If you throw scraps of organic waste in your garbage can on a regular basis, then purchasing compost from a garden center is an unnecessary gardening expense. Whether you're on a tight gardening budget or just interested in using an organic soil amendment to increase the fertility of your garden soil, making homemade compost provides an easy way for you to decrease the amount of trash that you send to landfills. Start out with a compost heap, a simple, low-maintenance way for you to make homemade compost that typically requires six months to two years to produce finished compost.
Search for an ideal compost location on your property. Look for a sunny, well-draining location that is near your garden to make compost applications easy. Use a shovel to remove a 3- to 5-foot-square area of sod from the ground to expose your compost directly to the native decomposing bacteria in the soil.
Gather organic waste from your kitchen and yard for your compost heap. Search for an assortment of high-carbon organic waste, such as dead leaves, sawdust, straw, old hay, newspaper and scrap cardboard. Try to find a variety of high-nitrogen organic waste such as green yard clippings, horse or cow manure, coffee grounds, banana peels and other fruit waste as well as vegetable scraps.
Shred large chunks of organic waste, such as cardboard, into small pieces that are less than 1 ½ inches in diameter. Spread a 6- to 7-inch layer of carbon-rich waste across the exposed topsoil marking your composting location. Sprinkle 2 to 3 inches of nitrogen-rich materials over the carbon layer and moisten it with water from your garden hose.
Toss several handfuls of plain topsoil over the nitrogen materials. Alternate additional layers of carbon and nitrogen materials until the height of your compost heap matches its width. Mist each layer with water until your compost heap is about as damp as a wrung-out sponge.
Leave your compost pile to heat up for four to five weeks. Mix the materials together with a manure fork to introduce fresh oxygen to the heap. Turn the waste on the sides in toward the center of the pile and shift the materials in the center of the pile toward the edges of the heap. Repeat this process once monthly until your compost becomes dark brown and crumbly.
Check the compost heap moisture level once per week throughout the composting process. Squeeze a handful of compost. Ideally, you should be able to squeeze out no more than two drops of liquid and the handful of compost should remain in a ball after you open your hand. Add extra water, if necessary.