Compost is the secret to a great garden; it is one of nature’s best mulches and soil amendments. Compost will help loosen clay soils and help sandy soils retain moisture. Using compost improves soil structure and texture which in turn improves plant growth. Compost provides food for microorganisms, which keep the soil healthy, providing nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus to feed your plants. Warm composting is the process where the compost bin heats up a little allowing natural organism to digest the organic material. Compost is the end product of a complex feeding pattern involving hundreds of different organisms, including bacteria, fungi, worms and insects. The rich, earthy substance that remains after these organisms break down organic material is known as compost.

Almost any organic material can be used to make compost. However, for home composting there are some general rules to follow. “Good composting” is knowing the proper ratio of carbon-rich material referred to as “Browns” and nitrogen-rich material referred to as “Greens”. Among the brown materials are dry leaves, straw, sawdust and office paper. Nitrogen materials include kitchen scrapes, green grass clippings and egg shells. Layering these materials in a ratio of three parts brown to one part green is an ideal mixture and produces the fastest compost. Too much brown will slow the process; too much green will cause the pile to smell. In effect, add three inches of brown than add one inch of green. It’s a great idea to add a shovel full of garden soil to cover the green. Once a month sprinkle a quarter cup of turf food to the compost. The compost should be moist but not soggy. Turning the compost pile will speed the process. Turning should be done once a month, more often if time allows. If you don’t want to turn the compost that’s OK it will take longer to decompose but it will eventually turn into that rich humus that you can use in the garden.

The compost pile should be located away from the house but close enough to the entrance for easy accessibility. During the winter months the compost can be loosely covered to retain heat. If the pile is covered for the winter, make sure to create an accessible area for kitchen scraps. If the compost material is placed in black plastic bins, situate the bins so the compost gets maximum sun to help keep warm. Ideally, we recommend using two compost bins. That way, when the first bin fills up you can start the second bin (by the time you fill the second bin, the first bin should be ready to go).
Refer to the list below for materials to use or to avoid in your compost:

Materials for “green”
Algae, lake weeds – good nutrient source
Eggshells – wash and dry, crushed
Grass clippings – use in thin layers
Domestic animal manures – great source of nitrogen
Sod – tear into small pieces
Bread – no butter
Fruit scraps
Houseplants
Vegetable scraps
Tea bags
Coffee grounds filter
Human or pet hair
Alfalfa – shredded

Material for “brown”
Straw
Newspaper – no glossy colored sheets
Leaves
Pine needles – just a little
Ash from untreated wood – use a little ash, it’s very alkaline
Cardboard – cut into small pieces
Corn stalks, cobs- chopped up
Dryer lint

Material to avoid
Ashes from coal or charcoal
Cat or dog droppings
Wild bird droppings
Fish scrapes
Meat, fat or bones
Dairy products
Oils
Peanut butter
Diseased plants
Weeds that have gone to seed

Composting is a great way for you to enhance your very own soil. It is a great way to reuse your scraps and waste in a positive earth friendly way. Your landscape will thank you for it!

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Benefits of Composted Soil