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What is Compost?

Trouble Shooting
Composting is the purposeful acceleration of the
decomposition process. People compost organic
material such as kitchen and garden wastes. Billions
of microorganisms work to break down organic
matter and stabilize it into a dark, nutrient rich
material known as compost. Finished compost is a
Problem
Bad Odor
Cause
Uncovered or
Solution
Remove and
A Guide to
valuable organic fertilizer and soil conditioner that is
highly beneficial to soil and plant health.
(like rotten
eggs or
spoiled food)
unsuitable
food scraps
discard
inappropriate
materials and
Composting
bury food
Why Compost? scraps
Bad odor Anaerobic Pile Turn and mix in
To minimize organic wastes thrown into landfills and
(Ammonia- (Low oxygen) high carbon
to create a nutrient rich soil amendment to improve
like) materials and
your garden.
check for good
Benefits: drainage
Improves soil structure and texture Bad odor Too much Mix in high
Improves moisture retention (Ammonia- fresh grass carbon
Neutralizes soil pH like) (high nitrogen materials or
Organic fertilization content) remove some
Increases beneficial microorganisms that help grass
plants to be resistant from disease, pests and Insect pests Too dry or not Bury food
weather extremes mixed well scraps and turn
Nutrients released as plants need them pile
Less nutrients lost to leaching
Minimize or eliminates the need to purchase Animal pests Improper food Bury food; if
fertilizer handling persistent stop
adding food or
use an enclosed
How does Compost Work? bin
Pile not Low nitrogen Add “Greens”
Compost happens when bacteria, fungi, and other
breaking
decomposer organisms are provided a good habitat
down
to thrive and break down organic matter.
Decomposition will occur with: Pile not Too dry Add water until
Balanced Diet of Carbon and Nitrogen breaking moist-not wet
Moist conditions down
Steady supply of oxygen Pile not Poor aeration Turn and mix
Temperature range of 113°F to 158°F breaking often
down
*From the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s
“Easy Compost”
What to Compost
Composting Methods Getting Started
Composting requires a balance between carbon
The most appropriate composting Choose a Location: rich materials (Browns) and nitrogen rich materials
technique depends on an individual’s goals (Greens). Generally, equal amounts of browns and
for composting. Well drained area near garden greens will work fine.
At least one foot away from wooden Browns:
Compost Pile: structures and trees. Dry Leaves and Needles
A heap of compostable materials in your Close proximity to a water source Straw and Hay
backyard. Can be left to sit for years and Sawdust (not from pressure treated wood)
compost is harvested from the bottom Managing Compost: Shredded Paper
layers. To speed up composting, turn Twigs/ prunings
often. Starter or Activator: Eggshells
Add rich soil, finished compost, or manure Woodchips
Compost Bin: when starting your pile to encourage a Corn cobs
An enclosure that holds compost and can healthy assortment of decomposer Wine cork stoppers
be bought or built. Many designs offer organisms Greens:
protection from animal pests and weather. Moisture: Fresh leaves or plants
Compost should be kept evenly moist, but Fresh grass clippings (better left on lawn)
Passive Composting: not wet. Like a “damp sponge.” If your Coffee grounds with filters
Alternately layer Carbon and Nitrogen compost becomes waterlogged add lots Tea bags
materials in a 3 ft³ pile or enclosed bin and of dry materials such as leaves or straw Weeds before going to seed
let the material sit and rot. It will take up and consider covering it. If it is too dry, Kitchen scraps
to a year to produce finished compost, but add some water throughout. Manure and bedding
there is little work required. Flowers
Aeration and turning:
Supply your compost with a steady flow of Do NOT Compost:
Active Composting: Meat, fat and bones
oxygen by turning it often and adding
For gardeners that have a lot of materials Dairy products, oils and shortenings
twigs to prevent materials from
to compost and want to create a finished Charcoal or coal ash
compacting. Smaller sized materials also
batch quickly. A minimum size of 3 ft³ is Pet droppings
promote ventilation and break down
needed to reach the required temperature Pesticide treated plants and grass clippings
faster.
range of 113°F to 158°F. This is a high Poison ivy and sumac
Diversity of materials:
maintenance technique and must be Pressure treated wood scraps or sawdust
A variety of “brown” and “green”
turned regularly and when the pile reaches Grain derived foods
materials will help support the health of
135°F to 158°F. When the temperatures Diseased plants
decomposers.
remain constant and are the same as the Pine cones and waxy leaves decompose very
outside temperature, the compost is slowly
finished.