What is Composting?

In nature, the breakdown of organic materials is done by the work of various micro-organisms. Composting simply enhances the rate of this natural decomposition process by maintaining the best oxygen level, moisture content, nutrient balance, free airspace, particle size, structure, temperature and pH level. This provides an environment that micro-organisms can thrive in.

Heat produced by microbial activity is a necessary component of aerobic composting. It allows for efficient decomposition, reduces pathogens and inactivates weed seeds.

Finished compost is a stabilized and mature product that has a dark brown color, earthy smell, and is humus-like with no recognizable materials. Compost can be used as a soil amendment in horticulture, landscaping, agriculture, or for land reclamation.

The quality of the finished compost is influenced by both the source of organic materials and how the compost process is maintained. To achieve high quality compost, it is best to avoid contaminating your starting organic materials with foreign objects such as metal, plastic and glass, or chemicals such as pesticides or coloured dyes.

The key to creating successful compost is following the basic ground rules for oxygen, nutrient balance, moisture, temperature, pH and particle size. These elements work together to create an ideal compost recipe.

For more information on backyard composting basics and how composting works, please see Green Action Centre's website and the Resources section.

For more information on compost monitoring, processing and large scale production, please see the Resources section.