Garden Compost Basics: Everything You Need to Know

Composting is a simple process that can benefit your garden in many ways. Garden composting involves collecting organic waste such as leaves, grass clippings, fruit, vegetable scraps, and paper products and allowing them to decompose over time. This process creates a nutrient-rich soil that can be used to enrich your garden beds, feed your plants, and help reduce waste. In this article, we will discuss the basics of garden composting, including the benefits of composting, how to start composting, and what materials can be composted.

Benefits of Garden Composting

Composting has several benefits for your garden, including:

  • Reducing waste: Composting diverts organic materials from landfills, where they would take up space and produce methane gas, which is harmful to the environment.
  • Improving soil structure: Compost is an excellent soil conditioner that helps improve soil structure and texture, allowing for better water retention and aeration.
  • Enriching soil: Compost is rich in nutrients that plants need to grow, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
  • Reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers: Using compost instead of synthetic fertilizers can help reduce the amount of chemicals in your garden and help prevent nutrient runoff into local waterways.
  • Supporting healthy plant growth: Compost contains beneficial microorganisms that can help support healthy plant growth.

How to Start Composting

Starting a compost pile is easy and requires minimal effort. Here are the basic steps to get started:

  1. Choose a location: Find a location in your yard that is convenient and has good drainage. Your compost pile should be in a sunny or partially shaded area.
  2. Gather materials: Collect organic materials such as kitchen scraps, yard waste, leaves, and paper products. Avoid adding meat, dairy, or oily foods to your compost pile, as they can attract pests and slow down the composting process.
  3. Build your compost pile: Start by creating a base layer of twigs or straw to allow for air circulation. Then, layer green materials such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps with brown materials such as leaves and shredded paper. Repeat the layering process until your pile is about 3 feet high.
  4. Maintain your compost pile: Keep your compost pile moist by watering it regularly. Turn your compost pile every few weeks to allow for air circulation and promote decomposition.

What Materials Can Be Composted?

Not all materials can be composted, and some materials should be avoided altogether. Here is a list of materials that can and cannot be composted:

Materials that can be composted:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Grass clippings
  • Leaves
  • Shredded paper products (such as newspaper and cardboard)
  • Twigs and branches
  • Sawdust (in small quantities)

Materials that should be avoided

When composting, it’s important to avoid adding certain materials that can be harmful to the composting process or attract pests. Here are some materials to avoid adding to your compost:

  1. Meat and dairy products: These materials can attract pests and slow down the decomposition process.
  2. Diseased plant material: Plant material that is diseased can contain harmful pathogens that can survive in your compost and infect your garden.
  3. Pet waste: Pet waste can contain harmful bacteria and parasites that can be harmful to humans.
  4. Fats, oils, and grease: These materials can attract pests and create an unpleasant odor in your compost.
  5. Charcoal ash: Ash from charcoal can contain harmful chemicals and should not be added to your compost.

By avoiding these materials and sticking to a diverse mix of “greens” and “browns,” you can create a healthy, nutrient-rich compost that will benefit your garden.


Q: Can I compost in an apartment or small space?
A: Yes! There are several options for composting in small spaces, including worm bins, Bokashi bins, and small-scale tumbling composters.

Q: How do I know when my compost is ready to use?
A: When your compost is dark brown and crumbly, with no recognizable pieces of material, it’s likely ready to use. You can also perform a “squeeze test” – if a handful of compost holds together and feels moist but not wet, it’s ready to use.

Q: Can I compost meat or dairy products?
A: It’s generally recommended to avoid adding meat or dairy products to your compost, as they can attract pests and slow down the decomposition process.


Composting is a simple yet powerful way to reduce waste and improve the health of your garden. By following the basics outlined in this article, you can create your own nutrient-rich compost that will help your plants thrive. Remember to choose a suitable location, gather a diverse mix of materials, and be patient as your compost works its magic. Happy composting!

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Alan J. Lawson
Alan J. Lawson
I am the owner of thegardenpoint. I'm from Jacksonville, Florida and I have a garden and I love gardening that's why I'm blogging with garden related. Also, thegardenpoint is a blog and product reviews about Garden, Lawn Care or Outdoor and various activities on your interest. My blog may help you a lot.