009

By: Doug

Wow you covered it all and more! I am pumped to give it a try. I orderd a Compost-twin tonight. Two chambers are better than one! I can't wait to do it!

April 15, 2009

By: jueaee s mcneil

Going to work more diligently at being a good stewart over the land. Currently preparing a plot of land for a garden and needed information to build the soil naturally. Great information for me to be successful. Thanks

April 14, 2009

By: Paige

Que - I am sharing a compost with another person who wants to put bread products in the pile - good or bad idea?

Also, after reading this article, it looks like I need more brown - it's April and everything is pink and green around here now. Where can I get some brown? A reply to my email address would be great. horsefeathersky@aol.com

April 14, 2009

By: Gene

Very well explained and very informative on the start of forming a compost pile

April 14, 2009

By: Kathryn

Thank you! This was VERY helpful.

April 13, 2009

By: Mary

very informative

April 13, 2009

By: Debrah

Very thorough and educational! Provided all the information I needed. Thanks so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge!

April 12, 2009

By: Jaime

Thanks I learned alot!!

April 12, 2009

By: Mauricio Black-Bazó

In the course of educating myself for my latest project I came across your article and now all my doubts have disappeared. Fall and Spring do not exist in Venezuela (just rainy and dry seasons) so I suppose we can make and use the stuff all year. If I am wrong, would appreciate clarification. Gracias

April 12, 2009

By: Kay

Plan on starting today!! Very helpful!!Thank you!

April 11, 2009

By: JP

Easy to read and very helpful for me. I am just starting out and have a single rotating container. I feel confidant I can make it work now.

April 10, 2009

By: Aaron

Awesome im just starting one so this article was perfect.

April 10, 2009

By: dave

very helpful. thanks so much.

April 10, 2009

By: Suz

Great information---Very thorough. I was going to
'scrap' my lowly efforts, but now thanks to you I want to keep trying!

My problem is that I do add kitchen veggie scraps daily. I know not to do that now. My compost container is a very large pressed foam pot with a loose foam cover, but the contents (while difficult to turn) is soggy and stinky. I'll now add more brown material in hopes I can save my first composting project.

Thank you,

April 9, 2009

By: Wendi

Sounds exactly like what I was looking for. Can't wait to get started. Compost bin, here I come.

April 8, 2009

By: Golden Girl

very helpful, thanx oz

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