Compost 101

Composting is a great inexpensive way to fertilize your garden! Composting not only adds nutrients back to the soil from plant and food waste, but it can also increase your soil’s aeration, drainage and structure. In sandy soils, compost can help retain water, and in clay soils, compost can help increase drainage. Best of all, the additional organic matter in your soil will attract more beneficial decomposers and worms to your garden! 

All ways of composting require: 

  1. A designated place for your compost pile or a tumbler in which to put your compost ingredients
  2. Green material* (nitrogen-heavy plant or food waste) that has been shredded as much as possible-see note below
  3. Brown material* (carbon-heavy plant or food waste) that has been shredded as much as possible-see note below
  4. Water
  5. Air
  6. Pitchfork to turn your compost and accelerate decomposition

*Generally, you want your compost ratio of green waste to be twice as much as your brown waste. Brown material is carbon-rich and will provide microorganisms with energy, but nitrogen is required for them to break this carbon-rich stuff down. Adding enough green material rich in nitrogen will help accelerate decomposition. The perfect ratio of greens to browns is debated, so feel free to experiment with yours! Brown materials are usually fluffier, so if you were to add two buckets of green material, you would want to pack down your brown material as much as you can into one bucket to achieve the 2:1 ratio. 50/50 will work too. Here you can find a helpful infographic on the basics, troubleshooting tips, and a list of the acceptable greens and browns to add. 

The general steps to composting are layering brown and green material in a high, compact pile, adding water and turning it with a pitchfork once every few days to every few weeks, depending on how fast you want your compost pile to break down. 

Check out our other posts spotlighting the different approaches to composting, then decide which method will work best for your school garden. You may choose two approaches to employ at the same time. This infographic breaks down (pun intended) the whole process for you in a simple to understand format. Time to get composting!