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What Do You Do With Compost What Do You Do With Compost

Gardening Tips and Tricks

What Do You Do With Compost

Written by: Genevra Gilkey

Looking for problem-solving tips for your compost? Discover what to do with compost in this informative guide filled with creative solutions.

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Table of Contents


Composting is a natural process that transforms organic waste into nutrient-rich soil. It is a sustainable and eco-friendly way to recycle kitchen scraps, yard waste, and other organic materials. By composting, you can reduce landfill waste, save money on fertilizers, and improve the health of your garden. Whether you have a big backyard or a small balcony, composting is a practical and rewarding activity.

Composting has gained popularity in recent years due to the growing awareness of environmental issues and the desire to live a more sustainable lifestyle. It allows you to minimize your carbon footprint and contribute to a healthier planet. Plus, it’s a great way to connect with nature and learn more about the natural cycles of life.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of composting, the types of materials you can compost, how to set up a compost bin, the composting process, and how to use compost in your garden and indoor plants. We will also discuss the use of compost tea and liquid fertilizers, as well as common mistakes to avoid when composting.

So, whether you are a seasoned gardener or a beginner in the world of composting, this article will provide you with all the information you need to get started or to enhance your composting skills. Let’s dive in and discover the wonders of composting!


Benefits of Composting

Composting offers a wide range of benefits, both for the environment and for your garden. Here are some of the key advantages:

  • Reduces landfill waste: One of the primary benefits of composting is that it diverts organic materials from the landfill. When these materials decompose in landfills, they produce greenhouse gases like methane, which contribute to climate change. By composting, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint and combat the negative effects of landfill waste.
  • Improves soil health: Compost is a natural fertilizer and soil amendment that enriches the soil with essential nutrients, organic matter, and beneficial microorganisms. It improves soil structure, enhances water retention, and promotes healthy root development. By adding compost to your garden, you can create a nutrient-rich environment for plants to thrive.
  • Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers: Compost eliminates the need for synthetic fertilizers, which can be harmful to the environment and human health. Unlike chemical fertilizers, compost releases nutrients slowly and in a form that is readily available to plants. It provides a balanced and sustainable source of nutrients, resulting in healthier and more resilient plants.
  • Suppresses pests and diseases: Compost contains beneficial microorganisms that help suppress harmful pests and diseases in the soil. It promotes a diverse and balanced ecosystem, which supports beneficial insects and organisms that prey on pests. By using compost, you can reduce the need for pesticides and create a more balanced and natural environment in your garden.
  • Saves money: Composting can save you money in several ways. First, it eliminates the need to buy chemical fertilizers, which can be costly. Second, it reduces the amount of trash you send to the landfill, potentially saving on waste disposal fees. Lastly, by improving soil health and plant vigor, compost can lead to higher yields and a healthier garden, resulting in savings on grocery bills.

These are just a few of the many benefits of composting. Whether you are an avid gardener looking to improve your soil or someone who wants to make a positive impact on the environment, composting is a simple and effective solution. By harnessing the power of nature’s recycling system, you can contribute to a healthier planet and create a thriving garden.


Types of Compostable Materials

Composting can be done using a wide range of organic materials that are commonly found in households and gardens. Here are some of the most common types of compostable materials:

  • Kitchen scraps: Food waste such as fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells, and nutshells make excellent compost materials. Avoid adding dairy products, meat, and oily items, as they can attract pests and slow down the composting process.
  • Yard waste: Leaves, grass clippings, pruning and trimmings, and small branches can all be composted. It’s best to shred or chop larger materials to accelerate the decomposition process.
  • Plant waste: Dead plants, spent flowers, and garden trimmings can be added to the compost pile. Avoid adding diseased plants or weeds that have gone to seed to prevent the spread of diseases and weeds in your compost.
  • Straw and hay: Straw and hay are excellent sources of carbon, which helps balance the nitrogen-rich kitchen and garden waste. However, avoid using hay that contains weed seeds.
  • Wood chips and sawdust: Wood chips and sawdust can be added to the compost pile, but they should be used sparingly and mixed with other materials to avoid creating a dense and anaerobic environment.
  • Paper and cardboard: Shredded paper, cardboard, newspaper, and paper towels can be composted. However, avoid using glossy or colored paper, as it may contain inks and chemicals that are not suitable for composting.
  • Manure: Animal manure, such as cow, horse, or chicken manure, can be added to the compost pile. However, it should be well-aged or composted before use to avoid the risk of introducing pathogens into the garden.
  • Other organic materials: Other compostable materials include wood ash, hair, and natural fibers like cotton and wool. These materials can contribute to the overall nutrient content and microbial activity in the compost pile.

Remember, a successful compost pile requires a balance between carbon-rich materials (like dried leaves or straw) and nitrogen-rich materials (like fruit scraps or grass clippings). As a general rule, aim for a ratio of around 3 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen to provide an optimal environment for decomposition.

By utilizing these compostable materials, you can divert organic waste from the landfill and create a nutrient-rich compost that will benefit your garden and plants.


Setting Up a Compost Bin

Setting up a compost bin is a straightforward process that can be adapted to fit your available space and needs. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

  1. Choose the right location: Select a spot in your yard that is well-drained and receives partial sunlight. Avoid placing the compost bin near trees or structures that may shade it too much or obstruct airflow.
  2. Select a compost bin: There are various types of compost bins available, such as plastic bins, wooden bins, or wire mesh bins. Choose a bin that suits your preferences and the amount of waste you generate. Ensure that the bin has adequate ventilation and allows for easy access to turn the compost.
  3. Prepare the base: Start by clearing the area and removing any grass or vegetation. Lay down a layer of twigs or small branches to promote airflow and drainage. This will help prevent the compost pile from becoming waterlogged.
  4. Add the first layer: Begin the compost pile by adding a layer of carbon-rich materials, such as dried leaves or straw. This provides a bed for the pile and helps with aeration and moisture control.
  5. Add kitchen scraps and greens: Layer kitchen scraps, fruit and vegetable peels, and other nitrogen-rich materials on top of the carbon layer. This adds moisture and nutrients to the compost pile.
  6. Keep adding layers: Continue adding alternating layers of carbon-rich materials and nitrogen-rich materials. Aim for a ratio of about 3 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen to maintain a balanced compost pile.
  7. Turn the compost: Regularly turn the compost pile every few weeks using a pitchfork or compost turning tool. This helps aerate the pile, mixes the materials, and speeds up the decomposition process.
  8. Monitor moisture levels: Keep an eye on the moisture content of the compost pile. It should be moist, similar to a wrung-out sponge. If it’s too dry, add water. If it’s too wet, add dry materials like leaves or shredded paper to absorb the excess moisture.
  9. Patience and time: Composting is a natural process that takes time. The composting process can take anywhere from a few months to a year, depending on the materials used and environmental factors. Be patient and trust the process.
  10. Harvest the compost: When the compost is dark, crumbly, and has a pleasant earthy smell, it’s ready to be used. You can sift it to remove any large or unfinished material, and then apply it to your garden beds or potted plants.

By following these steps, you can easily set up and manage a compost bin in your yard. It’s a rewarding and sustainable way to recycle organic waste and create nutrient-rich compost for your garden.


Composting Process

The composting process is a natural cycle of decomposition that breaks down organic materials into nutrient-rich compost. Understanding the key stages of the composting process will help you optimize the conditions for rapid decomposition. Here’s an overview of the composting process:

  1. Stage 1: Initial decomposition: The composting process begins with the combination of organic materials in the compost pile or bin. The microorganisms present in the organic waste, along with naturally occurring bacteria and fungi, start breaking down the materials. This stage is characterized by a rise in temperature as the microorganisms break down the materials and release heat.
  2. Stage 2: Active decomposition: In this stage, the decomposition process accelerates as the microorganisms continue to break down the organic matter. The pile will reach its highest temperature, typically between 130°F and 160°F (54°C-71°C), which helps kill pathogens, weed seeds, and insect larvae. Regular turning of the compost pile during this stage helps maintain proper aeration and speeds up decomposition.
  3. Stage 3: Maturing and curing: As the decomposition process continues, the temperature of the compost pile gradually decreases. The heat-loving microorganisms die off, and mesophilic microorganisms take over. The compost pile becomes cooler and resembles a dark, crumbly material that resembles soil. This stage is crucial for allowing any remaining materials to fully break down and stabilize.
  4. Stage 4: Ready-to-use compost: Once the compost has fully matured and cured, it is ready to be used in the garden. The compost will be dark brown or black, have a pleasant earthy smell, and feel crumbly. At this stage, the compost is rich in organic matter, nutrients, and beneficial microorganisms that contribute to healthy soil and plant growth.

To ensure a successful composting process, it’s important to maintain the right conditions. The compost pile should be kept moist but not waterlogged, as excess moisture can hinder decomposition and lead to unpleasant odors. Turning the pile regularly helps aerate the compost, distribute moisture, and speed up the breakdown of materials.

It’s worth noting that the composting process can vary depending on factors such as the type and mix of organic materials, pile size, and environmental conditions. While some composting methods may be faster than others, patience is key. With time and proper management, you will be rewarded with nutrient-rich compost that will benefit your garden and plants.


Using Compost in the Garden

Compost is a valuable resource that can be used to improve soil health and nourish your garden plants. Here are several ways you can utilize compost in your garden:

  • Soil amendment: Incorporate compost into your garden beds or mix it with existing soil. This improves soil structure, enhances water retention, and increases nutrient availability. Spread a layer of compost on top of the soil and gently work it into the top few inches. This will help nourish plants and support their overall growth.
  • Seed starting: Use compost as a potting mix or seed-starting medium. Its nutrient-rich properties provide a healthy environment for seeds to germinate and seedlings to grow. Fill seed trays or pots with a mixture of compost and other growing media to give your plants a strong start.
  • Top dressing: Apply compost as a top dressing around established plants. This can be done by spreading a thin layer of compost around the base of the plants, avoiding contact with the stems. The compost will slowly release nutrients into the soil, promoting healthy growth and deterring weeds.
  • Mulching: Use compost as a natural mulch to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and regulate soil temperature. Apply a layer of compost around plants, leaving a gap around the base to prevent moisture buildup and potential rot. Replenish the mulch as needed to maintain a consistent layer.
  • Compost tea: Create compost tea by steeping compost in water. This liquid fertilizer can be sprayed onto plant leaves and soil, providing a nutrient boost to help plants thrive. Dilute the compost tea with water before applying to prevent any risk of burning plant roots.
  • Building raised beds: Use compost as a key component when constructing raised beds. Fill the beds with a mixture of compost, soil, and other amendments to create a nutrient-dense growing environment. This is particularly beneficial when working with poor-quality soils or limited gardening space.

When using compost in the garden, it’s important to remember that it is a slow-release fertilizer. The nutrients in compost are released gradually over time, providing long-term benefits to plants. Regularly adding compost and incorporating it into the soil will improve soil fertility and support the overall health of your garden.

Experiment with different methods of using compost in your garden and observe the positive effects it has on plant growth and productivity. By harnessing the power of compost, you can create a thriving and sustainable garden ecosystem.


Using Compost in Indoor Plants

Compost is not only beneficial for outdoor gardens but can also be used to nourish and support the growth of indoor plants. Here are some ways you can utilize compost for your indoor plants:

  • Potting mix amendment: Incorporate compost into your potting mix to improve the nutrient content and water-holding capacity. Mix compost with other planting mediums, such as peat moss or coconut coir, to create a well-balanced growing medium for your indoor plants.
  • Repotting: When repotting indoor plants, include a layer of compost at the bottom of the new pot before adding the potting mix. This boosts nutrient levels and encourages healthy root development.
  • Top dressing: Apply a thin layer of compost on the soil surface around indoor plants. This serves as a slow-release fertilizer, providing nutrients to the plants as it breaks down. Be sure to keep the compost away from the plant stems to prevent rot and disease.
  • Compost tea: Make compost tea by steeping compost in water. Use this liquid fertilizer to water your indoor plants, providing them with a nutrient-rich boost. Dilute the compost tea with water to prevent over-fertilization.
  • Foliage feed: Spray diluted compost tea directly onto the leaves of your indoor plants. This provides a foliar feeding that delivers nutrients directly to the foliage, promoting healthy growth and improving the plant’s overall health.
  • Reviving rootbound plants: For plants that have become rootbound, mixing compost into the soil when repotting can rejuvenate the root system. The compost will provide fresh nutrients and encourage new root growth.
  • Building a compost-based potting mix: Create a compost-based potting mix by combining compost with other organic materials like coco coir, perlite, and vermiculite. This mix can be used for starting seeds or growing plants in containers.

Indoor plants can greatly benefit from the nutrients and beneficial microorganisms found in compost. However, it’s important to ensure that the compost used is well-aged and free from any insects or diseases that could harm your indoor plants.

Remember to monitor the moisture levels of indoor plants when using compost, as they may have different watering needs compared to outdoor plants. Additionally, regular observation and care are essential to ensure that the plants are responding positively to the application of compost.

By incorporating compost into your indoor plant care routine, you can provide your plants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and vibrant foliage.


Compost Tea and Liquid Fertilizers

Compost tea and liquid fertilizers are valuable tools in organic gardening, providing a nutrient-rich boost to plants. Here’s what you need to know about these methods:

Compost Tea:

Compost tea is a liquid fertilizer made by steeping compost in water. The process allows the beneficial microorganisms and nutrients from the compost to be extracted into the water, creating a nutrient-dense solution that can be applied directly to plants.

To make compost tea:

  1. Select mature, well-composted material from your compost pile, such as finished compost or worm castings.
  2. Place the compost in a mesh bag or fine mesh container.
  3. Submerge the bag of compost in a container filled with water and let it steep for 24 to 48 hours.
  4. Stir the mixture occasionally to keep the water oxygenated.
  5. After steeping, remove the compost bag and use the liquid as a fertilizer.

Compost tea can be applied to plants by watering the soil directly or by foliar spraying the leaves. The nutrients and beneficial microorganisms in the tea help improve soil fertility, enhance plant growth, and protect against pests and diseases. Dilute the compost tea with water before applying to prevent over-fertilization.

Liquid Fertilizers:

In addition to compost tea, there are other liquid fertilizers that can be used to provide essential nutrients to plants. These fertilizers can be derived from organic sources such as seaweed, fish emulsion, or bone meal, or they can be homemade from plant materials like nettle or comfrey.

When using liquid fertilizers:

  1. Follow the instructions on the product label or recipe for proper dilution rates.
  2. Apply the liquid fertilizer according to the specific needs of your plants, typically once every two to four weeks during the growing season.
  3. Water the plants before applying the liquid fertilizer to prevent root burn.
  4. Avoid applying liquid fertilizers during extreme temperatures or in the middle of the day to prevent leaf burn.

Liquid fertilizers are effective in providing a quick nutrient boost to plants and are easily absorbed through the roots. They can be a convenient and efficient way to address specific nutrient deficiencies or promote growth during phases of high demand, such as flowering or fruiting.

Both compost tea and liquid fertilizers offer a natural and organic approach to nourishing plants. They provide a diverse range of nutrients, improve soil health, and support the overall vitality of your garden.


Common Composting Mistakes to Avoid

Composting is a simple and effective way to recycle organic waste and create nutrient-rich compost. However, there are several common mistakes that can hinder the composting process or result in unpleasant odors. Here are some pitfalls to avoid:

  • Adding non-compostable materials: It’s important to only add organic materials that can decompose in your compost pile. Avoid adding meat, dairy products, greasy or oily items, and pet waste, as they can attract pests and create unpleasant smells. Stick to plant-based materials and avoid any non-organic or non-biodegradable materials.
  • Not enough carbon-to-nitrogen ratio: A balanced compost pile requires a proper balance between carbon-rich “brown” materials and nitrogen-rich “green” materials. Not having enough carbon can result in a pile that is compacted and difficult to aerate, while an excess of nitrogen can create a smelly, slimy, and anaerobic environment. Aim for a ratio of roughly 3 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen to maintain a healthy compost pile.
  • Failure to turn the compost: Regularly turning the compost pile is essential for proper aeration and decomposition. Neglecting to turn the pile can lead to slow decomposition, unpleasant odors, and the presence of anaerobic bacteria. Aim to turn the pile every few weeks to help speed up the process and promote a healthy compost environment.
  • Improper moisture levels: Compost piles require adequate moisture for decomposition, but excessive moisture can lead to a smelly, waterlogged pile. Maintain a moisture level similar to a wrung-out sponge; if the pile is too dry, add water, and if it’s too wet, add dry materials like leaves or shredded paper to absorb the excess moisture.
  • Not chopping or shredding materials: Breaking down materials into smaller pieces accelerates the composting process by increasing the surface area for microorganisms to work on. Shred or chop larger materials like branches, stalks, and woody materials to facilitate faster decomposition.
  • Adding weeds or diseased plants: Avoid adding weeds that have gone to seed or plants that are diseased to your compost pile. Weeds may not break down fully, and diseases can potentially spread when the compost is applied to your garden. Dispose of these materials separately or in a designated area.
  • Not monitoring the compost pile: It’s crucial to actively monitor your compost pile to ensure it’s progressing properly. Check the moisture levels regularly, turn the pile when necessary, and observe for any signs of imbalances or issues. Adjust the pile if needed to maintain optimal composting conditions.

By avoiding these common composting mistakes, you can create a healthy and productive compost pile. Remember that composting is a natural process, and it may take time and adjustments to find the perfect balance for your specific composting conditions. With patience and proper management, you’ll be rewarded with nutrient-rich compost for your garden.



Composting is a powerful and sustainable way to recycle organic waste, reduce landfill waste, and create nutrient-rich compost for your garden. By understanding the benefits of composting, the types of materials you can compost, and the proper techniques for setting up and managing a compost bin, you can harness the power of nature’s recycling system.

Using compost in the garden and indoor plants provides numerous advantages, from improving soil health and fertility to suppressing pests and diseases. Whether you incorporate compost into your gardening beds, use it as a potting mix amendment, or apply it as a top dressing or liquid fertilizer, the rich nutrients, and beneficial microorganisms in compost will nourish your plants and encourage healthy growth.

However, care must be taken to avoid common composting mistakes that can disrupt the composting process or create unpleasant odors. Avoiding the addition of non-compostable materials, maintaining the right carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, regularly turning the compost pile, monitoring moisture levels, and properly managing the compost pile can help ensure successful composting.

Composting is a journey of discovering the wonders of nature’s recycling system. It allows us to reduce waste, enhance soil health, and grow plants in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner. So, whether you are a seasoned gardener or a beginner in the world of composting, embrace the process, have patience, and enjoy the rewards of nutrient-rich compost that will nourish your plants and contribute to a healthier planet.

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