Basic Composting

Basic CompostingHave you ever wondered what to do with all your kitchen or garden waste? Why not get started with composting? Gamble Garden recently hosted a composting workshop in conjunction with Greenwaste of Palo Alto and Santa Clara County’s Composting Education Program. Participants learned the basics of composting and received free bags of OMRI certified organic compost.

If you missed the workshop and want to catch up, here are a few basics to get you started:

What is compost?

Compost is organic material made from decomposed organic matter such as leaves and vegetable scraps It can be added to soil to help plants grow. Farmers and gardeners often refer to compost as Black Gold because it is rich in nutrients and promotes soil microbes that aid plant growth.

Why compost?

Composting is cost-effective, easy to do, and has many environmental benefits. Composting is:

Good for your soil

Compost encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material. It also helps retain moisture and suppresses plant diseases and pests.

Good for the environment

Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Simply put, composting lowers your carbon footprint.

Good for your wallet

Composting reduces the need for pricey chemical fertilizers. It also reduces household trash. Did you know that food scraps and yard waste currently make up about 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away? Compost them instead, and you can reduce the size of the garbage bins that you pay for!

What can I compost?

Typical ingredients include fruit and vegetable trimmings from your kitchen, old plants from your vegetable garden, and leaves and grass clippings from your yard. Consult the this handout for a list of materials that you can and cannot compost.

How do I get started?

Decide what kinds of materials you would like to compost. You can compost materials in bins or in an open pile. The type of  system and container you select will depend on which materials you want to compost. Whenever you generate compost material (after peeling potatoes, chopping onions, cutting grass, etc..), add it to your compost pile. Over time, the bottom of your pile will begin to resemble a rich soil with a nice, earthy smell. You’ve made compost!

Whatever system you end up choosing, there are three basic steps:


Chop your composting materials before you add them to your pile or bin. This helps them break down more quickly.


Make sure you have a good mix of “browns” (dry, woody materials) and “green” (moist, green materials).


Keep your compost materials moist and well aerated. This means watering your compost pile and turning it over every week or so.

For more details, check out this handout prepared by Santa Clara County’s Composting Education Program.