Before it’s time to plant your garden don’t forget to do a little early spring preparation. Adding compost can make a huge difference in the outcome of any size garden, from tiny window boxes to a large two-acre plot. It’s not how much space you have, but how you use it. Today we’re going to present some facts on how composting can actually improve your garden, but first of all, do you actually know how composting works?

Composting is a way to speed up the natural process of turning decomposing plant materials back into nutritious peat-like ‘soil’ that gives growing plants more nutrients and the earth around them better drainage. The process happens slowly over time. The moisture, air circulation and proximity all help in the plant decomposition. Microorganisms slowly break down this organic material and create the soil-like material that is so nutritious for your garden.

You can use garden waste like old tomato vines, corn stalks or anything left over from last years’ garden to start composting. Mulched leaves, slop from the kitchen such as orange peels, apple cores and most other spoiled fruits and vegetables are also great. But be sure to only include things that have not been sprayed. You don’t want to add chemicals to next year’s vegetable garden if you can help it.

While an industrial compost may be able to take things like meat and bones, it’s best not to include them in your home compost as it will likely attract maggots and other animals, like raccoons or possibly worse rodents or vermin.

Compost is a cheap fertilizer that is safer than most commercial fertilizers. It doesn’t contain any chemicals and it can improve the texture, aeration and structure of your soil. Compost helps sandy soils retain water, while actually loosening up clay soils. It’s the perfect balance. And the more worms, the better. You should be excited the more night crawlers you find. Make sure to turn the soil occasionally so that it can break down evenly.

This process incredibly safe for your lawn and garden, plus it releases nutrients slowly so you won’t burn a patch of your lawn out by adding a thin layer. Compost also helps increase your soil’s water holding capacity, while balancing the pH of soil that way it’s not too harsh on your spring annuals. It won’t hurt any animals, your kids or the drinking water and is so very, very good for your plants.

You can also compost manure. This makes it less likely to burn the roots of fledgling plants and makes it easier for you to incorporate into the garden. You can use any kind of manure, chicken, sheep, horse or cow. By composting it you also guarantee that any pathogens in the manure have been killed by the microorganisms in your compost bin.

Most experts recommend buying or building a special bin for your compost, but it can also sit exposed to the elements, if you don’t live in the city.

Avery Lane is a freelance writer based out of the Pacific Northwest. For other more substantial home improvement, see these guides to air conditioner prices and Trane air conditioner prices.