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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


Why Compost:  WHAT IS COMPOST?

Professor Rot says:

Think of compost as an investment in the soil and plants in and around your home. Nature is the "bank." Your investment is compost ("black gold"). The dividend is healthy, enriched soil and a cleaner, healthier planet.


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.



finished compostMaybe you've never actually laid eyes on this rich, dark brown or black earthy substance that many gardeners call Black Gold. Perhaps you've never inhaled its freshness, like moist earth in spring. And what about its texture? Coarse and crumbly where all the original ingredients now look and feel about the same. Are you starting to get the picture? This is good stuff!

When you get to know finished compost, you will be amazed that at one time it was yucky old food scraps, a dead house-plant, a matted pile of grass clippings or leaves that you layered into your bin. The finished product won't disgust you, it will make you feel quite proud!

Okay now, don't get too puffed-up. Sure, you did your part but don't forget that you also enlisted the aid of billions of microbes. Here's what you did for them:

  • You gave them housing (your compost bin) and plenty of food in the form of sugars and proteins (your yard and kitchen waste)
  • You made sure they got adequate air and moisture, and
  • You were kind enough to check in on them once a week or so (the walk outside did you good, right?).

The microbes did the rest, engaging in a feeding frenzy that generated so much heat that they literally ate themselves out of house and home, leaving behind in your bin, yes, you guessed it, freshly decomposed organic matter called compost. (Professor Rot says: If you want to learn more about how this happens, quick link to Stages of Composting)

mulchingThe fact is, decomposition happens in nature all the time: materials such as leaves, vegetables, fruit, plants, weeds, stems, twigs, bugs, animals, microbes, etc. die and decay. The remains eventually are absorbed into the soil and the nutrients are used by living roots, fungi, and other microorganisms.

It takes Mother Nature centuries to make just one inch of humus-rich soil. Your composting efforts can consistently yield mighty fine tilth in just a fraction of the time: a few weeks to a few months! All to be used in your yard, garden, and for houseplants. What a wonderful partnership with nature: give Her your waste and get back nutrient-rich organic matter in the form of compost.

yard mulchCompost, in short, is one of nature's best mulches and soil amendments. An earth-friendly gardener will strive to use compost instead of commercial fertilizers. For the Scrooge in most of us, compost is the cheapest soil additive you can find: you can make it without spending a cent! (Well, maybe that's true, but with a minimal investment in a few composting products (like the one's on this website), you will be easily composting in no time at all.





Keep Nature Employed!

COMPOSTING is a good way to recycle yard waste such as leaves, twigs, grass clippings, most weeds, and dead houseplants. It is also a clever way to dispose of most food scraps and unwanted leftovers so that your refrigerator doesn't become the compost bin. In your compost bin the unemployment rate is very low!

good mix

Now that is some stewy mix of raw ingredients! Quick, better put a lid on it!

COMPOSTING is a means of harnessing a host of highly beneficial micro-organisms and earthworms who would otherwise be sitting around idle and unappreciated.


Okay, we're not quite done with praising compost. So, here's a few more reasons to adore it:

  • Compost improves soil structure, texture, and aeration and increases the soil's water-holding capacity.
  • Compost loosens clay soils and helps sandy soils retain water.
  • Adding compost improves soil fertility and stimulates healthy root development in plants.
  • The organic matter provided in compost provides food for microorganisms, which keeps the soil in a healthy, balanced condition.
  • Nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus (that fancy N-P-K formula you see on bags of fertilizer) will be produced naturally by the feeding of microorganisms, so few if any soil amendments will need to be added.


finished compost 2

Picture source: Common Cause Cooperative, England

3 Things to Notice About This Picture:

  • The compost was made in a bin (behind the excited boy) constructed from pallets.
  • The compost is still a little rough, but that's okay. Finished compost does not have to be absolutely, entirely, totally, nothing-else-will-do broken down. It can have a few bits of unfinished material that will eventually break down when added to the soil.

THE LESSON?: Don't beat yourself up if you don't get finished compost like the pros, or what you might see in photographs. Keep trying and do your best. Composting is both an art and science.

  • Oh, of course, these are two very happy compost campers, right?!


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