Compost is a common name for the decomposition of organic matter. The decomposition is performed primarily by microbes, although larger creatures such as ants, nematodes, and oligochaete worms also help decompose organic matter.

Compost is used in gardening and agriculture as a soil amendment. It is also used for erosion control, land/stream reclamation, wetland construction, and as landfill cover.

What is Composting?

Composting is the controlled decomposition of organic matter. Composting speeds up the time it takes to decompose organic matter. To perform at an optimal speed, a compost mix needs active microbes as well as the correct mix of the following ingredients:

  • carbon
  • nitrogen
  • oxygen (from the air)
  • water

Benefits of Composting

If done correctly, composting will provide a free supply of the best possible soil improvement material for your garden and an alternative to all the expensive artificial fertilizers and peat. It is also a great seed starting medium.

Composting Tips

  • microorganisms involved in the composting process thrive in moist conditions
    • for optimum performance, moisture content within the composting environment should be maintained at 45 percent.
  • the ideal particle size is around 2 to 3 inches
  • compost is ready to use when it turns deep brown, is crumbly, and looks and smells like soil
  • most odor problems are caused by either too much moisture or too much green/nitrogen rich material
  • introduce more oxygen to the compost by mixing the materials, turning that materials, and breaking up the clumps
  • the ideal size of a backyard composting pile is 3ft x 3 ft x 3 ft

What can you Compost?

Your garden will benefit from composting the following items:

  • fruit and vegetable peelings
  • prunings and broken-up twigs
  • grass cuttings (In layers not exceeding 10 cm.)
  • cut flowers
  • autumnal leaf falls
  • horse, rabbit, pigeons & chicken manures
  • straw
  • feathers, hair and fur
  • tea leaves/bags
  • coffee grounds
  • shredded wood/branches
  • crushed egg shells
  • shredded newspaper

Do not compost the following items:

  • meat, meat products, fish or cheese
  • cooked scraps or scrapings
  • persistent weeds** or weeds in seed
  • eiseased plants
  • soot or coal ash
  • human feces or used baby diaper
  • pet litter or pet waste
  • metal, glass, plastic, artificial textiles
  • napkins or paper towels that have synthetic additives

Can I compost tea bags and tea leaves?

Yes! Tea leaves are great additions to the compost. Tea bags are a big more questionable. If the bag is made of polypropylene, it will not decompose and should not be composted. Polypropylene bags are often be slippery to the touch and have a heat-sealed edge.

Can I compost napkins or paper towels?

Do not compost any paper towels that have synthetic additives, including bleach, and are advertised as disinfectants or fragrant. Paper towels that are made of 100% recycled material can be composted.