Compost - It's A Gardener's Gold

How to Compost: Composting Tips and Tricks

The key to a great garden is good soil. Compost is the magic potion that nourishes both plants and microorganisms that live in healthy soil. It makes it easier for soil to accept and retain water, stabilizes soil pH and even helps protect plants against some pests and diseases. When compost is sometimes referred to as “garden gold ” or “black gold”, it’s no exaggeration.

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Nature makes compost all the time – it’s a natural method of recycling created by bacteria and other soil-borne organisms as they break down organic matter. When you make compost, you are simply speeding up the process performed by nature every day.

Cold Composting

Composting doesn’t have to be complicated. If you have the space, it can just be a pile in a remote corner of the yard. This is often referred to as “cold composting”. Cold compost piles take longer to break down, but are ideal for recycling small, steady amounts of organic material. Once in a while the pile should be turned, bringing the materials from the center to the outside and watering if necessary. It will take a year or more to get finished compost with this method.

Hot Composting

A faster method is “hot composting”. A hot compost pile is made up all at one time and allowed to compost completely without adding additional material. A compost ‘bin’ of some sort is used for hot composting. The bin confines the organic material in a small space, trapping heat generated during the composting process. The more the heat builds up, the faster the composting process occurs.

Composting Materials

Compost materials should include a mix of brown organic debris such as straw, hay, leaves and dead plants along with ‘greens’ such as grass clippings, kitchen scraps and green plant clippings. Generally, a balance of 30 parts ‘browns’ (for carbon) to 1 part ‘greens’ (for nitrogen) is optimum.  The composting breakdown process can be “kick-started” by applying an activator. Using a compost thermometer will help monitor the temperature of the compost and let you know when the pile should be turned or needs moisture. A compost aerator helps fluff the compost material and moves it from the inside of the pile to the outer edges.


Heavy plastic composters are ideal for collecting kitchen waste and garden trimmings. They make the composting process easy and fun, and at the same time, keep the yard tidy. They are completely enclosed to keep rodents out, but have convenient access doors for adding organic matter or retrieving finished compost. Their color is usually dark green or black that absorbs heat, thus raising the interior temperature for faster composting. 

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