notes, musings and rants from plant lovers

Looking For a Miracle? Start Composting

written by: San Francisco Botanical Garden posted: March 4, 2010


It’s Composting Time!

Some call it compost, some call it humus, I call it a miracle.  It’s easy to make.   The trash you’re dealing with was designed to decompose–It’ll rot all on its own.  Here’s some tips for making compost.

Compost is the heart of the organic garden

Yum. A nutrition-packed tub of homemade compost!

Compost, the crumbly, dark-brown, soil-like stuff made from yard waste and fruit and vegetable trimmings from your kitchen, improves your soil fertility like nothing else.

Plants get their nutrients from the soil and compost ensures there’s plenty of nutrients for them to absorb.

The Basics:

1. You need to choose a bin. This could be anything from a fancy $150 store-bought bin, down to four flats you lift from a dumpster and rope together to form a compost corral.

2. Mix browns (carbon-heavy, dry, woody materials — branches, bark, fallen leaves) with greens (nitrogen-rich, moist, green materials — lawn clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps). Ideally, you should have equal amounts of brown and green materials. But that’s nearly impossible to do. We don’t generate waste in nice tidy proportions, so toss in whatever you have whenever you have it. Note that too many browns may retard the composting process while too many greens may lead to a smelly pile. If you’re pile stinks, turn it over to get some oxygen moving through it.

3. If you want your pile to break down quicker, chop up all materials as small as your attention span will allow. The smaller the matter, the quicker it decomposes.

4. Give it air. Whether it smells or not, turning your pile over with a shovel or pitchfork, stirring it up so the top layer makes it to the bottom and vice versa, provides a needed burst of oxygen that will accelerate decomposition.

5. Using your garden hose, keep your pile as moist as a wrung-out sponge. A dry pile takes a long time to decompose, while too much moisture will cause your pile to go anaerobic, also slowing down the process. (An anaerobic pile can get smelly, but all you need to do is turn it over to get some oxygen in.)

What to compost:

Fruit and vegetable trimmings
Coffee grounds, paper filters and tea bags
Egg shells
All yard waste — leaves, grass clippings, dead annuals, branches
Untreated sawdust
Herbivore manures

Meat, bones, fish
Dairy products
Dog, cat or bird poo
Diseased plants
Sawdust from treated woods or plywood

Itching to learn more?

Check out this You Tube video


And this site:

Tell us why you love compost.   Share your compost secrets with us.

One Comment to

“Looking For a Miracle? Start Composting”

  1. On August 6th, 2010 at 5:39 pm Wendy Says:

    I love compost because it’s pure alchemy. It never fails to amaze me to look in the bin and see all the worms and other composting critters hard at work. Where did they come from? I love the fact that I can take waste and turn it into sweet-smelling, black, gold, all without leaving my back yard.

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