How to Make Homemade Compost From Household Items

Overview

Composting is a good way to recycle many household waste products that you might otherwise throw away. Kitchen scraps, grass clippings, fallen leaves, twigs, and branches are all things that you can easily turn into what gardeners call "black gold." With a little care, you can even compost those bothersome weeds you pull out of your lawn and garden. Make sure to dry them out first so they have less chance of sprouting, and do not try to compost weeds that have gone to seed.

Step 1

Plan your compost pile so that it is near your garden. If you do not have a garden, simply place it under a deciduous tree (one that sheds its leaves once a year) so that it gets some shade. It should also get some sun to heat up in the spring, which is why the tree must be deciduous. Place your compost pile on top of soil--not concrete, asphalt, or brick.

Step 2

Layer one part dry ingredients with one part moist ingredients. Moist ingredients are often called "green" in gardening parlance, meaning they contain a lot of nitrogen. These include kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and any plant matter before it has dried. Dry ingredients are called "brown," and they contain a lot of carbon. Cardboard, newspaper, and dried leaves fall into this category.

Step 3

Add a layer of topsoil when you have finished layering the dry and moist ingredients. This will help to heat the pile by retaining the sun's heat, which will jumpstart the aerobic decomposition process.

Step 4

Cover the compost pile with a black tarp to further aid in retaining the sun's heat. Compost piles do best when they are hot, because the material in them decomposes faster. The center of a compost pile is always where it is hottest.

Step 5

Add new ingredients to the compost pile by lifting the tarp and poking a hole into the center of the pile. Mix the new ingredients directly into the center and cover them back up with any compost you have displaced.

Step 6

Use a shovel or pitchfork to turn the pile once a week. This will help prevent anaerobic bacteria from forming due to lack of oxygen in the pile. Anaerobic bacteria will still decompose your compost, but they work much more slowly. They also create stinky odors and attract more pests than aerobic bacteria.

Step 7

Water the compost pile if it gets too dry. A compost pile should not be sopping wet, but it does require some moisture in order to decompose efficiently.

Tips and Warnings

  • Add weeds you have pulled to your compost pile, but only after thoroughly drying them out. Put them in a separate pile to dry, or hang them up outside. Dispose of them in the garbage if they have gone to seed. Weed seeds stay viable for years and may not be destroyed by the levels of heat present in your compost pile.

Things You'll Need

  • Kitchen scraps
  • Dried leaves
  • Twigs or branches
  • Old newspapers
  • Cardboard
  • Paper bags
  • Weeds
  • Topsoil
  • Black tarp
  • Shovel
  • Pitchfork

References

  • University of Illinois Extension: Building Your Compost Pile
  • Compost Instructions: Ultimate One Page Guide to Composting
  • Compost Instructions: What You Can and Cannot Compost
Keywords: homemade compost ingredients, make compost pile, construct compost heap

About this Author

Amrita Chuasiriporn is a professional cook, baker, and writer. In addition to cooking and baking for a living, Chuasiriporn has written for several online publications. These include Chef's Blade, CraftyCrafty, and others. Additionally, Chuasiriporn is a regular contributor to online automotive enthusiast publication CarEnvy.ca. Chuasiriporn holds an A.A.S. in culinary arts, as well as a B.A. in Spanish language and literature.