We’ve scoured the web, sifted through the rubbish, and hand-picked the best tips and information on how to compost we could find. Enjoy!

We continually add to this compost blog, so please check back often. Also, you can share tips and ask questions over at our Composting Forum page.

Composting 101 – How to Make Compost

Composting 101Welcome to COMPOSTING 101, Planet Natural’s go-to guide for turning what unsuspecting folks call yard waste into garden magic. Here you’ll find all you need to know about the best ingredients, containers, techniques, time-honored wisdom and common mistakes that will let you build the healthiest soil your plants will ever see.

3 Essential Elements for Perfect Compost

It’s time to let you in on a little secret: this type of soil building is the perfect lazy person’s gardening project. Unlike weeding or double-digging, which take lots of time and physical effort, a compost pile pretty much takes care of itself. Build it right, and it will transform your growing expectations. (more…)

Can You Compost Tomatoes?

Composting TomatoesKeep tomato plants out of the landfill? Or keep tomato diseases out of your garden? It’s not always simple.

Your friendly Planet Natural blogger never thought much about composting tomatoes until a reader sent in a question about it. We’ve always done it if, at the end of the season, the plants had been healthy and showed no signs of blight, wilt or insect infestations. Thing is, by the end of the season, especially in damper climates, tomatoes often show signs of all these things.

Add to that the fact that the dry, stringy vines don’t break down quickly and tend to get tangled up with everything else in the pile, and the result is this: I don’t end up composting tomato plants very often. (more…)

Coffee Grounds and Compost

Coffee GroundsIs it okay to use coffee grounds in the garden as a soil amendment?

One of the more interesting blogs out there has a pdf paper on one of those consequential issues of interest to inquiring gardeners: coffee grounds.

The blog is horticulturalist and associate professor at Washington State University’s Puyallup’s Research and Extension Center Linda Chalker-Scott’s “Myths, Miracles … or Marketing?,” a series of papers that explores the research on such timely questions as the effectiveness of wood chips as mulch or the risks of using water retention crystals known as “hydrogels.” (more…)

What’s the Best Compost?

Finished CompostAnswer: Homemade compost. Here’s why.

It’s no secret. The best compost is the compost you make yourself. Why? The answer has to do with what you put in your composter as well as what some of the big, commercial grade composters put in theirs.

Homemade compost can be better even if you don’t do your own composting. More about that later.

At the height of spring planting season, compost is on the move. Lots of us are out buying it to spread in our gardens. Those of us who make our own, are screening and harvesting compost from our bins and tumblers for application in our landscapes. We’re thinking about the next batch and what we’ll be throwing into our barrels or our piles, now that we’ve taken what we can. (more…)

Worm Castings: Plant Superfood

Worm CastingsThe benefits of making and using nature’s best organic compost at home.

One thing we’ve noticed over the last few years of haunting nurseries and other stores selling garden supplies is the growing availability of worm castings. Big box home and garden stores — even Walmart — now carry the best soil amendment nature provides.

What makes worm castings so great? It’s the worm. As it digests the organic materials it consumes, it refines them. Nutrients, including minerals, are reduced to their most usable form. The castings have a neutral pH of 7.0. (more…)

Make Soil For Your Raised Beds

Raised Bed GardenStraw bale gardening and other tips to build the best soil for your raised beds.

Adding some raised beds to your garden this year? Great idea. I’ve seen it said that raised beds produce about four times the amount of produce as do row crops. Plants seem more vigorous there in early season, probably because the soil in a raised bed warms faster than that in the garden patch. As gardeners, we love early season growth.

None of this is true, of course, if the soil in your raised bed isn’t at its best. And that’s the great things about raised beds. You can dig them out and fill them as you like. Think of them as a controlled experiment in which you’re looking for just the right, airy mix of organic materials — including beneficial microbes and other living things — and naturally occurring nutrients like nitrogen and minerals. (more…)

Contaminated Potting Soil and Compost

Potting SoilBagged soils can contain herbicides, gnats, and other unsavory problems.

Stories about compost possibly contaminated with heavy metals from sewage waste and disastrous herbicides turning up in potting soil aren’t new. In 2010, the University of Maryland Extension put out a “Gardener’s Alert! Beware of Herbicide-Contaminated Compost and Manure.” The Ohio State University Extension put out a fact sheet on one persistent pesticide showing up in compost that kills off tomato, eggplant and other nightshade family vegetables as well as beans and sunflower.

But it seems more recently that gardeners are starting to pay attention to other problems that come with mass-produced, commercial potting soils and compost: the importation of pests and disease into your garden or indoor grow space. (more…)

Gardening with Chickens

Raising Backyard ChickensNatural fertilizer and pest control from the birds that give us eggs and companionship.

Our friend the gourmet cook likes to talk about the flavor of fresh eggs as opposed to those you might get from the supermarket. He became so obsessed with using eggs only days old, rather than weeks (or even months), ones produced by backyard chickens with a well-rounded diet that, well, he eventually got some birds of his own.

He’d give me a half carton of his cherished product when the laying cycle was at its peak and those backyard eggs were indeed excellent. Everything you look for in a good, truly naturally nourished egg is there, especially that rich, gooey flavor. He claims that not only are his quiches and other egg dishes better (his hard-boiled eggs are divine) but that his eggs are the key to his baking success. (more…)

Soil Health: The New, Sustainable Green Revolution

Healthy SoilsThe world is learning the value of improving soils and growing without chemicals.

As organic gardeners, we’ve long known the value of maintaining healthy soil. It’s the key to successful growing and the means to avoiding the use of harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Keeping our garden soil in top condition by adding plenty of compost and other organic matter, using cover crops and mulch to protect it, and doing all we can to promote healthy microbes, fungi, and other living organisms that promote the restoration of nutrients, goes a long way in assuring successful gardening without environmental harm.

Organic gardeners know that soil is alive and must be treated as a living organism. Treating it with harmful chemicals and poisons, otherwise known as herbicides and pesticides, takes the life (and therefore the productivity) from the dirt in which our crops grow. (more…)

Keeping Mice From Your Compost Heap

Mouse in Compost PileMice in your compost bin can be a problem year-round, but especially in the winter.

We love mice, as long as they’re in a children’s book. Out in the real world? Not so much.

Mice are associated with everything from Lyme disease to hantavirus. Many of the diseases they transmit are harbored in their feces and it’s hard to top the disgusting feeling you get finding tiny, black mouse cylinders all over a kitchen counter. Don’t think the disease potential is bad or only doesn’t happens outside the dusty southwest? Read this poor fellow’s story (spoiler alert: he survives).

You probably do a good job keeping mice from inside your home. But keeping mice out of your compost is a different proposition. (more…)

GMO Vote, Leaf Mold, High-Tech Farming … And Pie!

High-Tech TractorShort-takes on natural gardening topics we’re following.

As we enter a new month, your (mostly) timely, inquisitive Planet Natural blogger takes a minute to catch up on a handful of issues.

–Oregon GMO Labeling Vote: The final vote count is in and Oregon Initiative 92 to label products that include genetically modified ingredients is so close that a recount, scheduled to start December 2, has been called. Initial reports from The Oregonian on the day after the election had the measure failing narrowly. That margin — 812 votes or 0.05% of the total — turned out to be closer than imagined and now the race is too close to call. This is encouraging news, no matter what the final tally shows. Corporate forces, as usual in these votes, vastly outspent the pro-labeling side and the closeness of the Oregon vote suggests that they’ll even have to spend more to spread their misinformation. (more…)

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