How to Make Organic Waste into Fertilizer


With the trend toward environmentally friendly, organic and recycled products, people have started to look into natural ways to garden. All of these trends can be utilized with composting, a method of turning organic waste into fertilizer for gardens. With a few simple steps and new habits, you can make use of composting to lower your environmental impact and cut costs.

Step 1

Set up a location to place the organic waste. Select an area near the house and garden so that you are not traveling far with organic material. Keep the composter upwind of you, if you are worried about fumes or odor.

Step 2

Create a container for the organic waste. This can be a 50-gallon oil drum with aeration holes punched into the sides at various points. Make sure the container can hold a good amount of waste as the composting will take up room in the beginning stages; also be sure that the drum has a top that can be secured tightly and has a hole that can be plugged. Paint the oil drum a dark color to help the sun heat the material inside.

Step 3

Collect food waste to turn into fertilizer. Spoiled fruit, vegetable and fruit peelings, coffee grounds, peanut shells, and leftovers from dinner can all be used. Avoid oils, grease, dairy and meat products.

Step 4

Add wood, garden, and landscape waste. Use wood ashes from the fireplace, dried leaves, grass clippings, twigs, dead flowers or other clippings. As an aid to chopping up materials, you might prune your plants before mowing and then put all the dried leaves on the lawn. Use the bagging attachment of the mower when you mow, and this will chop up the clippings and grass and bag them for easy disposal into the composter.

Step 5

Add shredded newspaper. Use a paper shredder or tear the paper by hand. Toss in shredded junk mail or other papers you want to dispose of. Make sure all personal information is removed, blacked out, or shredded thoroughly.

Step 6

Add sawdust from workshop projects as long as they don't contain painted or treated wood. These naturally decompose within the composter and will help heat up the material for faster turnover into fertilizer.

Step 7

Gather manure from chickens, horses, cows, goats and other grain-eating farm animals. If you don't have animals, ask local farmers if you can the pick up waste material from their animals. Add this to the composter.

Step 8

Mix the organic material daily. Tip the barrel over on its side so it rolls. Roll the barrel until it has made a full rotation at least twice. Set the barrel back up in its original location.

Step 9

Obtain the fertilizer. Put a cinder block on the ground. Tip over the barrel so the top of the side rests on the block. Keep the plugged hole close to the ground. Set a bucket against the cinder block under the hole. Unplug the hole. Pick up the barrel from the opposite end. Pour out the liquid into the bucket. This is your "compost tea" or liquid fertilizer. Set the barrel down. Plug the hole. Tip the barrel back upright again. Use the material inside the barrel as mulch to mix into the soil.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not use manure from meat-eating animals (including cats and dogs).

Things You'll Need

  • 50-gallon Drum
  • Bucket
  • Cinder block


  • Let it Rot---The Gardeners Guide to Composting; Stu Campell; 1975
  • The Garden of Oz: Composting 101
  • Missouri State University Extension: How to Build a Compost Bin

Who Can Help

  • How to Compost
Keywords: composting organic waste, making organic fertlizer, organically made fertilizer

About this Author

Jack S. Waverly is a Pennsylvania-based freelance writer who has written hundreds of articles relating to business, finance, travel, history and health. His current focus is on pets, gardens, personal finance and business management. Waverly has been writing online content professionally since 2007 for various providers and websites.