Basic Composting


Many natural wastes from the yard, the kitchen and other areas of the home that are typically thrown in the trash bin can be used in compost instead. Composting wastes saves money on garbage bills and fertilizers, helps improve soil and grow garden plants and limits the amount of waste that is being sent to landfills.

Things to Include in Compost

Yard trimming from cut bushes and mowed grasses, along with fallen leaves from trees, can be included in compost. Most food scraps, including coffee grounds and filters, tea bags and nut shells, are excellent to use. Clean paper, shredded newspaper, cardboard rolls and cotton and wool rags can be composted as well. Compost can also come from even odder places around the house, like sawdust from untreated lumber in the workshop, ashes from the fireplace and lint from the dryer and vacuum cleaner. Animal manure from herbivorous animals, along with hair and fur from humans and pets, can also be included.

Things to Leave out of Compost

Although food is good to include, a few categories will creates odors and attract animals, including dairy products, meat products and fats and oils. Coal and charcoal ash, which contains things that are harmful to plants, should also be avoided. You should not compost trimmings from plants that are diseased or ridden with insects, as these could spread, and from plants treated with chemicals, as these can kill organisms that are helpful in composting. Wastes from cats and dogs may contain parasites or bacteria that are harmful to humans, while leaves and twigs from black walnut trees have substances that are harmful to plants.

Compost Bins and Piles

Composting can be done in an open pile or a bin. While an open pile may be easier and cheaper, a bin may be more sightly. If food scraps are composted, they should be buried at least a foot deep or placed in a bin that is rodent resistant, with no holes more than a quarter inch.

Mixing Compost

Chopping materials before composting them will help them to compost faster, and large yard waste should usually be cut down to at least half-foot lengths. Compost should be a mix of "browns," materials that are dry and woody, and "greens," material that are green and moist. Compost should be mixed once a week, kept lightly moist and exposed to air. Rich, brown compost can be sifted out or dug out from the bottom after half a year, longer if you choose to mix the compost less regularly.

Uses of Compost

A few inches of compost can be mixed into garden beds once a year, and more can be used when starting a garden in poor soil. Compost can also be sprinkled over soil and grass around the yard or in the pots of houseplants.

Keywords: compost basics, basic composting, garden compost

About this Author

Dan Clark graduated Bard College at Simon's Rock with a B.A. in English. He has been living in Chicago and working as a freelance writer since 2009. His articles and stories have been published on eHow and and in "Blotter Magazine," "Defenestration," and "Mary Literary Quarterly."