Composting for the Homeowner

Composting is the biological decomposition of organic material into a humus-like substance called compost. The process occurs naturally, but can be accelerated and improved by controlling environmental factors. People may wonder, “Why bother with composting if everything organic decomposes eventually anyway?”

If raw wastes are put directly into the soil, the decomposition process will rob the soil of nitrogen, an important nutrient for plants. (Soil incorporation is one method of composting, but requires leaving the area fallow.) Finished compost from a pile is typically a more uniform product with a better balance of nutrients. It can be used throughout the growing season in many different types of applications.

With a pile, composters have more control over adding and mixing the amount of carbon and nitrogen rich materials used to make the end product. In addition, a properly controlled composting environment can ensure production of high temperatures needed for killing weed seeds, diseased plant tissue, and pathogenic organisms.