How to Make Compost in the Yard


According to 2008 statistics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American throws away 4.5 pounds of trash every single day. Making compost in the backyard is an easy way to reduce the amount of garbage you send to landfills, since you can use the finished compost to enrich you garden and flower beds. Although you can purchase expensive compost bins and tumblers, one of the simplest, most affordable composting options is constructing a compost pile. All you need to get started is organic waste and a few basic garden tools.

Step 1

Look for a location in your yard that is well draining and has sun for 3 to 6 hours each day. Make sure it is in a convenient place so you don't have to walk too far to dispose of your kitchen scraps. Use a shovel to remove a 3-foot-by-3-foot section of sod so the topsoil is bare; this allows the millions of bacteria that inhabit the soil to have direct access to your compost materials.

Step 2

Collect organic waste materials from your kitchen and yard for composting. Look for nitrogen-rich waste materials, which include fresh grass clippings, vegetable peels, old fruit, cow or horse manure, coffee grounds and tea bags. Search for good carbon sources, as well, such as newspaper, cardboard, dead leaves, straw, sawdust and old hay. Shred large chunks of organic waste into smaller pieces that are no larger than approximately 2 inches in diameter.

Step 3

Spread a 4-to-6-inch layer of high-carbon materials across the 3-foot-by-3-foot section of bare topsoil. Mist it lightly with water from your garden hose and top it with a 2-to-3-inch layer of high-nitrogen organic waste. Sprinkle several handfuls of plain topsoil over the nitrogen layer and mist it again with your garden hose. As you collect them in your kitchen and yard, continue adding alternate layers of moist carbon and nitrogen materials until your pile is at least 3 feet tall.

Step 4

Aerate the pile by mixing the layers together thoroughly with a manure fork. Check the moisture level by squeezing a handful of the composting materials; ideally, you should be able to squeeze out only 1 or 2 drops of moisture, according to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension. If the pile is too dry, spray additional water on it with your garden hose; if it's too moist, just add additional carbon material to soak up the extra liquid.

Step 5

Add extra organic waste materials to your compost heap as you find them. Place the new waste on top of the pile and mix it in with your manure fork. Continue mixing the pile once every one or two weeks to produce finished compost in approximately six months.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Garden hose
  • Topsoil
  • Manure fork


  • U.S. EPA: 2008 Municipal Solid Waste Facts and Figures
  • University of Illinois Cooperative Extension: The Science of Composting
Keywords: making compost, backyard compost, compost heap

About this Author

Regan Hennessy has been writing professionally for 11 years. A freelance copywriter and certified teacher, Hennessy specializes in the areas of parenting, health, education, agriculture and personal finance. During her time with Demand Studios, Hennessy has produced content for Ehow, Answerbag and Travels. Hennessy graduated from Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.