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Composting Made Simple




Compost is the product that is left over when organic matter has decomposed after dying, consumption/rotting, or the process by which "Mother Nature" cleans the planet we live on. The process of composting can be done on both large and small scales. Many gardeners have a compost pile, bin, area in an out of the way place within their yard and they even have preferences as to what goes into that pile to make their own special mix.


What is Compost?


Compost is a fertilizer that is used by many gardeners as a natural way to recycle organic waste that has been produced within their own and sometimes even friend's homes. They use the compost in their gardens to enrich the soil around their plants. Compost contains essential nutrients such as nitrogen and carbon to help plants grow. It essentially gives plants most of the vitamins and minerals that plants need to live, grow and thrive.


What is Composting?


Composting is the process by which compost is produced. Organic material such as grass clippings, yard trimmings, paper, leftover food, etc. are used to create this along with microbes, fungi, and worms. All of these items together then complete the natural process of decay.


The Process of Composting


Composting can be done on both a large and a small scale, and the process is the same for either in either form. On a small scale which is done by individuals in their backyard  organic matter/material is placed in a pile or bin in a section of their backyard. The pile is then maintained by the gardener who every 2-4 days using a rake, shovel, etc. to turn the pile over and mixes the organic waste so that the pile is kept within a range of temperatures, moisture content and aeration levels. Too much or too little of any one of the conditions can cause problems and ruin that batch of compost that is being produced.


The micro-organisms that produce the compost actually digest the organic waste and break it down into a molecular or atomic form. This process is called decaying. It is not only done here, but as previously mention it is done in nature. What is left over is a nutrient rich soil additive that is called compost. 


How to Create Your Own Compost


Following are the basic steps to create your compost pile.


Step 1: Materials




Out of the way patch of ground

Organic Waste such as grass clippings, paper, etc

Hose attached to a water spout


Step 2: Ground Preparation


In an out of the way patch ground clear the area of any debris that might exist. You can use a bin or build a small enclosure using wood pallets, wood and chicken wire. Make that if you go this route that the bin has been produced for this task and if you build one that it has many slits to allow air to move freely through the bin or the small enclosure.


Step 3: Adding the Organic Waste

Whether or not you use a bin after the area is prepared place the organic waste in layers in the compost pile you are preparing. Then wet the organic material so that is looks moist, but not soaked or wet. Finally mix the pile well using the rake and the shovel so that the moisture, air and the temperature can start out the same throughout the pile.


Step 4: Maintaining the Compost Pile


Every 2-4 days mix the pile and check the moisture content of the pile. Add water when the pile looks too dry to make sure that it remains moist.  Ignoring this step can cause the pile to start to grow weeds and reproduce insects.


Types of Composting


A few types of composting exist. Only two are able to create compost.


Aerobic (Oxygen must be present)


 The organic material is aerated (adding air) throughout the process of creating compost. For this to occur the composter needs to turn the materials regularly ensuring that moisture, temperature and aeration are constant. Aerobic (Oxygen loving) microbes need oxygen to survive and will quickly die without oxygen. This creates the ideal nitrogen and carbon rich soil.


Anaerobic (The absents of Oxygen)


Anaerobic conditions are not ideal for compost. It creates a toxic environment for aerobic microbes which kills them and allows anaerobic microbes to thrive. Anaerobic (Oxygen hating) microbes produce noxious substances that are harmful to plants and non-organic forms of nitrogen which plants cannot absorb. These microbes thrive in an oxygen-poor environment and cause noxious gases to be produced giving the area a foul smell. Furthermore,  this type of composting allows for the seeds from weeds to germinated and for the proliferation of flies and other insects. This then causes  a pest problem within the area surrounding the anaerobic compost pile.


Vermi-Composting (The use of Earth worms)


 Earthworm use in composting is referred to as Vermi-composting. Earthworms break down organic substances in soils by eating them and then digesting what they need to survive. The rest of the organic material is broken down into what is called castings. Castings are essentially the excrement of the worms. The castings are nutrient rich and can be used as fertilizer. Like aerobic composting the nutrients produced are organic nitrogen and carbon. This type of composting is ideal for small amounts of organic matter and breaks down on a large scale. It produces virtually no odor which makes it ideal for an indoor composter and is somewhat faster than aerobic composting. Most of the time this type of composting is done within the garden itself with little to no work involved.




Composting is a viable and important tool to recycling organic waste. It is the process by which nature reuses organic compounds to produce an excellent top soil or the black soil we see within forests and/or rich vegetational environments. Most organic waste can be used to create compost. The process is not all that hard to comprehend.


Composting is the physical act of creating a pile that individuals keep moist and aerated. This allows for the breakdown of the organic waste by microbes, fungi, and worms. This product is then used to fertilize crops, gardens, parks, etc. It can also be a viable source of income for  small towns, waste management companies, and even the individual who is just composting in their backyard.


List of Websites















      Alexander, R. (1994). Composting Market Programs. Biocycle: Journal of Composting & Recycling, 218-220.


Beal, J. (1999). How does Compost Work?. Retrieved February 28, 2010, from http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4568370_compost-work.html


COMPOSTING PROCESS. (2008). Retrieved February 28, 2010, from http://www.ecochem.com/t_compost_faq2.html


Definition of aerobic. (2009). Retrieved March 29, 2010, from http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/aerobic


      Diaz, L. F., Savage, G. M., Eggerth, L. L., & Golueke, C. G. (1993). Composting and Recycling Municipal Solid Waste (pp. 121-174). Boca Raton: Lewis Publishers.


      Epstein, E. (1997). The Science of Composting. Lancaster: Technomic Publishing Co., Inc.


Falcon, S. (1999). How does Composting Work. Retrieved February 28, 2010, from http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4574071_composting-work.html


Gallagher, E. (1999). What is the Compost Process?. Retrieved February 28, 2010, from http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4913393_what-compost-process.html


How does Composting Work?. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2010, from http://www.benefits-of-recycling.com/howdoescompostingwork.html


How to Make Compost - The Composting Process. (2008). Retrieved February 28, 2010, from http://www.gardensupermart.com/green-living/how-to-make-compost.php


LeBoeuf-Little, N. J. (2009). The Composting Process. Retrieved February 28, 2010, from http://www.gardenguides.com/78806-composting-process.html


Segura, W. (1999). How does Composting Work?. Retrieved February 28, 2010, from http://ezinearticles.com/?How-Does-Composting-Work?&id=2294562


University of Illinois Extension. (2010). Composting in the Home Garden. Retrieved February 28, 2010, from http://urbanext.illinois.edu/compost/process.html



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