How Does Composting Work?

It is the breakdown of tissues and compounds into simpler substances, which act as soil nutrients.
Put a pile of leaves, a cardboard box and a watermelon in your back yard, exposed to the elements, and they will eventually decompose.
How long each takes to break down depends on a number of factors:

  • what are the materials made of;
  • how much surface area is exposed;
  • the availability of moisture and air.

What Factors You Need to Check in Composting?

Organic Materials

Backyard composting is a process designed to speed up the breakdown or decomposing of organic materials. Let us take a closer look at how we manipulate the process and speed things up.
Here I use the term microbes, which include microscopic organisms and worms amongst a whole slew of “things.” Microbes live in the soil; they are the key to composting. Normally, they eat small tidbits of organic matter such as leaves and twigs that nature provides. The more these microbes have to eat the more efficient they can work. A lot of the things you call waste – for example, banana peels, rotten apples, brown wilted lettuce, fallen leaves and weeds from your garden – are food for these microbes. Meat products should not be used.

Nitrogen Inside Foods

  1. If a compost pile or compost bin smells it is because of meat products. They will eventually break down, but meat slows down the composting process. Microbes need carbon and nitrogen.
  2. Some things high in carbon include paper, sawdust, wood chips, straw, and leaves.
  3. Some things high in nitrogen include food, grass clippings, and manures. Be sure to include a mixture of wastes high in nitrogen in your compost pile. The smaller the chunks are the faster they will break down. So cut up that apple. Break up those twigs, your compost pile will reward you for your effort.

Surface Microorganisms

The more surface area the microorganisms have to work on, the faster the materials will decompose. It is like a block of ice in the sun: slow to melt when it is large, but melting very quickly when broken into smaller pieces. Chopping your garden wastes with a shovel or a machete, or running them through a shredding machine or lawnmower will increase their surface area, thus speeding up your composting
Sufficient air in the pile encourages microbial growth and speeds decomposition. We have all had the experience of smelling a mass of wet grass clippings

Ability For Air To Get Inside

Be sure your compost container had holes to allow air to get into the compost pile. These microbes need air to survive. If possible, stir or turn your compost pile every week or so to let in more air. If you do not get enough air into your compost pile, other organisms take over and give off a nasty. They also work a lot slower. I think you would prefer in your compost pile! Also, wet your compost pile. Your compost pile should be about as moist as a sponge that has just been wrung out. If there is not much rainfall, add water to your compost pile.

Air Temperature Inside Compost Bin

Compost piles should range in temperatures of about 90 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit or 32 to 60 degrees Celsius. Higher temperatures produce will kill major disease organisms and fly larvae, help kill weed seeds, and provide a good environment for the most effective decomposer organisms If the temperature is too low in your compost pile, many of your microbes will die, and those other microorganisms will take over. You know the slow smelly ones.

How Heating Affects Creating Soil Compost

The plant matter will require heat and moisture for quick breakdown. The summer sun will provide the heat, but it will be the gardener’s responsibility to soak the compost area from time to time for the moisture.

Size Of Compost Pile

If your compost pile is too small, it will be cold. The best way to keep it warm is to build a pile at least three feet x three feet x three feet (one meter x one meter x one meter).
Extremes of sun, wind, or rain can adversely affect this balance in your pile.

Understanding For Effective Composting

Understanding these key factors when composting allows for efficient, quick break down of kitchen and yard wastes, turning them into “Black Gold”!


If you supply all these things – food, air, and moisture in a good-sized pile – You will get your compost in about six weeks. The larger the pile the longer it will take. A poorly attended compost pile can take years to decompose.

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