The idea is simple, just collect disease- and insect-free plant
debris into a heap and let it decompose into a fine, nutrient rich
material that helps improve the soil. Don’t add meat, dairy,
invasive plants, weeds that have gone to seed or perennial weeds
that can take root and grow in your compost pile.
Speed things up by layering yard waste with soil or compost, adding
a bit of fertilizer to each layer and moistening to a consistency of
a damp sponge. Further speed up the process by making the pile at
least three-feet tall and wide.
Turn the pile as time allows, moving the more decomposed materials
from the center to the outside of the pile. It’s a great work out
and speeds up the decomposition. The more effort you put into
composting the sooner you have rich organic matter for your garden.
Build the pile in a location that is convenient for adding raw
materials and harvesting the finished compost. Consider placing the
pile near a water source to make moistening the pile easier. Avoid
poorly drained locations that may lead to the pile of compost
becoming waterlogged. Soggy materials break down more slowly and may
Enclose the pile in a bin to keep the process neat and tidy.
Purchase a compost bin or make your own from fencing, concrete
reinforcement wire or old heat-treated pallets.
Single bin wire composters are easy to assemble and move. Enclosed
bins keep materials out of sight and neighbors or less enthusiastic
family members happy. Look for bins of sturdy UV resistant
materials, ventilation for efficient composting and designed for
easy loading and unloading.
Tumbler composters are great for small spaces and make loading,
unloading and turning much easier. The closed system also keeps out
rodents, wildlife and pets. Add garden waste, keep it consistently
moist and give it a turn. Continually adding fresh material slows
the process, but you will still end up with good compost. Speed up
decomposition with two tumblers. Fill one tumbler with plant waste
and let it cook, while collecting fresh materials in the second. Not
enough room for two? Try the Dual-Batch Compost Tumbler (gardeners.com),
Compost Twin or other tumbler system with two individual bins
mounted on one support. Further speed up results with an insulated
unit like the Jorafoam Composter 125. The insulation ensures compost
reaches higher temperatures for more efficient composting.
[to top of second column]
And don’t let cold temperatures or a lack of space stop you.
Everyone can convert kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich compost with
the help of red worms. Convert a plastic container filled with
shredded paper into a home for the worms and place to recycle plant
based food scraps. Or dress things up with a stylish bin like the
green Worm Farm Composter and move the worms indoors for convenient
Add finished compost to your vegetable and annual gardens every
spring to help build healthy soil and a productive and beautiful
garden. Or spread a one-inch layer over the soil surface of
perennials gardens every year or two to keep your flowers looking
As you clear out the summer garden, put all that green debris to
work. Convert it to rich compost for next year’s garden. Then enjoy
the many benefits it will have on your landscape.
[Melinda Myers with photo by
Gardener's Supply Company]
Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience
and has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space
Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food
Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated
Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist
and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was
commissioned by Gardener’s Supply Company for her expertise to write
this article. Myers’ web site is