Compost (/ˈkɒmpɒst/ or /ˈkɒmpoʊst/) is organic matter that has been decomposed in a process called composting. This process recycles various organic materials otherwise regarded as waste products and produces a soil conditioner (the compost).

Compost is rich in nutrients. It is used, for example, in gardens, landscaping, horticulture, urban agriculture and organic farming. The compost itself is beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertilizer, addition of vital humus or humic acids, and as a natural pesticide for soil. In ecosystems, compost is useful for erosion control, land and stream reclamation, wetland construction, and as landfill cover (see compost uses).

At the simplest level, the process of composting requires making a heap of wet organic matter (also called green waste), such as leaves, grass, and food scraps, and waiting for the materials to break down into humus after a period of months. However, composting also can take place as a multi-step, closely monitored process with measured inputs of water, air, and carbon- and nitrogen-rich materials. The decomposition process is aided by shredding the plant matter, adding water and ensuring proper aeration by regularly turning the mixture when open piles or "windrows" are used. Earthworms and fungi further break up the material. Bacteria requiring oxygen to function (aerobic bacteria) and fungi manage the chemical process by converting the inputs into heat, carbon dioxide, and ammonium.

Compost site germany
Community-level composting in a rural area in Germany


Composting in the Escuela Barreales
Home compost barrel
Compost pile
Materials in a compost pile
Food scraps compost heap

Composting is an aerobic method (meaning that it requires the presence of air) of decomposing organic solid wastes.[1] It can therefore be used to recycle organic material. The process involves decomposition of organic material into a humus-like material, known as compost, which is a good fertilizer for plants. Composting requires the following three components: human management, aerobic conditions, development of internal biological heat.

Composting organisms require four equally important ingredients to work effectively:

  • Carbon — for energy; the microbial oxidation of carbon produces the heat, if included at suggested levels.[2] High carbon materials tend to be brown and dry.
  • Nitrogen — to grow and reproduce more organisms to oxidize the carbon. High nitrogen materials tend to be green (or colorful, such as fruits and vegetables) and wet.
  • Oxygen — for oxidizing the carbon, the decomposition process.
  • Water — in the right amounts to maintain activity without causing anaerobic conditions.[3]

Certain ratios of these materials will provide microorganisms to work at a rate that will heat up the pile. Active management of the pile (e.g. turning) is needed to maintain sufficient supply of oxygen and the right moisture level. The air/water balance is critical to maintaining high temperatures (135°-160° Fahrenheit / 50° - 70° Celsius) until the materials are broken down.[4]

The most efficient composting occurs with an optimal carbon:nitrogen ratio of about 25:1.[5] Hot container composting focuses on retaining the heat to increase decomposition rate and produce compost more quickly. Rapid composting is favored by having a C/N ratio of ~30 or less. Above 30 the substrate is nitrogen starved, below 15 it is likely to outgas a portion of nitrogen as ammonia.[6]

Nearly all plant and animal materials have both carbon and nitrogen, but amounts vary widely, with characteristics noted above (dry/wet, brown/green).[7] Fresh grass clippings have an average ratio of about 15:1 and dry autumn leaves about 50:1 depending on species. Mixing equal parts by volume approximates the ideal C:N range. Few individual situations will provide the ideal mix of materials at any point. Observation of amounts, and consideration of different materials as a pile is built over time, can quickly achieve a workable technique for the individual situation.


With the proper mixture of water, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen, micro-organisms are able to break down organic matter to produce compost.[8][9] The composting process is dependent on micro-organisms to break down organic matter into compost. There are many types of microorganisms found in active compost of which the most common are:[10]

  • Bacteria- The most numerous of all the microorganisms found in compost. Depending on the phase of composting, mesophilic or thermophilic bacteria may predominate.
  • Actinobacteria- Necessary for breaking down paper products such as newspaper, bark, etc.
  • Fungi- molds and yeast help break down materials that bacteria cannot, especially lignin in woody material.
  • Protozoa- Help consume bacteria, fungi and micro organic particulates.
  • Rotifers- Rotifers help control populations of bacteria and small protozoans.

In addition, earthworms not only ingest partly composted material, but also continually re-create aeration and drainage tunnels as they move through the compost.

Phases of composting

Three years old household compost

Under ideal conditions, composting proceeds through three major phases:[10]

  • An initial, mesophilic phase, in which the decomposition is carried out under moderate temperatures by mesophilic microorganisms.
  • As the temperature rises, a second, thermophilic phase starts, in which the decomposition is carried out by various thermophilic bacteria under high temperatures.
  • As the supply of high-energy compounds dwindles, the temperature starts to decrease, and the mesophiles once again predominate in the maturation phase.

Slow and rapid composting

There are many proponents of rapid composting that attempt to correct some of the perceived problems associated with traditional, slow composting. Many advocate that compost can be made in 2 to 3 weeks.[11] Many such short processes involve a few changes to traditional methods, including smaller, more homogenized pieces in the compost, controlling carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C:N) at 30 to 1 or less, and monitoring the moisture level more carefully. However, none of these parameters differ significantly from the early writings of compost researchers, suggesting that in fact modern composting has not made significant advances over the traditional methods that take a few months to work. For this reason and others, many scientists who deal with carbon transformations are sceptical that there is a "super-charged" way to get nature to make compost rapidly.

Both sides may be right to some extent. The bacterial activity in rapid high heat methods breaks down the material to the extent that pathogens and seeds are destroyed, and the original feedstock is unrecognizable. At this stage, the compost can be used to prepare fields or other planting areas. However, most professionals recommend that the compost be given time to cure before using in a nursery for starting seeds or growing young plants. The curing time allows fungi to continue the decomposition process and eliminating phytotoxic substances.

An alternative approach is anaerobic fermentation, known as bokashi. It retains carbon bonds, is faster than decomposition, and for application to soil requires only rapid but thorough aeration rather than curing. It depends on sufficient carbohydrates in the treated material.

Pathogen removal

Composting can destroy pathogens or unwanted seeds. Unwanted living plants (or weeds) can be discouraged by covering with mulch/compost. The "microbial pesticides" in compost may include thermophiles and mesophiles.

Thermophilic (high-temperature) composting is well known to destroy many seeds and nearly all types of pathogens (exceptions may include prions). The sanitizing qualities of (thermophilic) composting are desirable where there is a high likelihood of pathogens, such as with manure.

Materials that can be composted

Composting is a process used for resource recovery. It can recycle an unwanted by-product from another process (a waste) into a useful new product.

Organic solid waste (green waste)

Spontaneous combustion of compost pile
A large compost pile that is steaming with the heat generated by thermophilic microorganisms.

Composting is a process for converting decomposable organic materials into useful stable products. Therefore, valuable landfill space can be used for other wastes by composting these materials rather than dumping them on landfills. It may however be difficult to control inert and plastics contamination from municipal solid waste.

Co-composting is a technique that processes organic solid waste together with other input materials such as dewatered fecal sludge or sewage sludge.[5]

Industrial composting systems are being installed to treat organic solid waste and recycle it rather than landfilling it. It is one example of an advanced waste processing system. Mechanical sorting of mixed waste streams combined with anaerobic digestion or in-vessel composting is called mechanical biological treatment. It is increasingly being used in developed countries due to regulations controlling the amount of organic matter allowed in landfills. Treating biodegradable waste before it enters a landfill reduces global warming from fugitive methane; untreated waste breaks down anaerobically in a landfill, producing landfill gas that contains methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Animal manure and bedding

On many farms, the basic composting ingredients are animal manure generated on the farm and bedding. Straw and sawdust are common bedding materials. Non-traditional bedding materials are also used, including newspaper and chopped cardboard. The amount of manure composted on a livestock farm is often determined by cleaning schedules, land availability, and weather conditions. Each type of manure has its own physical, chemical, and biological characteristics. Cattle and horse manures, when mixed with bedding, possess good qualities for composting. Swine manure, which is very wet and usually not mixed with bedding material, must be mixed with straw or similar raw materials. Poultry manure also must be blended with carbonaceous materials - those low in nitrogen preferred, such as sawdust or straw.[12]

Human excreta and sewage sludge

Human excreta can also be added as an input to the composting process since human excreta is a nitrogen-rich organic material. It can be either composted directly, like in composting toilets, or indirectly (as sewage sludge), after it has undergone treatment in a sewage treatment plant.

Urine can be put on compost piles or directly used as fertilizer.[13] Adding urine to compost can increase temperatures and therefore increase its ability to destroy pathogens and unwanted seeds. Unlike feces, urine does not attract disease-spreading flies (such as houseflies or blowflies), and it does not contain the most hardy of pathogens, such as parasitic worm eggs. Urine usually does not smell for long, particularly when it is fresh, diluted, or put on sorbents.


Compost can be used as an additive to soil, or other matrices such as coir and peat, as a tilth improver, supplying humus and nutrients. It provides a rich growing medium, or a porous, absorbent material that holds moisture and soluble minerals, providing the support and nutrients in which plants can flourish, although it is rarely used alone, being primarily mixed with soil, sand, grit, bark chips, vermiculite, perlite, or clay granules to produce loam. Compost can be tilled directly into the soil or growing medium to boost the level of organic matter and the overall fertility of the soil. Compost that is ready to be used as an additive is dark brown or even black with an earthy smell.[14]

Generally, direct seeding into a compost is not recommended due to the speed with which it may dry and the possible presence of phytotoxins in immature compost that may inhibit germination,[15][16][17] and the possible tie up of nitrogen by incompletely decomposed lignin.[18] It is very common to see blends of 20–30% compost used for transplanting seedlings at cotyledon stage or later.

Composting technologies

Various approaches have been developed to handle different ingredients, locations, throughput and applications for the composted product.


Industrial-scale composting can be carried out in the form of in-vessel composting, aerated static pile composting, vermicomposting, or windrow composting, and takes place in most Western countries now.


Worms in a bin being harvested

Vermicompost is the product or process of organic material degradation using various species of worms, usually red wigglers, white worms, and earthworms, to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste (excluding meat, dairy, fats, or oils), bedding materials, and vermicast. Vermicast, also known as worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by species of earthworm.[19]

Vermicomposting can also be applied for treatment of sewage sludge.[20]

Composting toilets

TerraNova Sitzdichtung (6211343544)
Composting toilet with a seal in the lid in Germany

A composting toilet collects human excreta. These are added to a compost heap that can be located in a chamber below the toilet seat. Sawdust and straw or other carbon rich materials are usually added as well. Some composting toilets do not require water or electricity; others may. If they do not use water for flushing they fall into the category of dry toilets. Some composting toilet designs use urine diversion, others do not. When properly managed, they do not smell. The composting process in these toilets destroys pathogens to some extent. The amount of pathogen destruction depends on the temperature (mesophilic or thermophilic conditions) and composting time.[21]

Composting toilets with a large composting container (of the type Clivus Multrum and derivations of it) are popular in United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Sweden. They are available as commercial products, as designs for self builders or as "design derivatives" which are marketed under various names.

Black soldier fly larvae

Black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae are able to rapidly consume large amounts of organic material when kept at around 30 °C.[22][23] Black soldier fly larvae can reduce the dry matter of the organic waste by 73% and convert 16-22% of the dry matter in the waste to biomass.[24][25] The resulting compost still contains nutrients and can be used for biogas production, or further traditional composting or vermicomposting [26] The larvae are rich in fat and protein, and can be used as, for example, animal feed or biodiesel production.[27] Enthusiasts have experimented with a large number of different waste products.[28] Some sell starter kits to the public.[29]


For detail and most citations see main article.

Bokashi is not composting as defined earlier, rather an alternative technology. It ferments (rather than decomposes) the input organic matter and feeds the result to the soil food web (rather than producing a soil conditioner). The process involves adding Lactobacilli to the input in an airtight container kept at normal room temperature. These bacteria ferment carbohydrates to lactic acid, which preserves the input. After this is complete the preserve is mixed into soil, converting the lactic acid to pyruvate, which enables soil life to consume the result.

Bokashi is typically applied to food waste from households, workplaces and catering establishments, because such waste normally holds a good proportion of carbohydrates; it is also applied to other organic waste by supplementing carbohydrates. Household containers ("bokashi bins") typically give a batch size of 5-10 kilograms, accumulated over a few weeks. In horticultural settings batches can be orders of magnitude greater.

Bokashi bin - inside
Inside a recently started bokashi bin. Food scraps are raised on a perforated plate (to drain runoff) and are partly covered by a layer of bran inoculated with Lactobacilli

Bokashi offers several advantages:

  • Fermentation retains all the original carbon and energy. (In comparison, composting loses at least 50% of these and 75% or more in amateur use; composting also loses nitrogen, a macronutrient of plants, by emitting ammonia and the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.)[30]
  • Virtually the full range of food waste is accepted, without the exclusions of composting. The exception is large bones.
  • Being airtight, the container inherently traps smells, and when opened the smell of fermentation is far less offensive than decomposition. Hence bokashi bins usually operate indoors, in or near kitchens.
  • Similarly the container neither attracts insect pests nor allows them ingress.
  • The process is inherently hygienic because lactic acid is a natural bactericide and anti-pathogen; even its own fermentation is self-limiting.
  • Both preservation and consumption complete within a few weeks rather than months.
  • The preserve can be stored until needed, for example if ground is frozen or waterlogged.
  • The increased activity of the soil food web improves the soil texture, especially by worm action - in effect this is in-soil vermicomposting.

The importance of the first advantage should not be underestimated: the mass of any ecosystem depends on the energy it captures. Plants depend upon the soil ecosystem making nutrients available within soil water. Therefore, the richer the ecosystem, the richer the plants. (Plants can also take up nutrients from added chemicals, but these are at odds with the purpose of composting).

Other systems at household level

Hügelkultur (raised garden beds or mounds)

End point (4315712587)
An almost completed Hügelkultur bed; the bed does not have soil on it yet.

The practice of making raised garden beds or mounds filled with rotting wood is also called hügelkultur in German.[31][32] It is in effect creating a nurse log that is covered with soil.

Benefits of hügelkultur garden beds include water retention and warming of soil.[31][33] Buried wood acts like a sponge as it decomposes, able to capture water and store it for later use by crops planted on top of the hügelkultur bed.[31][34]

Compost tea

Compost teas are defined as water extracts leached from composted materials.[35] Compost teas are generally produced from adding one volume of compost to 4-10 volumes of water, but there has also been debate about the benefits of aerating the mixture.[35] Field studies have shown the benefits of adding compost teas to crops due to the adding of organic matter, increased nutrient availability and increased microbial activity.[35] They have also been shown to have an effect on plant pathogens.[36]

Worm Hotels

Worm Hotel
Worm Hotel in Amsterdam

Worm Hotels accommodate useful worm in ideal conditions.

Related technologies

Organic ingredients intended for composting can also be used to generate biogas through anaerobic digestion. This process stabilizes organic material. The residual material, sometimes in combination with sewage sludge can be treated by a composting process before selling or giving away the compost.


There are process and product guidelines in Europe that date to the early 1980s (Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland) and only more recently in the UK and the US. In both these countries, private trade associations within the industry have established loose standards, some say as a stop-gap measure to discourage independent government agencies from establishing tougher consumer-friendly standards.[37]

The USA is the only Western country that does not distinguish sludge-source compost from green-composts, and by default in the USA 50% of states expect composts to comply in some manner with the federal EPA 503 rule promulgated in 1984 for sludge products.[38]

Compost is regulated in Canada[39] and Australia[40] as well.

Many countries such as Wales[41][42] and some individual cities such as Seattle and San Francisco require food and yard waste to be sorted for composting (San Francisco Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance).[43][44]


MRF Composter03
Edmonton Composting Facility

Large-scale composting systems are used by many urban areas around the world.


Compost Basket
Compost Basket

Composting as a recognized practice dates to at least the early Roman Empire, and was mentioned as early as Cato the Elder's 160 BCE piece De Agri Cultura.[46] Traditionally, composting involved piling organic materials until the next planting season, at which time the materials would have decayed enough to be ready for use in the soil. The advantage of this method is that little working time or effort is required from the composter and it fits in naturally with agricultural practices in temperate climates. Disadvantages (from the modern perspective) are that space is used for a whole year, some nutrients might be leached due to exposure to rainfall, and disease-producing organisms and insects may not be adequately controlled.

Composting was somewhat modernized beginning in the 1920s in Europe as a tool for organic farming.[47] The first industrial station for the transformation of urban organic materials into compost was set up in Wels, Austria in the year 1921.[48] Early frequent citations for propounding composting within farming are for the German-speaking world Rudolf Steiner, founder of a farming method called biodynamics, and Annie Francé-Harrar, who was appointed on behalf of the government in Mexico and supported the country 1950–1958 to set up a large humus organization in the fight against erosion and soil degradation.[49]

In the English-speaking world it was Sir Albert Howard who worked extensively in India on sustainable practices and Lady Eve Balfour who was a huge proponent of composting. Composting was imported to America by various followers of these early European movements by the likes of J.I. Rodale (founder of Rodale Organic Gardening), E.E. Pfeiffer (who developed scientific practices in biodynamic farming), Paul Keene (founder of Walnut Acres in Pennsylvania), and Scott and Helen Nearing (who inspired the back-to-the-land movement of the 1960s). Coincidentally, some of the above met briefly in India - all were quite influential in the U.S. from the 1960s into the 1980s.

Society and culture


The term "composting" is used worldwide with differing meanings.

"Humanure" is a portmanteau of human and manure, designating human excrement (feces and urine) that is recycled via composting for agricultural purposes. The term was first used in 1994 in a book by Joseph Jenkins that advocates the use of this organic soil amendment.[50] The term humanure is used by compost enthusiasts in the United States but not widely used elsewhere.[5] Because the term "humanure" has no authoritative definition it is subject to various uses. News reporters may use the term also for sewage sludge or biosolids.[51]

See also

Related lists


  1. ^ Masters, Gilbert M. (1997). Introduction to Environmental Engineering and Science. Prentice Hall. ISBN 9780131553842.
  2. ^ "Composting for the Homeowner - University of Illinois Extension". Retrieved 2013-07-18.
  3. ^ "Composting for the Homeowner -Materials for Composting".
  4. ^ Lal, Rattan (2003-11-30). "Composting". Pollution a to Z. 1.
  5. ^ a b c Tilley, Elizabeth; Ulrich, Lukas; Lüthi, Christoph; Reymond, Philippe; Zurbrügg, Chris (2014). "Septic tanks". Compendium of Sanitation Systems and Technologies (2nd ed.). Duebendorf, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag). ISBN 978-3-906484-57-0.
  6. ^ Haug, Roger (1993-07-23). The Practical Handbook of Compost Engineering. CRC Press. ISBN 9780873713733. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  7. ^ Klickitat County WA, USA Compost Mix Calculator Archived 17 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Chapter 1, The Decomposition Process". Retrieved 11 July 2016.
  9. ^ "How to Make Compost at Home". Retrieved 11 July 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Composting - Compost Microorganisms". Cornell University. Retrieved 6 October 2010.
  11. ^ "The Rapid Compost Method by Robert Raabe, Professor of Plant Pathology, Berkeley" (PDF). Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  12. ^ Dougherty, Mark. (1999). Field Guide to On-Farm Composting. Ithaca, New York: Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service.
  13. ^ Stockholm Environment Institute - EcoSanRes - Guidelines on the Use of Urine and Feces in Crop Production
  14. ^ EPA,OSWER,ORCR, US (2013-04-16). "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - US EPA" (PDF). US EPA. Retrieved 21 December 2017.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ Morel, P.; Guillemain, G. (2004). "Assessment of the possible phytotoxicity of a substrate using an easy and representative biotest". Acta Horticulturae. 644: 417–423.
  16. ^ Itävaara et al. Compost maturity - problems associated with testing. in Proceedings of Composting. Innsbruck Austria 18-21.10.2000
  17. ^ Aslam DN, et al. (2008). "Development of models for predicting carbon mineralization and associated phytotoxicity in compost-amended soil". Bioresour Technol. 99 (18): 8735–41. doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2008.04.074. PMID 18585031.
  18. ^ "The Effect of Lignin on Biodegradability - Cornell Composting".
  19. ^ "Paper on Invasive European Worms". 2009-01-21. Retrieved 22 February 2009.
  20. ^ Zularisam, A.W.; Zahir, Z. Siti; Zakaria, I.; Syukri, M.M.; Anwar, A.; Sakinah, M. (2010). "Production of Biofertilizer from Vermicomposting Processes of Municipal Sewage Sludge". Journal of Applied Sciences. 10 (7): 580–584. doi:10.3923/jas.2010.580.584.
  21. ^ Stenström, T.A., Seidu, R., Ekane, N., Zurbrügg, C. (2011). Microbial exposure and health assessments in sanitation technologies and systems - EcoSanRes Series, 2011-1. Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Stockholm, Sweden, page 88
  22. ^ Diener, Stefan; Studt Solano, Nandayure M.; Roa Gutiérrez, Floria; Zurbrügg, Christian; Tockner, Klement (2011). "Biological Treatment of Municipal Organic Waste using Black Soldier Fly Larvae". Waste and Biomass Valorization. 2 (4): 357–363. doi:10.1007/s12649-011-9079-1. ISSN 1877-2641.
  23. ^ Booth, Donald C.; Sheppard, Craig (1984-04-01). "Oviposition of the Black Soldier Fly, Hermetia illucens (Diptera: Stratiomyidae): Eggs, Masses, Timing, and Site Characteristics". Environmental Entomology. 13 (2): 421–423. doi:10.1093/ee/13.2.421. ISSN 0046-225X.
  24. ^ Lalander, Cecilia; Diener, Stefan; Magri, Maria Elisa; Zurbrügg, Christian; Lindström, Anders; Vinnerås, Björn (2013). "Faecal sludge management with the larvae of the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) — From a hygiene aspect". Science of the Total Environment. 458-460: 312–318. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.04.033. PMID 23669577.
  25. ^ Banks, Ian J.; Gibson, Walter T.; Cameron, Mary M. (2014-01-01). "Growth rates of black soldier fly larvae fed on fresh human faeces and their implication for improving sanitation". Tropical Medicine & International Health. 19 (1): 14–22. doi:10.1111/tmi.12228. ISSN 1365-3156. PMID 24261901.
  26. ^ Lalander, Cecilia; Nordberg, Åke; Vinnerås, Björn (2018). "A comparison in product-value potential in four treatment strategies for food waste and faeces – assessing composting, fly larvae composting and anaerobic digestion". GCB Bioenergy. 10 (2): 84–91. doi:10.1111/gcbb.12470. ISSN 1757-1707.
  27. ^ Li, Qing; Zheng, Longyu; Cai, Hao; Garza, E.; Yu, Ziniu; Zhou, Shengde (2011). "From organic waste to biodiesel: Black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, makes it feasible". Fuel. 90 (4): 1545–1548. doi:10.1016/j.fuel.2010.11.016.
  28. ^ "E". Bio-Conversion of Putrescent Waste. ESR International. Archived from the original on 16 May 2016. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  29. ^ "BSF Farming - marketplace". Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  30. ^ Haug, Roger Tim (1993). The Practical Handbook of Compost Engineering. Lewis Publishers. ISBN 0-87371-373-7.
  31. ^ a b c "hugelkultur: the ultimate raised garden beds". 2007-07-27. Retrieved 2013-07-18.
  32. ^ "The Art and Science of Making a Hugelkultur Bed - Transforming Woody Debris into a Garden Resource Permaculture Research Institute - Permaculture Forums, Courses, Information & News". 2010-08-03. Retrieved 2013-07-18.
  33. ^ "Hugelkultur: Composting Whole Trees With Ease Permaculture Research Institute - Permaculture Forums, Courses, Information & News". 2012-01-04. Retrieved 2013-07-18.
  34. ^ Hemenway, Toby (2009). Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. Chelsea Green Publishing. pp. 84-85. ISBN 978-1-60358-029-8.
  35. ^ a b c Gómez-Brandón, M; Vela, M; Martinez Toledo, MV; Insam, H; Domínguez, J (2015). "12: Effects of Compost and Vermiculture Teas as Organic Fertilizers". In Sinha, S; Plant, KK; Bajpai, S. Advances in Fertilizer Technology: Synthesis (Vol1). Stadium Press LLC. pp. 300–318. ISBN 978-1-62699-044-9.
  36. ^ Santos, M; Dianez, F; Carretero, F (2011). "12: Suppressive Effects of Compost Tea on Phytopathogens". In Dubey, NK. Natural products in plant pest management. Oxfordshire, UK Cambridge, MA: CABI. pp. 242–262. ISBN 9781845936716.
  37. ^ "US Composting Council". Retrieved 2013-07-18.
  38. ^ "Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 40, part 503. Standards for the use or disposal of sewage sludge". U.S. Government Printing Office. 1998. Retrieved 30 March 2009.
  39. ^ "Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment - Guidelines for Compost Quality" (PDF). CCME Documents. 2005. Retrieved 2017-09-04.
  40. ^ "Organics Recycling In Australia". BioCycle. 2011. Retrieved 2017-09-04.
  41. ^ "Gwynedd Council food recycling". Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  42. ^ "Anglesey households achieve 100% food waste recycling".
  43. ^ "Recycling & Composting in San Francisco - Frequently Asked Questions". San Francisco Dept. of the Environment. 2016. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  44. ^ Tyler, Aubin (21 March 2010). "The case for mandatory composting". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 19 September 2010.
  45. ^ Details on project design and its validation and monitoring reports are available at: Project 2778 : Composting of Organic Content of Municipal Solid Waste in Lahore
  46. ^ Cato, Marcus (160 BCE). "37.2; 39.1". De Agri Cultura. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  47. ^ "History of Composting". Retrieved 11 July 2016.
  48. ^ Welser Anzeiger vom 05. Januar 1921, 67. Jahrgang, Nr. 2, S. 4
  49. ^ Laws, Bill (2014-06-19). A History of the Garden in Fifty Tools. University of Chicago Press. p. 86. ISBN 9780226139937.
  50. ^ Jenkins, J.C. (2005). The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure. Grove City, PA: Joseph Jenkins, Inc.; 3rd edition. p. 255. ISBN 978-0-9644258-3-5. Retrieved April 2011. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  51. ^ Courtney Symons (13 October 2011). "'Humanure' dumping sickens homeowner". YourOttawaRegion. Metroland Media Group Ltd. Retrieved 16 October 2011.

An arborloo is a simple type of composting toilet in which feces are collected in a shallow pit and a fruiting tree is later planted in the fertile soil of the full pit. Arborloos have a pit like a pit latrine but less deep, a concrete slab, superstructure (toilet house or outhouse) to provide privacy and possibly a ring beam to protect the pit from collapsing.The arborloo works by temporarily putting the slab and superstructure above a shallow pit while this pit fills. When the pit is nearly full, the superstructure and slab is moved to a newly dug pit and the old pit is covered with the earth got by digging the new pit and left to compost. The old pit serves as a bed for a fruit tree or some other useful vegetation, which is preferably planted during the rainy season.The arborloo is a type of dry toilet. In using the nutrient-rich soil of a retired pit, the arborloo, in effect, treats feces as a resource rather than a waste product. Arborloos are used in rural areas of many developing countries, for example in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Ethiopia.

Biodynamic agriculture

Biodynamic agriculture is a form of alternative agriculture very similar to organic farming, but it includes various esoteric concepts drawn from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925). Initially developed in 1924, it was the first of the organic agriculture movements. It treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks, emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives.

Biodynamics has much in common with other organic approaches – it emphasizes the use of manures and composts and excludes the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants. Methods unique to the biodynamic approach include its treatment of animals, crops, and soil as a single system, an emphasis from its beginnings on local production and distribution systems, its use of traditional and development of new local breeds and varieties. Some methods use an astrological sowing and planting calendar. Biodynamic agriculture uses various herbal and mineral additives for compost additives and field sprays; these are prepared using methods that are more akin to sympathetic magic than agronomy, such as burying ground quartz stuffed into the horn of a cow, which are said to harvest "cosmic forces in the soil."No difference in beneficial outcomes has been scientifically established between certified biodynamic agricultural techniques and similar organic and integrated farming practices. Biodynamic agriculture lacks strong scientific evidence for its efficacy and has been labeled a pseudoscience because of its overreliance upon esoteric knowledge and mystical beliefs.As of 2019, biodynamic techniques were used on 187.549 hectares in 55 countries. Germany accounts for 45% of the global total; the remainder average 1750 ha per country. Biodynamic methods of cultivating grapevines have been taken up by several notable vineyards. There are certification agencies for biodynamic products, most of which are members of the international biodynamics standards group Demeter International.


Cerylonidae are small to tiny (0.8–3 mm (0.031–0.118 in)), smooth, shiny, hairless beetles, only lightly punctured. There are about 450 species worldwide in 50 or so genera, mostly tropical and subtropical. They are most common under the bark of dead trees, but can also occur in compost and other decaying plant material. Little is known specifically about their biology but they are thought to be either predators that feed on other small animals or fungus eating.

The taxonomy is complex. The "Cerylonid Series" is a cluster of highly derived Cucujoidea families comprising Alexiidae, Bothrideridae, Cerylonidae, Coccinellidae, Corylophidae, Discolomatidae, Endomychidae, and Latridiidae.


Clopyralid (3,6-dichloro-2-pyridinecarboxylic acid) is a selective herbicide used for control of broadleaf weeds, especially thistles and clovers. Clopyralid is in the picolinic acid family of herbicides, which also includes aminopyralid, picloram, triclopyr, and several less common herbicides. For control of creeping thistle, Cirsium arvense, a noxious, perennial weed, clopyralid is one of the few effective herbicides available. It is particularly damaging to peas, tomatoes and sunflowers and can render potatoes, lettuce and spinach inedible. It does not affect members of the family Poaceae (grasses).Clopyralid is known for its ability to persist in dead plants and compost, and has accumulated to phytotoxic levels in finished compost in a few highly publicized cases. This first came to light in Washington, when during 2000 and 2001, residues of clopyralid were detected in commercial compost, and compost made at a municipal site damaged tomatoes and other garden plants planted in it. Word quickly spread to other local and state governments, and in 2002, DowAgro, the manufacturer of clopyralid, voluntarily deregistered it for use on domestic lawns in the US and it is banned in several US states but it is found in consumer products in Europe such as Scotts Verdone Extra and Vitax Lawn Clear 2.Clopyralid is licensed for lawn use in France and under these names:

Bayer Jardin: Désherbant jeune gazon and Scanner Sélectif gazon

Vilmorin: désherbant Gazon LONPAR.

Brand names of clopyralid in the US market include Stinger, Transline, Reclaim, Curtail, Confront, Clopyr AG, Lontrel, Millennium Ultra, Millenium Ultra Plus and Redeem.

Composting toilet

A composting toilet is a type of toilet that treats human excreta by a biological process called composting. This process leads to the decomposition of organic matter and turns human excreta into compost. It is carried out by microorganisms (mainly bacteria and fungi) under controlled aerobic conditions. Most composting toilets use no water for flushing and are therefore "dry toilets".

In many composting toilet designs, carbon additives such as sawdust, coconut coir, or peat moss is added after each use. This practice creates air pockets in the human excreta to promote aerobic decomposition. This also improves the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and reduces potential odor. Most composting toilet systems rely on mesophilic composting. Longer retention time in the composting chamber also facilitates pathogen die-off. The end product can also be moved to a secondary system – usually another composting step – to allow more time for mesophilic composting to further reduce pathogens.

Composting toilets, together with the secondary composting step, produce a humus-like endproduct that can be used to enrich soil if local regulations allow this. Some composting toilets have urine diversion systems in the toilet bowl to collect the urine separately and control excess moisture. A "vermifilter toilet" is a composting toilet with flushing water where earthworms are used to promote decomposition to compost.

Composting toilets do not require a connection to septic tanks or sewer systems unlike flush toilets. Common applications include national parks, remote holiday cottages, ecotourism resorts, off-grid homes and rural areas in developing countries.

Dot-com bubble

The dot-com bubble (also known as the dot-com boom, the tech bubble, and the Internet bubble) was a historic economic bubble and period of excessive speculation mainly in the United States that occurred roughly from 1995 to 2000, a period of extreme growth in the usage and adoption of the Internet.The Nasdaq Composite stock market index, which included many Internet-based companies, peaked in value on March 10, 2000, before crashing. The burst of the bubble, known as the dot-com crash, lasted from March 11, 2000, to October 9, 2002. During the crash, many online shopping companies, such as, Webvan, and, as well as communication companies, such as Worldcom, NorthPoint Communications and Global Crossing failed and shut down. Others, such as Cisco, whose stock declined by 86%, and Qualcomm, lost a large portion of their market capitalization but survived, and some companies, such as eBay and, declined in value but recovered quickly.


Eristalinae (or Milesiinae) are one of the three subfamilies of the fly family Syrphidae, or hoverflies. A well-known species included in this subfamily is the dronefly, Eristalis tenax.

Larvae live in sap trails, under bark, in rot-holes in trees and in decaying organic material such as dung and compost. Most larvae feed on decaying organic debris. They are filter feeders in many kinds of aquatic media. They purify water by filtering microorganisms and other products. Some feed on bulbs and are considered garden pests.

Leaf mold

Leaf mold (Leaf mould outside of the United States) is the product of slow decomposition of deciduous shrub and tree leaves. It is a form of compost produced primarily by fungal breakdown.

Legionella longbeachae

Legionella longbeachae is one species of the family Legionellaceae. It was first isolated from a patient in Long Beach, California. It is found predominantly in potting soil and compost. In humans, the infection is sometimes called Pontiac fever. Human infection from L. longbeachae is particularly common in Australia, but cases have been documented in other countries including the United States, Japan, Greece and the UK.The infection can be very serious, often leading to hospitalisation and sometimes death.Like other Legionella species, person-to-person transmission has not been documented. However, unlike other species, the primary transmission mode has not been proven but it seems likely that it is inhalation or aspiration of dust from contaminated compost or soil that contains the organism causing legionellosis.Modes of transmission include poor hand-washing practices after gardening, long-term smoking, and being near dripping hanging flower pots. Awareness of a possible health risk with potting mix protected against illness. Inhalation and ingestion are possible modes of transmission. Exposure to aerosolized organisms and poor gardening hygiene may be important predisposing factors to L. longbeachae infection.


Manure is organic matter, mostly derived from animal feces except in the case of green manure, which can be used as organic fertilizer in agriculture. Manures contribute to the fertility of the soil by adding organic matter and nutrients, such as nitrogen, that are utilised by bacteria, fungi and other organisms in the soil. Higher organisms then feed on the fungi and bacteria in a chain of life that comprises the soil food web.

In the past, the term "manure" included inorganic fertilizers, but this usage is now very rare.

Municipal solid waste

Municipal solid waste (MSW), commonly known as trash or garbage in the United States and rubbish in Britain, is a waste type consisting of everyday items that are discarded by the public. "Garbage" can also refer specifically to food waste, as in a garbage disposal; the two are sometimes collected separately. In the European Union, the semantic definition is 'mixed municipal waste,' given waste code 20 03 01 in the European Waste Catalog. Although the waste may originate from a number of sources that has nothing to do with a municipality, the traditional role of municipalities in collecting and managing these kinds of waste have produced the particular etymology 'municipal.'

Organic fertilizer

Organic fertilizers are fertilizers derived from animal matter, animal excreta (manure), human excreta, and vegetable matter (e.g. compost and crop residues). Naturally occurring organic fertilizers include animal wastes from meat processing, peat, manure, slurry, and guano.

In contrast, the majority of fertilizers used in commercial farming are extracted from minerals (e.g., phosphate rock) or produced industrially (e.g., ammonia). Organic agriculture, a system of farming, allows for certain fertilizers and amendments and disallows others; that is also distinct from this topic.

Potting soil

Potting soil, also known as potting mix or potting compost, is a medium in which to grow plants, herbs and vegetables in a pot or other durable container. The first recorded use of the term is from an 1861 issue of the American Agriculturist.Some common ingredients used in potting soil are peat, composted bark, sand, perlite and recycled mushroom compost, although many others are used and the proportions vary hugely. Most commercially available brands have their pH fine-tuned with ground limestone; some contain small amounts of fertilizer and slow-release nutrients. Despite its name, little or no soil is used in potting soil because it is considered too heavy for growing houseplants.Some plants require potting soil that is specific for their environment. For example, an African violet would grow better in potting soil containing extra peat moss, while a cactus requires sharp (i.e. plenty of) drainage, most commonly perlite or sand. But potting soil is not ideal for all contained gardening. Insectivorous plants, such as the Venus flytrap and the pitcher plant, prefer nutrient-poor soils common to bogs and fens, while water-based plants thrive in a heavier topsoil mix.Commercially available potting soil is sterilized, in order to avoid the spread of weeds and plant-borne diseases. It is possible to reuse commercial potting soil, provided that the remnants of plant roots, fungus, weeds and insects are removed from the mixture through heating before new planting can take place. Packaged potting soil is sold in bags ranging from 5 to 50 pounds (2.3–22.7 kg).As with garden soil, potting soil can attract insects. For example, the fungus gnat is often found around houseplants because it lays eggs in moist potting soil.Infections of Legionnaires' disease due to potting mix have been reported in Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands the United States , and Japan.

Raised-bed gardening

Raised-bed gardening is a form of gardening in which the soil is formed in three-to-four-foot-wide (1.0–1.2

m) beds, which can be of any length or shape. The soil is raised above the surrounding soil (approximately six inches to waist-high), is sometimes enclosed by a frame generally made of wood, rock, or concrete blocks, and may be enriched with compost. The vegetable plants are spaced in geometric patterns, much closer together than in conventional row gardening. The spacing is such that when the vegetables are fully grown, their leaves just barely touch each other, creating a microclimate in which weed growth is suppressed and moisture is conserved. Raised beds produce a variety of benefits: they extend the planting season, they can reduce weeds if designed and planted properly, and they reduce the need to use poor native soil. Since the gardener does not walk on the raised beds, the soil is not compacted and the roots have an easier time growing. The close plant spacing and the use of compost generally result in higher yields with raised beds in comparison to conventional row gardening. Waist-high raised beds enable the elderly and physically disabled to grow vegetables without having to bend over to tend them.

Reuse of excreta

Reuse of excreta (or re-use or use of excreta) refers to the safe, beneficial use of animal or human excreta, i.e. feces (or faeces in British English) and urine. Such beneficial use involves mainly the nutrient, organic matter and energy contained in excreta, rather than the water content (as is the case for wastewater reuse). Reuse of excreta can involve using it as soil conditioner or fertilizer in agriculture, gardening, aquaculture or horticultural activities. Excreta can also be used as a fuel source or as a building material.

Excreta contains resources that can be recovered: plant-available nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium as well as micronutrients such as sulphur and organic matter. These resources which are contained in excreta or in domestic wastewater (sewage) have traditionally been used in agriculture in many countries. They are still being used in agriculture to this day, but the practice is often carried out in an unregulated and unsafe manner in developing countries. The WHO Guidelines from 2006 have set up a framework how this reuse can be done safely by following a "multiple barrier approach".There are a number of "excreta-derived fertilizers" which vary in their properties and fertilizing characteristics: urine, dried feces, composted feces, fecal sludge (septage), sewage, sewage sludge and animal manure.

Reuse of excreta is the final step of the sanitation chain which starts with collection of excreta (by use of toilets) and continues with transport and treatment all the way to either disposal or reuse.

Spent mushroom compost

Spent mushroom compost is the residual compost waste generated by the mushroom production industry. It is readily available (bagged, at nursery suppliers), and its formulation generally consists of a combination of wheat straw, dried blood, horse manure and ground chalk, composted together. It is an excellent source of humus, although much of its nitrogen content will have been used up by the composting and growing mushrooms. It remains, however, a good source of general nutrients (0.7% N, 0.3% P, 0.3% K plus a full range of trace elements), as well as a useful soil conditioner. However, due to its chalk content, it may be alkaline, and should not be used on acid-loving plants, nor should it be applied too frequently, as it will overly raise the soil's pH levels.Mushroom compost may also contain pesticide residues, particularly organochlorides used against the fungus gnat. If the compost pile was stored outside, it may contain grubs or other insects attracted to decaying matter. Chemicals may also have been used to treat the straw, and also to sterilize the compost. Therefore, the organic gardener must be careful regarding the sourcing of mushroom compost; if in doubt, samples can be analyzed for contamination – in the UK, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is able to advise regarding this issue.

Commercially available 'spent' mushroom compost is not always truly spent. It is sold by mushroom farms when it is no longer producing commercially viable yields of mushrooms. It can be used to grow further smaller crops of mushrooms before final use on the garden.


A treebog is a type of low-tech compost toilet. It consists of a raised platform above a compost pile surrounded by densely planted willow trees or other nutrient-hungry vegetation. It can be considered an example of permaculture design, as it functions as a system for converting urine and feces to biomass, without the need to handle excreta.


Vermicompost (vermi-compost, vermiculture) is the product of the composting process using various species of worms, usually red wigglers, white worms, and other earthworms, to create a mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast.

Vermicast (also called worm castings, worm humus, worm manure, or worm feces) is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by earthworms. These castings have been shown to contain reduced levels of contaminants and a higher saturation of nutrients than the organic materials before vermicomposting.Vermicompost contains water-soluble nutrients and is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. It is used in farming and small scale sustainable, organic farming.

Vermicomposting can also be applied for treatment of intro. A variation of the process is vermifiltration (or vermidigestion) which is used to remove organic matter, pathogens and oxygen demand from wastewater or directly from blackwater of flush toilets.

Windrow composting

In agriculture, windrow composting is the production of compost by piling organic matter or biodegradable waste, such as animal manure and crop residues, in long rows (windrows). This method is suited to producing large volumes of compost. These rows are generally turned to improve porosity and oxygen content, mix in or remove moisture, and redistribute cooler and hotter portions of the pile. Windrow composting is a commonly used farm scale composting method. Composting process control parameters include the initial ratios of carbon and nitrogen rich materials, the amount of bulking agent added to assure air porosity, the pile size, moisture content, and turning frequency.

The temperature of the windrows must be measured and logged constantly to determine the optimum time to turn them for quicker compost production.

See also
Major types
Other topics
Types of gardens
Plant protection
Related concepts

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