How to Make Your Own Compost

If you have plans for a spring or summer garden, then you might want to consider making your own compost. Compost is a great alternative to fertilizers, and it reuses materials that might otherwise be waste.

Why use compost?

According to compostguide.com, “Using compost improves soil structure, texture, and aeration and increases the soil’s water-holding capacity. Compost loosens clay soils and helps sandy soils retain water. Adding compost improves soil fertility and stimulates healthy root development in plants. The organic matter provided in compost provides food for microorganisms, which keeps the soil in a healthy, balanced condition. Nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus will be produced naturally by the feeding of microorganisms, so few if any soil amendments will need to be added.”

Compost bin

Making compost

You’ll first need to select where you’ll house your compost pile or bin. The area must be shady and near a water source. A shovel and/or pitchfork will come in handy.

The EPA has a great beginners guide to composting, which focuses on both passive and active composting. All composting begins with water, green material (grass clipping, food and vegetable waste, coffee grounds) and brown material (dead leaves, branches and twigs). Drainage, air flow, insulation and a good mix of various ingredients are key to composting.

Passive composting steps:

  1. Select a dry, shady spot near a water source for your compost pile or bin.
  2. Add your brown and green materials as you collect them, making sure larger pieces are chopped or shredded.
  3. Moisten dry materials as they are added.
  4. Once your compost pile is established, mix grass clippings and green waste into the pile and bury fruit and vegetable waste under 10 inches of compost material.
  5. Optional: Cover top of compost with a tarp to keep it moist.
  6. When the material at the bottom is dark and rich in color, your compost is ready to use (this is usually occurs in two months to two years).

Active composting steps:

  1. Select a dry, shady spot near a water source for your compost pile or bin.
  2. Before you add your brown and green materials, make sure larger pieces are chopped or shredded.
  3. Cover your composting area with a 6-inch layer of brown materials.
  4. Add a 3-inch layer of green materials and a little soil or finished compost.
  5. Lightly mix the two layers above.
  6. Top with a 3-inch layer of brown materials, adding water until moist.
  7. Turn your compost pile every week or two with a pitchfork to distribute air and moisture. Move the dry materials from the edges into the middle of the pile. Continue this practice until the pile does not re-heat much after turning.
  8. Your compost will be ready in one to four months, but let the pile sit for two weeks before using.

Check out these basic and advanced tips on composting. If you want to understand the science behind composting, read this.

Good luck! Please share any composting tips you have in our comments section.