How Composting Works

Composting is the decomposition of materials that originated from animals and plants. These organic materials can be things such as plant trimmings, vegetable cuttings, eggshells and teabags. The end result of composting is a dark, crumbly organic matter that can be used as fertilizer in garden soil.

The composting is performed by various bacteria, fungi and insects which naturally inhabit soil - they break down the material in aerobic conditions, which means it is a process which occurs with little oxygen present. These organisms generate heat as they decompose the organic matter you have added, and break it into fine particles. Composting is nature’s own method of waste disposal and soil fertilization.

Applying compost to soils provides an excellent conditioner and mulch, which fertilizes and provides soil structure, retains moisture and can restrict weed growth. Making your own compost from organic waste is a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to the peat based compost extracted from wildlife sites. Composting also saves food waste from going into the landfill, or from going into the waste disposal.

Stages of Composting

The stages of composting:

  1. Firstly, add organic materials to your compost bin - see above for a list of recommended (and not recommended!) items.
  2. The various bacteria and fungi quickly work to break down the soft material.
  3. This process causes the inside of compost pile to heat up - to around 140°F (60°C).
  4. Once a lot of the initial work is done by these micro organisms, the compost pile will cool down, to around 80°F.
  5. Small creatures such as worms then break down the tougher material.
  6. The whole composting process usually takes between 3 to 9 months, and results in a nutrient-rich fertilizer to use in your yard.
  7. The compost that is ready to use is best taken from the bottom of the pile, which allows the rest of the pile to continue to be worked upon by the worms and other insects.