San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Home Gardening

Why we compost

Gardening has a wonderful effect of reconnecting people to dirt. Dirt is Earths’ living skin, and it maintains all the kingdoms of life. Beneath the soil is a dark, microscopic world with a thriving community of beneficial microbes, insects and worms that decompose organic matter into humus and nutrients for the plants and trees.

At the heart of a natural garden there’s a compost pile.

The compost pile is used to recycle kitchen wastes, leaves, grass clippings, as well as manures. Instead of throwing all this organic matter in the garbage can, it can be recycled into rich, fertile soil. Each day, millions of tons of organic wastes are thrown into landfills, instead of being returned to the dirt. It’s estimated we could reduce landfills by 40 percent just by composting, not to mention greening the earth at the same time.  Composting has even got easier in Costa Rica, now that friendly microbiological cultures are available for your compost pile.

EARTH University over in Guácimo piloted a project some years ago with EM or Efficient Microorganisms. EM was developed by Dr. Teruo Higa of Japan using microbes to efficiently ferment and digest organic waste. Over the years, Costa Ricans began experimenting with cultures of microbes for composting. For example, farmers often use a mix called MM or Microorganisms of the Mountain, which was created from rainforest soil communities. And recently a new product has been developed by a Costa Rican farming family, which is now available at most leading nurseries around the country. It’s called Base Biológica and marketed by Bio-Eco. You can check the website for a selection of gardening products at:

Many years ago, our garden reached a point of exhaustion. Suddenly things just wouldn’t grow. That’s when I first used EM to return the life to my soils and the abundance to my garden. I’ve been using Base Biológica for about two years now and with very good results. By inoculating organic wastes, a fermentation process occurs and speeds up the decomposition, preventing odors. As you use this compost in your garden, these beneficial microbes thrive in your soil and prevent pathogenic microbes from taking over.

You can also use composting cultures to clean drains and improve septic tank functions. Additionally, it can be sprayed on plants and trees to protect them from disease. If you have animals, you can spray the floors and manure to reduce odors and flies.

By the way, there’s a must see documentary called “Dirt –The Movie that explains it all in a very inspiring way. “Teaming with Microbes – The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis is another must-read for the dirt under the fingernail crowd. 

As the rains come, let the gardening begin!

For more information on tropical gardening – naturally – contact us at: or

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Jonathan Harris

Good article, Ed. Of course I like them all. I invite you to come see my composting system at my house in Escazú. It is a 3-phase system devised by CH2M HILL, my previous employer, one of the leaders in the field. We use no additives. We might throw some N-rich fertilizer in every now and then, but rarely. It isn’t needed. ALL organic wastes from the garden and kitchen go in. It takes up little space, emits no odors, and yields rich black soil that enhances growth of anything we plant tremendously. We follow a 9-month cycle – 3-months for every phase. The great side advantage is that sometimes we get unintended plants coming out of the soil, like tomatoes, but that’s another benefit. I just want to make sure that readers understand that you don’t need to buy additives. Nature follows its own course.

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