Compost is an Eco-friendly way to grow a healthy and flourishing garden bed or landscape. Full of nutrients and rich organic materials, compost is often called "black gold" by gardeners for the many benefits it provides. One of the many advantages to compost, aside from way it boosts plant growth and health, is the relatively low cost to produce. Compost is created by food scraps and other materials that are left to break down naturally.

Backyard composting speeds up the natural process of decomposition. In optimal conditions, organic matter can decompose more quickly. Microorganisms, like bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes account for most of the decomposition that takes place in a compost pile. However, insects also can do their part to create compost. Such insects are referred to as `physical composters`as they break down materials by chewing, grinding and digesting them into smaller pieces. Bacteria create an oxidation process that heats up the compost pile and aids in its decomposition.

People can create their own compost piles with just a few items. Some of the main staples of composting include foods that would normally be discarded. Vegetable peels, fruit rinds, egg shells and coffee grounds and much more can be put into a compost pile. Meats and poultry should not be put into a compost pile because of the threat of harmful bacteria and pathogens.

Other items that are not food-related also can be added to compost piles. It may be challenging to determine which ones are applicable.

These products can safely be put in your compost pile:

-paper plates with no coating

-products made from bagasse, a fibrous matter that remains after sugar-cane or sorghum stalks are crushed including:

-cardboard boxes

-paper towels

-wax paper

-wax-covered paper cups

-products certified as compostible by BPI

-certified bio-plastics

Anything that is coated in plastic that is not bio-plastic must unfortunately go into the trash or better yet, re-used in a different way.

Composting in a cost-effective, viable way to reduce trash and produce a beneficial product for gardening and landscaping.