5 Composting Tips to Turn Household Waste into Fertilizer

Compost dirtPhoto: normanack

All organic matter eventually decomposes. Composting speeds the process by providing an ideal environment for bacteria and other decomposing microorganisms, and the final product looks and feels like fertile garden soil. Decomposing organisms consist of bacteria, fungi and larger organisms such as worms and numerous other bugs.

Decomposing organisms need four key elements to thrive: nitrogen, carbon, moisture, and oxygen. When doing your own composting, mix materials high in nitrogen (such as clover, fresh grass clippings and livestock manure) and those high in carbon (such as dried leaves and twigs) for best results. If there is not a good supply of nitrogen-rich material, a handful of general lawn fertilizer will help the nitrogen-carbon ratio. Moisture is provided by rain, but you may need to water or cover the pile to keep it damp. Be careful not to saturate the pile. Turning or mixing the pile provides oxygen and frequent turning yields faster decomposition.

Escuela BarrealesPhoto: Diego Grez

1. Getting Started
Many materials can be added to a compost pile, including leaves, grass clippings, straw, woody brush, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, livestock manure, sawdust and shredded paper. Do not use diseased plants, meat scraps that may attract animals and dog or cat manure, which can carry diseases. Composting can be as simple or as involved as you would like, and depends on how much yard waste you have, how fast you want results, and the effort you are willing to make.