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How to Compost

There are essentially three major ways to compost. We will be covering 2 out of three. The first way, the one we will not cover here, is making your own compost on the bare ground. As we shared earlier because we are largely focusing on more urban rather than rural areas we will be focusing on the Compost Tumbler or enclosed Bins as well as the store bought compost options. Urban spaces typically lack the space needed to dedicate to cultivating compost. Compost is also a delicate processes. Although it is a fairly simple process, because you are dealing with decomposition and microorganisms disease prevention and sanitary needs must be carefully attended to when taking on composting. Nonetheless, if you have questions about composting piles made on the bare ground, just ask and we will answer your questions.


A tumbler is simply a barrel of sorts that can be rotated or turned to promote air flow and encourage the compositing process. Commercial tumblers are typically made from recycled plastics. The tumbler is filled with compost friendly material according to the directions of the tumbler. Compost friendly materials include such items as:

  • grass clippings
  • tree leaves
  • vegetable food scraps (coffee grounds, lettuce, potato peels, banana peels, avocado skins, etc.)
  • black and white newspaper
  • printer paper
  • most disease free yard waste
  • cardboard
  • animal manure (e.g. cows, horses, rabbits, hamsters, etc.)
  • Wood shavings or sawdust

Tumblers are more ideal for urban settings because the composting process is contained within the bin, barrel or tumbler. It is also activated with commercial starters, manures, already finished compost, garden soil or nothing at all. The organic materials are broken down, as in the compost heap method, by microbes and other living organisms fueled by oxygen. To encourage the composting process the tumbler is turned twice or three times a week, mixing the microbes with the organic material while infusing fresh supplies of oxygen. The key here is that the tumbler keeps the materials contained, as well as the heat the process generates. In a month or two fresh compost is produced. As gardener’s say, you now have black gold. This is still technically making it yourself.

A Quick Guide to Buying Compost

There are four main types of compost that are commercially sold by the bag as Bonnie Plants shares with us. Keep in mind that you may need a lot of compost to cover your area in which case it may be best to buy bulk. However, some compost will instruct you to use it sparingly as too much of some of the composts’ content may not be good for the plants that you are growing or the soil you are cultivating.

Type 1: Yard Waste Compost

Yard waste compost is made from leaves and grass clippings. It has a light texture similar to peat moss and is usually inexpensive. It is sold in bags or may be even offered for free from municipal mulch piles. Some municipalities also deliver composted leaves by the load for a fee. Check with your city or county government to see if this service is available. Local Master Gardeners may also know where you can get free yard waste compost. Yard waste compost is especially beneficial to heavy clay soil or any soil that contains very little organic matter. Yard waste compost is a great source of organic matter, but it’s lean on nutrients. Don’t forget the fertilizer when you prepare planting space with this type of compost.

Type 2: Manure Compost

Composted manure may be made from cow, horse, or poultry manures that have been combined with sawdust, yard waste, or other high-carbon materials to create a rich yet heavy-textured compost. A little goes a long way, especially in naturally fertile soils. Composted manure contains several important nutrients, so you can reduce fertilizer application rates by half when using this type of compost. Organic growers who incorporate composted manure into the soil in bulk do so in the fall to make sure that bacterial pathogens from the manure are gone by the time the crop is planted. The bagged composted manure that you’ll find in garden centers has usually been treated to kill bacteria.

Type 3: Mushroom Compost

Mushroom compost starts out as rich and hot compost made from straw and horse or cow manure or plant meals. Then, just as the compost cools down, it is inoculated with mushroom spawn and given just the right conditions to produce delicious button mushrooms. After the mushrooms fruit, the leftover soil is packaged and resold. Mushroom compost is often smelly when you first open the bag, but the odor goes away in a few days. It contains several important nutrients, so you can reduce fertilizer application rates by about one third when using this type of compost.

Type 4: VermiCompost

Vermicompost or worm castings are produced from manures, food wastes, and paper, yard waste, or other bulky material. Under carefully controlled conditions, the ingredients are processed by millions of redworms, and their waste becomes vermincompost. Before it is sold, vermincompost is usually mixed with high-quality soil to improve its texture and dilute its nutrients. The potency of vermicompost varies among products, so follow application rates given on the product’s label. Too much vermicompost can injure plant roots and flood the soil with excessive salts. Vermicompost is best used to prepare soil for root crops or as a midseason pick-me-up for peppers, tomatoes, and other vegetables that bear for a long time. Ever-bearing strawberries grown in containers also respond well to topdressing with vermicompost.

How will you choose to compost? Why is that method of composting good for you? What do you think are the benefits of composting? How can you save by composting? Share your thoughts with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing.

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