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close up of hands holding composted soil

Composting is the biological decomposition of organic waste such as food or plant material by bacteria, fungi, worms and other organisms under controlled aerobic (occurring in the presence of oxygen) conditions. The end result of composting is an accumulation of partially decayed organic matter called humus. Composting with worms (also known as vermiculture) results in nutrient-loaded worm castings.

  • Why Compost?
    • It's easy
    • It creates a useful soil enricher
    • It's an environmentally-sound way of reducing yard waste

    Yard waste includes leaves, grass clippings, brush, and prunings. Some states (including Florida) have banned yard waste from landfills. Leaves and grass clippings can be used as mulch in your garden or landscape. Yard waste that will be picked up should be bundled or bagged.

  • How Does Composting Work?

    Step 1: Choose the right composting method for you

    There are two kinds of composting: bin/pile composting and worm composting (vermiculture). The type of composter used should be the one that best suits your needs and capabilities. In bin/pile composting, you will simply add organic materials from your home and yard. Worm composting is a popular way to process small amounts of food and paper waste. 

    Step 2: Choose the right location for your compost bin

    Consider how you will get the raw materials to the pile and how the finished compost will be moved to the area it will be used.

    Step 3: Decide what to compost

    To build a compost pile, simply alternate layers of browns and greens.

    vegetable and food scraps dried leaves, grass, mulch, or hay egg yolks (they attract vermin)
    grass clippings and yard waste cardboard rolls meat (attracts flies and rodents)
    coffee grounds sawdust oil and grease (creates odor, attracts vermin)
    tea bags lint pesticides (can kill composting organisms)
    egg shells newspaper (shredded) pet waste (carries disease, attracts flies) 
      fireplace ashes  
      clean paper  
      wool/cotton rags   

    Step 4: The composting process

    compost recipe

    The compost pile should be periodically mixed to incorporate oxygen. Regularly check the internal temperature and turn over the mixture when it reaches 140°F.The compost pile should be built in layers 3 - 4 inches deep. Composting still happens if the pile is not turned, but the materials break down slowly.

    Step 5: Using compost around your home

    Once the composting process is complete, the result is a dark, nutrient-rich humus that has many uses:

    • Soil Amendment: work a 1 - 3 inch layer of compost into garden soil
    • Mulch: apply a 2 - 3 inch layer on top of existing soil
    • Potting mix: blend with potting soil for container plants

Original website content and design created by Mark Hostetler, Elizabeth Swiman, and Sarah Webb Miller. With the help of UF/IFAS Communications, the current look and functionality was streamlined for the UF/IFAS Extension Solutions for Your Life website. Al Williamson of UF/IFAS Communications uploads the steaming video for each episode. Images on this website were taken prior to national guidelines of face coverings and social distancing. The site is currently maintained and updated by Tom Barnash and Mark Hostetler.