Home composting is an easy way to get rid of grass clippings, vegetable peelings and other organic household waste. After a few months, and with very little work on your part, you'll be rewarded with a rich soil amendment that can help you have a greener, healthier garden. Even if you only have a few shrubs or flowers, compost can make them look better. If you live in an apartment, you can use worms to compost your kitchen scraps and enjoy the benefits of composting.
Compost takes waste that might otherwise be discarded and converts it into a useful product. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that food and yard waste make up 24 percent of the U.S. waste stream. Composting helps reduce the strain on landfills by putting this waste to other use.
You can find the materials for compost free in your own home. Kitchen and yard wastes can form the basis of a compost pile. You can also add small amounts of shredded newspaper and almost any organic material. If you want to add manure, you can usually obtain it for free from local farmers or horse stables. Many coffee shops distribute their coffee grounds free to home composters. By composting, you avoid having to purchase chemical fertilizers.
Compost adds nutrients to the soil over time as it breaks down, providing a slow, even release. Plants absorb slowly released nutrients more readily. When nutrients are released into the soil all at once, as with some chemical fertilizers, the excess the plant can't absorb runs off and can cause problems such as excess bloom in lakes.
Compost adds bulk to soil. It makes clay soils more arable and increases the ability of sandy soil to hold water. Over time, regular compost application can transform poor soil into rich loam.
Compost provides a supportive environment for other life forms beyond plants. Composted soil is home to earthworms, which help aerate the soil and provide foods for birds. Ladybugs and other beneficial insects, reptiles and amphibians thrive in gardens fertilized with compost.
The micronutrients in compost such as zinc, magnesium and calcium make plants more resistant to disease and better able to withstand stressors such as drought.