line decor
Contact Us   


What is Compost?

Benefits of Composting

Using Finished Compost

Compost & Nutrition


Composting Systems

Siting Your Compost Area



What to Compost

Stages of Composting

The Carbon:Nitrogen Ratio

Compost Activators

Turning Your Compost


Quick Start Guide

The Add-as-you-go Pile

The Batch Pile

Grass Clippings

Food Scraps

Leaves, Weeds &
Garden Debris

Compost Tea

Worm Composting


Troubleshooting Guide

Ask Professor Rot



Professor Rot says:

Composting is our human way of simulating nature's decompositional personality.

Scientists (like me) have worked to understand how it all happens so that you can decompose your organic material in less time than Mother Nature can blink an eye!

Why in the world would you want to compost in the first place? Do you even know what compost is? What do you do with the stuff when you've made it? What are the nutritive qualities of compost for your plants or vegetables?

One of the best ways to jump into composting is to understand the value of finished compost. This part of our website will briefly address the above questions. Click on the title to quickly go to the topic:

Note: These topics are also addressed in our 32-page guide, Home Composting Made Easy.



Ideally, finished compost is dark brown or black (almost like bagged potting soil), crumbly-textured, and has a rich earthy smell. But realistically, there is no exact point at which compost is "finished."

soil in handMany gardeners choose to use compost that is not fully decomposed. They don't mind if there are still recognizable bits of leaves, minute twigs, straw, hay, and the like. They know it will finish decaying in the soil in their yard or garden. Generally, try to harvest your compost in the late summer or fall to make room for new leaves in your bin(s).

If you intend to use your compost in seed-starting mixes, houseplants, or to cover seed rows, it's best that it is well-rotted and possibly screened. Otherwise delicate roots can be attacked by microbes if the roots touch any unfinished compost.

Soil Amendment

Perhaps the most common use of compost is as an amendment.

Dig in 2-4 inches (5-10cm) per year in the Spring or at planting time. Vegetables, flowers, (everything!) love compost as it releases its nutrients over a 1-2 year period.

Alternately, apply 1/2 to 3-inches of finished compost and mix with the top 4-inches of soil one month before planting.

Mulch Around Trees & Shrubs

Soil can tend to compact around trees and shrubs, especially in high-traffic areas or those places less tended. Compost can improve the tilth and help retain moisture in the soil.

As this picture demonstrates, place the compost around the tree to create a raised ridge and an inside well that can be watered. Of course, the whole dripline around a tree/shrub should be watered because the roots tend to grow out away from the trunk.

mulch tree

Moisture-holding Mulch

You will be amazed at how much water you can conserve by using compost as a mulch to cover exposed soil.

Spread around plants, shrubs and trees, as seen in this picture.

Apply 2-3 inches (5-7cm) on the surface.


yard mulch

Lawn Top-dressing

In sandy soils, compost acts as a sponge to help retain water. In clay soils, it improves drainage by making the soil more porous.

Compost is also especially good for problem areas in a lawn: it improves the soil and encourages better grass growth.

Spread it 1/4-inch deep over the entire lawn, or in thin areas, to reseed and rejuvenate turf.

lawn mulch

Compost Tea

Compost tea is an incredible Liquid Gold version of compost. It acts as a very mild, organic liquid fertilizer.

Compost tea can be prepared to exacting scientific specifications using specific devices. However, the layperson can make it much easier.

Steep a shovel full of compost in a 5-gallon (19-liter) bucket for a few days. Pour on plants (dilute for seedlings) and use within the week.

For more detailed instructions, go to Compost Tea on this website.

compost tea bucket

Seed Rows in the Garden

A favorite use of compost is to cover freshly planted seeds. For most gardeners seeds are planted in rows, that produce orderly grown vegetables or flowers, as seen in this picture.

You can mix the compost in a 1:1 ratio with vermiculite to lighten its consistency.

seed row garden

Uses for Well-finished or Screened Compost

In seed-starting mixes (can be pasteurized)

Mixed with potting soil for houseplants
(1 part compost, 2 parts potting soil)

General potting soil
Mix equal parts of compost, sand and loam. Remove large particles and return them to pile.

For House Plants:
Sift finished compost through a 1/4-inch screen or strainer. Pasteurize sifted ingredients
(laid out on a baking pan) in an oven for one hour at 200° F (90° C).
Voila! Precious potting soil for houseplants!


Our parent site - Cortesia Sanctuary is on Facebook


Solution Graphics

Home Composting
Made Easy

The world's most popular composting guide. Over 2,000,000 in print! And we wrote it!

Only $4.95 (+$2.00 shipping)

Get more info>




















Copyright 2008, Cortesia Sanctuary   Contact Us

For inspiration please visit our parent site:
For herbal healing & wellness visit our site: