Research Fellowships & Internships Education and Public Programs Donate About SERC Contacts SERC Home SERC Home
K-12 Home

All In the Watershed

What is a Watershed?

Stories Overview


Web of Life Places & Geology History Scientific Research Watershed Worries What You Can Do

Composting: Turning Waste Into Food

Compost has been called the secret ingredient of a great garden, and it helps protect the watershed's environment as well. You will use household waste, which would otherwise just take up space in a landfill, and turn it into a useful, valuable resource for growing food and flowers and improving the landscape.

Photo of a man in the garden building a compost pile.Picture: Creating a compost pile. Picture courtesy of Cornell Composting outside link

Composting is an integral part of organic gardening and is a great way to improve any garden.

Compost rehabilitates the soil, keeps water and nutrients in the soil, feeds plants, and kills many pests, eliminating the need for fertilizers and pesticides.

There are a few important rules to follow, such as not using meat or chemically-treated wood, but once you've learned these tricks, composting is as simple as waiting around for a few months until your "black gold" is ready.

Photo of a handful of black, nutrient-rich decomposed material.Picture: Compost, the "black gold" in your garden. Picture courtesy of Cornell Composting outside link

Composting at home can be as big or as small an operation as you want to make it. Most likely, you already have all the materials you need to start. If you have some leaves, grass clippings, and plant-based kitchen scraps, you are ready to build a compost pile; the micro-organisms that will do all the work are already present in your soil. If you don't have enough leaves or plant materials, you can always become a "leaf thief," or better yet, you can pool your resources with neighbors and start a community compost pile. Use the resources below to learn more about various ways to build and use a compost pile.

References and further reading

Cornell Compostingoutside link
"Everything you ever wanted to know about composting, but were afraid to ask? Not quite, but we do hope we've assembled some useful information." This very informative site also includes ideas for composting in schoolsoutside link.

Journey to forever: Learn more about composting and organic gardening.outside link

And if there is anything else you would like to know about composting, try www.mastercomposter.comoutside link and Smart Gardeningoutside link.