Homemade Composting

Overview

Compost has numerous benefits, such as improving the condition of soil by increasing soil aeration and adding nutrients, according to Ohio State University Extension. Though compost can be bought in garden stores, it's possible to make compost at home. You don't need a fancy bin or expensive tools to start creating your own homemade compost, just an open area and some patience.

Step 1

Choose a location for your compost pile. The University of Illinois Extension recommends any area that has a level surface, drains well and is shielded from heavy winds and direct sunlight. Ideally, the composting location should also be conveniently close to your kitchen and garden for the purpose of adding material to the compost pile and carrying away compost for use in your garden.

Step 2

Place a 4-inch-thick layer of coarse, dried vegetation, like chopped leaves and twigs, on the ground. Restrain the pile to a size of 3 to 5 square feet, which the University of Illinois Extension says is the ideal compost pile size for a backyard garden.

Step 3

Start the first layer with 8 inches of moist composting material, like vegetable scraps and grass clippings, according to Ohio State University Extension. Follow this with a 1-inch-deep layer of garden soil.

Step 4

Repeat the layering of steps 2 and 3 until the compost pile is 3 to 5 feet high.

Step 5

Turn the compost pile after the material has been sitting for three weeks. Use a pitchfork or spade and mix the contents so that what was previously on the outer edge of the heap is now in the center. Sprinkle the heap with water to keep it slightly moist. Repeat the turning and sprinkling every three weeks, according to Ohio State University Extension.

Step 6

Use your compost when it's dark in color and crumbly in texture. Compost can be applied as a soil amendment by mixing it into your garden bed, as a component in your potting soil, or as a surface mulch. Water well after applying compost to your garden.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never mix compost that's not fully decomposed into your soil. As the unfinished compost continues to rot, it can suck in nutrients from the surrounding dirt and accomplish the opposite effect on the soil than what it's intended to do.

Things You'll Need

  • Composting material
  • Pitchfork or spade
  • Water

References

  • "Burpee: The Complete Vegetable & Herb Gardener"; Karan Cutler et al.; 1997
  • University of Illinois: Building Your Compost Pile
  • Ohio State University: Composting at Home
  • University of Missouri: Making and Using Compost

Who Can Help

  • Organic Gardening Magazine: Compost Ingredients
Keywords: homemade composting, create compost piles, build compost heap

About this Author

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.