Complete Guide to Composting: How, What, & Why

This summer, we’re bringing eco-friendly waste management to your home. Let’s talk about composting!

Learning how to reduce waste AND give your garden some extra TLC is just what the doctor ordered. You might be surprised to learn that it’s incredibly easy to create your own compost.

We’ve put together a complete guide to composting, so that you can learn about compost, discover why composting is beneficial for you and your community, and easily create your own compost site.

What is compost?

Compost is an organic material that has been broken down by bacteria in the process of composting. Composting is recycling organic waste products in order to produce a nutrient rich “soil conditioner.” This minimizes your contribution to landfills while also feeding your garden!

A healthy compost requires a fine-tuned ratio of water, brown materials (which provide carbon) and green materials (which provide nitrogen). Brown materials can include branches, twigs, dried leaves and wood chips. Green materials can include coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps and grass clippings.

The ratio of brown to green materials functions best at about 20 parts brown to 1 part green.

Why is compost good for plants?

Compost is good for plants for many reasons. First, compost contains many of the nutrients that plants need to grow — nutrients that are often lacking from soil alone. Compost also helps to neutralize soil pH so that it lays in a range that makes nutrients accessible for plants to grab.

Lastly, compost enriched soil encourages biodiversity, attracting beneficial insects to the soil that will help protect and encourage plant growth.

What is the difference between soil and compost?

Garden Soil

You might be wondering why you would need to use compost in addition to soil. The reality is that most plants will not be able to grow in compost alone because compost does not provide the stability for root systems that regular soil does. Compost is meant to be used as an amendment to improve the quality of your soil.

Soil, on the other hand, is the top layer of the earth, and as you know, it’s the basic medium for growing plants. Soil can be made up of a myriad of materials such as clay, silt and sand in combination with organic matter.

Compost is made out of recycled waste materials and created specifically to be used as a soil amendment or fertilizer. 

What is the right ratio of compost to soil?

The general rule of thumb is to add 1-2 inches of compost if you’re amending the soil or 1/4 to 1/2 inch to the top of soil if adding it to the top of soil. Maximums for garden beds are 30%-50% of compost in soil.

Why is composting important?

Composting significantly reduces the amount of carbon emissions given off from landfills each year. By creating your own compost, you greatly reduce your carbon footprint, while also creating nutrients that your garden will love.

When you make your own compost, you eliminating your need for toxic chemical fertilizers, which makes for a safer, healthier home, garden, and harvest. By adding compost to your garden’s soil, you enrich the soil, help your plants retain moisture, and keep pests and plant diseases at bay. 

Make Compost At-Home in 5 Easy Steps.

  1. Find a shaded and dry spot to place your compost pile or bin (bonus points if it’s close to a water source!)*
  2. After you’ve established your compost site, bury extra green materials under 10” of compost material. 
  3. Add your brown and green materials. Make sure that the larger pieces are shredded or broken down. Remember: the smaller the pieces, the faster they will break down.
  4. Add moisture to your compost initially. Add more as you add brown and green materials.
  5. Cover your compost pile with a tarp to keep the moisture contained.

*If you create your compost site inside, you will need to purchase a composting container, which can be found at your local home and garden store. Once you have your container, follow the same steps to create your compost.

Keeping up your Compost Pile

Keep an eye on your compost! When the bottom layer is extra dark and rich in color, you’ll know that your compost is ready for use. Have patience with your compost, as this process can take anywhere from 2 months to 2 years! 

Add aeration to your compost pile to help the bacteria break down the materials. Make sure to turn your compost as often as once a week in order to provide the oxygen needed for decomposition. This can be done with a shovel, a pitchfork, or (if you’re feeling fancy), a compost aerator.


Q: How much compost do I need?

Generally speaking, you need about 1-2 inches per garden. If you’re adding it to the top of soil, layer 1/4 to 1/2 inch of compost.

Q: How much compost should I add to soil?

If mixing compost into soil, use 3 parts compost to 7 parts soil. Do not mix more than 30% compost into the soil for a container garden.

Q: How to incorporate compost into soil?

Dig compost into the soil thoroughly — particularly the top six inches. If amending again later, you can simply add the compost to the top 1/2 inch of soil.

Q: How much does a bag of compost cost?

On average, compost costs about $4.50 per 40 lb bag. Save costs by creating your own compost or purchasing nutrient-rich soil that’s already amended.

Composting is a fun and useful way to reduce carbon emissions. Your garden will thank you immensely, and you can rest knowing you’re creating a healthier home and environment.