Composting 101

For soil building, garden fertilizing, and environmental responsibility.

Mantis Backyard ComposTumbler finished compost

What is Compost?

Backyard composting is the intentional and managed decomposition of organic materials for the production of compost, that magical soil enhancer that is fundamental to good gardening. Compost is decomposed organic material. The organic material can be plant material or animal matter. While composting may seem mysterious or complicated, it’s really a very simple and natural process that continuously occurs in nature, often without any assistance from people. If you’ve walked in the woods, you’ve experienced compost in its most natural setting. Both living plants and annual plants that die at the end of the season are consumed by animals of all sizes, from larger mammals, birds, and rodents to worms, insects, and microscopic organisms. The result of this natural cycle is compost, a combination of digested and undigested food that is left on the forest floor to create rich, usually soft, sweet-smelling soil.

Garden Benefits

Compost is great for the garden because it improves the soil, which in turn supports healthier and more productive plants. Compost provides virtually all of the essential nutrients for healthy plant growth, and it almost always releases those nutrients over time to give plants a slow, steady, consistent intake of the elements essential for growth. Compost also improves the soil’s structure, making it easier for soil to hold and use the right amount of moisture and air.

What’s the Best Way to Make Compost?

To make compost, you’ll need to dedicate some outdoor space to the process. Ideally, the location of your compost production should be convenient to the garden, as well as close to the source of the raw materials (kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, etc.), without being an unappealing eyesore. Consider a Mantis Composter as you create your gardening strategy.

Turn, Turn, Turn

You’ll maximize your composting efforts if you continuously turn, or mix, the heap. Mixing your heap will help to keep the browns and greens in balance, will distribute moisture, and add essential air (oxygen) to the mixture. The core inside of the compost heap is always hotter and is the center of activity. The outside is generally less active and much cooler. To increase the efficiency of the composting process, mix the heap to bring more of the raw materials from the outside to the core. Bring more food and water to the busy little micro bugs on the inside.

While the compost is working, or “cooking,” the best tool for turning is a pitch fork or garden fork. When the compost is completely, or almost completely done, using a Mantis Tiller to mix the compost provides a great consistency, and makes applying the compost (by shovel) very easy.

Additional Composting Resources