We're crazy about composting. The environmentally-friendly process minimizes household waste and brings vital nutrients to your garden. Our resident floral expert Buffy Hargett Miller is sharing how to create the best, most effective natural compost. And, you'd be surprised at some of the foods that you've been throwing away that'll actually help out your garden. Organic matter consists of the decaying remains of plants and animals. It does a good job of binding clay particles together (better than gypsum). This results in improved drainage and aeration as well as sofer and lighter soil. It also increases the soil's fertility while creating a friendly environment for beneficial soil microbes and earthworms. Organic matter comes in many forms. One of our favorites is the leaves and pine needles that fall from trees in autumn. Shred them with a mulching mower and then either till them into the ground or lay them atop the soil as mulch. They do a great job, and you can't beat the price! Collect rotten fruit that’s fallen to the ground or still hanging on the plant. Add in used potting soil for next year’s plants. Dump it in the compost, and start with fresh potting soil next year. Composting requires a few basic steps and some inexpensive equipment.

Air and water: The bin you choose takes care of these two necessary elements. Purchase a ready-made slatted model, or make one out of sturdy wire mesh. Air circulation keeps the composting process active, and rainwater will escape from the bottom.

Nitrogen: Left alone, leaves will break down into compost. With a little help, though, the process speeds up. Place a layer of leaves about 1 foot deep in the bin. Sprinkle manure, grass clippings, or kitchen waste (all provide nitrogen) on top, and then add another layer of leaves. Continue this process throughout the fall, adding the natural nitrogen as you go.

Turn it over: Several times during the winter, use a garden fork to turn the compost. This aerates the pile and aids the decomposition process. It also makes for great winter exercise.

You May Like