Compost bin with the text "Feed me"

An Introduction to Composting

You may have heard of composting before, but what exactly is it? Composting is the process of breaking down organic material into a nutrient-rich soil amendment that can be used to improve the quality of your garden soil.

Not only is composting great for the environment, but it can also save you money on expensive store-bought fertilizer.

Composting Basics

Composting is a way of recycling organic waste, such as leaves, grass clippings, and fruit and vegetable scraps, into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. The process of composting happens naturally when organic matter decomposes, but you can speed up the process by creating ideal conditions for microbial activity. To do this, you’ll need to provide your compost pile with four key ingredients: air, water, carbon-rich materials, and nitrogen-rich materials.

Woman hands holding compost above a container with organic waste - including vegetables.
Composting vegetables and other organic waste

Aerobic bacteria and other microbes thrive in an environment that contains oxygen. Without oxygen, anaerobic bacteria will take over and create odorous conditions. To aerate your compost pile, stir it every few days or build it in layers so that air can circulate freely through the material.

In addition to air, aerobic microbes need water to survive. Your compost pile should be kept moist—not too wet or too dry—in order for microbes to do their work. If your pile is too dry, add water until it reaches the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. If it’s too wet, add more dry carbon-rich materials like fall leaves or sawdust.

An outdoor compost being watered.
Watering compost

Carbon-rich materials are high in carbohydrates and are necessary for microbes to create energy. Examples of carbon-rich materials include dried leaves, straw, wood chips, cardboard, eggshells, coffee grounds, and sawdust.

Nitrogen-rich materials are high in proteins and are necessary for microbes to grow and reproduce. Examples of nitrogen-rich materials includefresh grass clippings, green leaves, fruit and vegetable scraps, manure from vegetarian animals (such as rabbits or horses), and seaweed.


Composting is a great way to reduce waste while also giving back to your garden. By following these simple guidelines, you can create rich compost that will improve the quality of your soil – and help the environment in the process.