If you have a garden, or need good soil for any reason whatsoever, composting is just about the most sensible thing you could possibly do. Here’s what a compost pile is: A whole bunch of organic material — grass clippings, food scraps, dead plants, pet waste, etc. — piled up together for long enough they turn into dirt. Rich, nutrient-dense, cost-free dirt that cost you nothing and makes your plants very, very happy.

Why to Compost

If you’re into green living, composting is a great way to be resourceful, and not waste any material. You’ll reduce your need for commerically produced fertilizers and top soil, and you’ll be insuring that less of the food you buy goes to waste. Think about the following cycle: You grow a tomato in your garden, you eat that tomato, and you throw the trimmed off parts into your compost pile, where it eventually turns to dirt that you then place back into your tomato garden, which helps grow a new tomato, which you eat, and toss the trim into the compost pile, where …

See? It’s an incredible and totally natural life cycle.

But even if you’re not into hugging trees, composting is a good idea because it is simply the best soil you can get, and it won’t cost you anything. The way compost works is that when all that organic waste is collected in a confined area, microorganisms start doing their thing. Worms and bugs, too. They eat and eat and eat, and after a few weeks or months, what’s left is a bunch of dirt that is chock full of nutrients. And you just go back there with a shovel and shovel away.

How to Compost

At a basic level, all you’re doing is making a pile of biodegradable garbage and waiting for it to become dirt. It’s simple enough, but there are some ways to speed along the process. First, create some kind of a container. Some people build them out of wood pallets, but a roll of chicken wire will also work. You just need something that breathes, and something that will sort of loosely hold together a pile of dirt.

Also, it’s a good idea to layer your garbage. Alternate between what we’ll call “wet” waste (banana peels, egg shells, pet waste) and dry waste (leaves, grass clippings, ashes). This will speed up the process and have you naturally fertilizing your garden in no time.