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NC State Extension


What is Composting?

Composting is the controlled biological decomposition of organic material through the generation of heat by microorganisms. The stabilized organic material, called ‘compost,’ looks and smells like soil. Compost can improve the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of soils or growing media. Although compost contains plant nutrients it is typically not classified as a fertilizer. This site provides cooperative extension agents, interested stakeholders and the general public with information and resources to compost organic materials generated by farms, institutions, businesses, municipalities, and households.

Where can composting take place?

Composting can be done in your backyard, schoolyard, business/industry, farm, or by municipalities.

What kinds of composting are there?

Organic materials (food scraps, leaves, grass clippings, and other yard trimmings) are 25% of the municipal solid waste produced in the U.S. Of this amount, 97.8% of food scraps and 38% of yard trimmings end up in landfills and incinerators. If they were composted instead, it would reduce greenhouse gases by preventing methane generation in landfills, extend landfill life, and produce products with nutrient-rich humus and organic matter that can restore depleted soils.

Benefits of Compost include:

  1. improves soil health & fertility
  2. increases the nutrient content of soils
  3. promotes higher yields of crops
  4. attracts & feeds diverse life in soils
  5. makes soil easier to work
  6. increases soil porosity & moisture retention
  7. suppresses plant diseases & pests
  8. can reduce the need for fertilizers, fungicides & pesticides
  9. encourages healthy root systems
  10. helps regenerate poor soils
  11. can prevent & manage soil erosion problems
  12. reduces water demands of plants & trees

What can be composted?

The list of compostable items is astonishingly long…. everything from your morning coffee grounds to your party trimmings can be composted. This is not a complete list, but you’ll get the idea of what can be composted.

How Horticulture Extension Can Help…

The Department of Horticultural Science extension program in this area is delivered through training, demonstrations, and publications. These educational materials and presentations are targeted toward homeowners, farmers, institutions, businesses, municipalities, and other clients. Click on the following publications by Rhonda Sherman, Extension Specialist:

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