Gardeners all know that soil is one of the most important factors when growing flowers and vegetables and that a key ingredient in soil is organic matter. Compositing is one of the ways to improve the organic content of soil and author Robert Pavlis uses a science based approach to explain the principles of composting to show how gardeners can manipulate the natural process to make it more efficient. He then describes the many different composting methods so that gardeners can determine the best methods for their particular situation.

After discussing the role of compost in soil and the parameters affecting the composting process, Pavlis details the raw materials, equipment, and steps involved in composting. In the chapter on compostable material he discusses the pros and cons of using such things as animal manure, grass clippings, food waste, paper products, and seaweed. He warns against using compostable plastic, disposable diapers, hair, fabrics, thorny shrubs and rhubarb leaves but gives a thumbs up to most toxic plants, many weeds, and most diseased tree leaves.

A discussion of compositing procedures deals with such activities as selecting a location for the compost pile, storing the raw materials as they become available, maintaining the moisture level, turning the ingredients, curing, using activators, and speeding up the decomposition process. A description of the various compositing systems considers simple piles, bins, tumblers and especially easy methods such as “cut and drop”, and “pit and trench”. For each system the author gives a description, a table of pros and cons, and tips from his personal experience.

If you are interested in more exotic kinds of compositing, there are sections on vermicomposting ( a process that relies on earthworms and microorganisms), bokashi ( a fermentation process that uses lactobacillus bacteria to predigest waste matter), eco-enzymes (similar to bokashi). If you want compost but can’t or don’t want to make it, Pavlis offers suggestions on using purchased compost such as municipal compost, sewage sludge, and mushroom compost. Final sections consider making and using compost tea, selecting the best method of composting, and using compost.

The text is written in a friendly, easy to read style and even the scientific concepts are easily to understand. The author includes many of his personal experiences in the narrative which further raise the comfort level of the topic. An especially appealing feature of the book are the insets debunking popular gardening myths such as “stored compost can go bad’. For each myth Pavlis explains the scientific facts in simple terms so the reader can understand both the true situation and why the myth came into existence (no, stored compost can’t go bad but over time may lose its nutrients and carbon). Over all, Compost Science for Gardeners is a very informative book with lots of practical suggestions for every gardener regardless of previous knowledge, budget, or energy level.

To buy Compost Science for Gardeners from Amazon, click here.

By Karen