Making Compost for Gardens Fast and Easy: The Best Materials to Use When Composting for Rich Soil

Backyard composting speeds up the natural process of breaking down vegetation into nutrient rich soil by providing optimum conditions for this process. Compost bins can be elaborate, expensive contraptions or a simple pile in the back yard enclosed in chicken wire, it is up to the personal preferences of the gardener.

When choosing a compost bin, the home gardener should consider the size of the composting area and the ease of use of the bin. There are a number of small bins that can make composting indoors for apartment dwellers a definite possibility as well as larger bins to use outside; some composters that tumble or turn which help to make the process of mixing much easier. These composters can be built by the gardener or purchased ready-made.

Materials for Creating the Perfect Compost

When deciding on which materials to use in the compost, each gardener should consider what kind of soil they are striving for. The nutrients found in composted materials can be adjusted to concentrate the mixture more towards a nitrogen-rich mix or towards a less acidic mix, depending on the needs of the garden and the soil.

The materials used for composting can be broken down into two categories: green and brown. The brown items will add more carbon to the mix and the green materials will add more nitrogen to the mix. Green items also break down more easily. Keeping a balanced mixture of green and brown items is essential to the speed and health of the decomposition process that will happen in the composting bin.

Too much green mix such as grass clippings and green leaves, and the process will bog down because the green materials tend to be weighty and clump together, not allowing air to flow through. Mixing in brown materials such as dried leaves, paper and coffee grinds helps to add texture to the pile and keep air flowing through the pile.


Essential Ingredients for Composting

Compost piles need air, heat and moisture to complete their processes. The more balanced these items are, the faster the microbes will be able to do their jobs in the compost. Bacteria and fungi work together to break down the materials and turn them into rich organic matter, ideal for adding to gardening soil. These bacteria and fungi love warm, damp places and need oxygen to survive. Frequently turning the compost will allow air to build up in the layers of material and distribute the moisture.

When starting a compost bin, it is best to layer materials a few inches thick, varying the type with each layer. Using brown materials such as broken down sticks, stalks and paper as the first layer helps to establish a firm dry base on which to build green materials. For an extensive list of materials and their usefulness for composting plus items to avoid, see the University of Illinois Extenion’s publication, Composting for the Homeowner.