The Art and Science of Composting

The Art and Science of Composting
  • Opening Intro -

    One important way for a homeowner to improve his property is to attend to the yard in order to bring forth a healthy lawn and a garden rich in a variety of flowers, shrubs and other ornamentation.


A simple way to improve your lawn and gardens.

The visual appeal of your home is greatly enhanced when the yard portion of your property looks sharp, which also is a “value added” bonus when you market your home for sale.

Homeowner Expense

The cost of maintaining your property can easily add thousands of dollars to your home’s expenses, especially if your design is intricate and incorporates expensive flowers, a pond and waterfall, and certain types of trees and shrubs. If you’re on a budget, containing your costs is paramount, something that you can do by actively composting to ensure a rich, steady supply of fresh soil to aid your lawn and garden.

Composting may not be on your list of top projects, but it can be one of the most beneficial and cost effective solutions for your home. Instead of paying a mint for bringing in top soil and mulch, you can make your own by using ingredients found in and around your home. Whatever you lack you can get from neighbors or ask your coffee shop for grounds.

Let’s take a look at the art and science of composting:

Container or not – You don’t have to buy or make a container to compost, but you should if you want a steady supply of nutrient rich soil and you don’t want to have to wait months for it. Plastic and steel containment units are available for sale, ranging in price from $40 up to several hundred dollars for units that can hand cranked. You can also build a three place wood bin from a kit or design, placing this composter in a shaded section of your yard, just out of sight.

Ingredients – Every compost pile benefits from a variety of materials including vegetable and fruit scraps, grass clippings and shredded leaves. Avoid fat, animal meat and bones as these attract wild animals and can spread disease. Your state’s cooperative extension service can give you detailed instructions of what to include and how to care for your composter, providing free advice through its website, by way of seminars and through soil sampling. [1]

Include paper – Some municipalities charge extra to haul off recyclables including paper products. Much of what you have around your home can be shredded and added to your compost pile. Black on white newprint is best as is avoiding any colors that may be toxic. Cardboard and glossy magazines should be avoided. Your cooperative extension service can help you determine the right mix of paper to include.

Monitor regularly – Your compost pile or bin needs to be checked regularly even when you aren’t adding ingredients. Marion Owen, author of “Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul” advises homeowners to add all of their ingredients at once and to make sure that the compost is always warm and damp, stirred regularly and kept secure from animals. [2] You can leave your compost alone, but without regularly mixing it, it’ll take years to make soil. Likely, you want compost sooner rather than later!

The more room you have set aside for composting, the more compost you’ll end up with over the coming months and years. Buying soil can prove expensive; besides, composting gives you an appreciation for land management and helps to reduce what ends up in municipal landfills.


[1] USDA: Cooperative Extension System Offices

[2] Plan Tea; Compost Happens!; Marion Owen; 1996

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Categories: Garden Maintenance

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Auto Trends Magazine", an online publication. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and weblogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".