The Benefits of Composting

Discover the many reasons that compost is good for you and your garden.
Water the Plants

Water the Plants

Soil amended with compost will be better at retaining moisture, meaning you can water less often.

Soil amended with compost will be better at retaining moisture, meaning you can water less often.

Good for the Environment

Some folks get into composting for environmental reasons. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, compostable materials such as paper, yard trimmings, food waste and wood waste account for more than half of our country’s waste. When fresh green-waste from the kitchen or landscape are sent to decompose in a landfill, they release high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane. Home composting is a great way to recycle waste that would normally be sent to a landfill. The result is a great product that can improve soil around the home and benefit the plants and animals that inhabit the landscape.

Good for the Wallet

Depending on the techniques used, composting can create great alternatives to store-bought compost, humus, mulch, seedling mixtures, potting soil and other soil amendments. Some compost may provide plant nutrients at levels comparable to store-bought fertilizers, although that is not usually the case. Even if your homemade compost is low in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, when added to the garden the microbes in compost can help unlock nutrients that are already in the soil, making them more easily available to plants. Depending on your garden needs, a little extra work with a compost pile could result in significant savings.

Great for the Garden

If you’re looking for a way to improve your garden soil, compost is hard to beat. For instance, garden compost improves both the water retention and drainage of soils. How does that work? Water tends to cling to small soil particles – the smaller the particle, the higher the soil’s water retention. Clay soils have much smaller soil particles than sand, which explains why sandy soils tend to be freely draining while clays can become fairly murky. When added to the soil, larger compost particles allow water to drain better than packed, small soil particles. Yet the organic material in compost acts like a sponge to retain just the right amount of water for plants and soil organisms.

Mixing compost with your garden soil adds organic matter. A healthy topsoil should have at most 5% organic matter. However, topsoil may be lost to erosion or during initial home construction. Some state extension agencies are able to tell you how much organic matter is in your topsoil when you mail in a soil test. When mixed in and given time, compost can improve hard-packed clay soils to create a fluffier, more desirable texture. The compost will feed soil organisms and make it easier for plant roots to penetrate the soil, eventually making clays somewhat easier to work in.

Composting is Fun!

There’s nothing quite like seeing a pile of grass clippings, autumn leaves, kitchen scraps and other materials transformed into dark, humusy finished compost. It’s exciting! Whether you choose to be a relaxed composter with a slowly decomposing pile, a speedy composter who has finished compost in a matter of weeks, or the scientific composter who carefully measures temperature, adds certain ingredients in specific amounts and turns at the exact right moment to get a high quality product, you will certainly end up with something that makes you feel proud.

Gardening Tips: Composting 03:14

Learn how to make a simple compost bin that lets nature do the work.
Keep Reading

Next Up

Easier Gardening for Seniors

Learn about the benefits of raised beds and vertical gardening, the proper way to kneel and to bend, and how to position your hand when pruning to avoid wrist stress.

How to Determine Your Gardening Zone

The newly revised USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map can help pinpoint your gardening zone to within a half-mile of your home.

To-Do List for Fall Gardening

October and November are good months to do some gardening and landscaping. Here are just a few things a gardener could -- or should -- be doing.

Fall Gardening, Planting and Lawn Care Tips

The gardening season isn't over when the weather gets cooler.

How to Compost and the Different Types of Compost Bins

Learn about the different types of compost bins and what household items can be composted.

20 Outdoor and Gardening Products You Need This Spring

Get outside and decorate, grow, camp or maintain your yard with one of these cool products.

Plastic Tumbler Compost Bins

Consider these important factors if you're planning on making a tumbling compost barrel.

Succulent Gardens

Succulent gardens, both indoors and out, are interesting, low maintenance, and easy, and contain a variety of sometimes-bizarre plants in many shapes, sizes, colors, and features. The most crucial things they need are bright light, and well-drained soils that never stay wet.

How to Build a Wood Compost Bin

Before you build a compost bin, check out these tips and tricks for getting it set up and started.


Get Social With Us

We love to DIY. You love to DIY. Let's get together.

Consult Our A-Z Guide

Everything You Need to Know

Browse a full list of topics found on the site, from accessories to mudrooms to wreaths.  

How-To Advice and Videos

Get video instructions about kitchens, bathrooms, remodeling, flooring, painting and more.

Watch DIY Downloads Now

Watch DIY Network LIVE

Don't miss your favorite shows in real time online.