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You may have heard that compost is the key to a healthy garden, and feeding the soil is more important than feeding your plants. And if you don't garden, you've probably heard about composting as an eco-friendly way to live more sustainably and support the planet. That is why I dedicate an entire episode explaining what composting is and how it works.

My guest, Michelle Balz, is a true composting guru who has written, not one, but two incredible books solely focused on this amazing soil amendment. By the end of our conversation, you'll understand exactly what compost is made of, how it benefits your garden's soil, why it's so great for the environment, and best of all—how to successfully compost both indoors and out.


In this episode, we learn:

  • [06:49] What has Michelle’s journey been in composting?
  • [09:24] How many different composting systems does Michelle have in her home?
  • [10:20] Compost vs soil vs potting mix
  • [12:02] What makes compost so special?
  • [13:53] How does composting benefit the environment, ourselves, and our gardens?
  • [14:31] Carbon sequestration
  • [15:40] Discover the secrets to attracting birds to your garden with ‘Bird Friendly Gardening'!
  • [17:44] Skip the hassle of making your own compost with this organic Compost Blend!
  • [20:51] How does composting impact gardeners?
  • [26:42] How does compost help support the mycorrhizae?
  • [27:20] What can and cannot be composted?
  • [29:52] Is the composting ratio important?
  • [32:18] What do we need to know about anaerobic/aerobic composting?
  • [34:17] Indoor composting
  • [35:07] How does vermicomposting work?
  • [36:55] How can compost be extracted without worms?
  • [40:30] Bokashi composting
  • [42:57] Terracotta pot composting
  • [45:22] What are the best composting options for outdoor gardeners? (bin and in-garden systems)
  • [49:27] How do you know when the compost is finished/ready?
  • [50:13] What is the life cycle of composting, how long until the first batch, and how can you nurture it effectively?
  • [01:01:23] What is Hügelkultur?
  • [01:02:45] What is an African keyhole garden?
  • [01:05:14] Where can you find Michelle's books and social media?


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What Compost Is and Why it Matters

Compost isn't just decayed plant matter—it is a nutrient-rich substance for your garden! Unlike regular soil from the ground, compost is concentrated with all the good things that help plants grow. It makes the soil better, feeds all the good bugs and microbes, and gives your plants' roots nutrients slowly.

On top of helping your plants grow, composting also does amazing things for the environment. Instead of tossing those fruit and veggie scraps into the trash (which creates powerful greenhouse gases in landfills), you're recycling them into something productive. Every bit of compost you create is helping combat climate change and cutting down on waste!


What Can You Actually Compost?

This was something I was confused about at first. You can toss a surprisingly wide variety of items into your compost bin besides just banana peels and apple cores. Coffee grounds, shredded newspapers, fallen leaves, and even those dead houseplants you neglected—they can all go in!

The key is getting the right ratio of nitrogen-rich “greens” (like food scraps) to carbon-rich “browns” (like leaves and paper). Michelle mentioned that around 1 part green to 3 parts brown is ideal to keep those tiny microbes going. Don't worry, you don't need to measure them exactly. As long as you have a good mix, your compost will start to break down.

Still, some things are off-limits, like meat, dairy, oils, and other animal products (except for eggshells!). Those will just get smelly and attract pests (you don’t want that). The same goes for anything treated with chemicals or synthetics. So when in doubt, just stick to plant-based ingredients.


Composting Methods

Michelle covered so many amazing composting methods, whether you live in a studio apartment or have a big backyard:

For Indoor Composting:

  • Vermicomposting (composting with worms) – low-odor and high-quality compost
  • Bokashi fermenting system – pre-compost food waste without odor
  • Terracotta pot systems – dry compost food waste in stackable terra cotta pots
  • Dehydrator composters like the Lomi

For Outdoor Composting:

  • Basic bin systems with plastic compost bins or DIY pallet bins
  • Tumblers for faster compost
  • In-ground methods like keyhole gardens and Hügelkultur (burying wood debris)


Aerobic vs Anaerobic Composting

We want aerobic (air-loving) decomposition in our compost, not anaerobic which creates smelly conditions. Making sure your compost gets oxygen by turning it over or aerating it helps good aerobic microbes grow. The secret is never letting your “greens” aka scraps go uncovered!

Note: Aim for a balanced moisture level – not too wet, but not too dry either. You'll also know that the compost is done when it smells and looks like rich, crumbly soil and there are no visible scraps.


Making your own compost just feels so good on so many levels. You're cutting back on tons of food waste, while also creating affordable, high-quality soil amendments. If you need more guidance, check out Michelle Balz's books No-Waste Composting and Composting for a New Generation, which are super helpful.



Mentioned in our conversation:



Thank you to our episode sponsors:

Quarto: Bird-Friendly Gardening by Jen McGuinness

Bring more wildlife and nature into your life with Jen McGuinness' Bird-Friendly Gardening: Guidance and Projects for Supporting Birds in Your Landscape. This book is an authoritative guide to planting a wildlife-welcoming home landscape filled with a diversity of native plants that feed, shelter, and support birds. With hundreds of North American bird species facing population decline or at risk of extinction, today is the perfect time to create a home-based habitat garden that offers birds the resources they need to safely feed, migrate, breed, and thrive.

Grab the book at your favorite local bookstore,, Barnes & Noble or

Espoma Organic

Make composting easier with Espoma Organic's Mushroom Compost Blend! Espoma Organic is dedicated to making safe indoor and outdoor gardening products for people, pets, and the planet. They have an amazing variety of high-quality, organic potting mixes, garden soil, fertilizers, and pest control products that are organic and eco-friendly. To top it all off, they have a huge sustainability commitment with a 100% solar-powered plant, zero waste manufacturing, and eco-friendly packaging.

Visit to find your local Espoma dealer or check my Amazon storefront.



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