How to Make Backyard Compost


Compost is not garbage. It is a nutrient-rich substance that smells pleasant when you make it correctly. Composting your kitchen scraps and yard waste is a good way to recycle right at home. It can reduce the amount of materials you send to the landfill and also save you money on purchased fertilizers and trash hauling costs. Many schools of thought exist on the best ways to make backyard compost, but it can be as inexpensive and easy as creating a layer of plant materials on the ground in a corner of your yard.

Step 1

Create an area for your compost pile. You will need an area that is about 6 feet by 6 feet around. Don't bother to remove lawn or weeds before you begin because the compost pile will smother any plants below it. A sunny area that will also receive rain is a good place for your compost pile.

Step 2

Gather plant materials for your compost pile. Fallen leaves and other dead plant parts provide needed carbon to the compost, and fresh, green materials such as lawn clippings give it nitrogen, another essential component. Use four parts of dry, brown materials for every part of fresh, green material.

Step 3

Spread an 8-inch layer of dry plant materials on the ground and top it off with a 2-inch layer of green, fresh plant parts or manure. Continue to add similar layers of brown materials topped with green materials. If you have extra, add an occasional layer of topsoil. If you have kitchen scraps, add them along with a green layer and always cover them with brown plant materials to prevent insect and animal pests from disturbing your pile.

Step 4

When your compost pile is about 4 feet high, stop adding to it and allow it to "cook." Water it well by running a sprinkler on top of your pile for at least 30 minutes. Cover it with a sheet of heavy black plastic or a tarp, anchored at the edges with rocks or bricks.

Step 5

Remove the plastic or tarp from your compost pile before you turn your compost pile every two to three weeks if you want to speed the decomposition process. If the pile seems to have dried out, run your sprinkler on top of it for 30 minutes. This step is optional; passive composting, when you don't turn the pile, takes longer to cook.

Things You'll Need

  • Dry leaves and other dead plant parts
  • Fresh green plant parts
  • Clippers
  • Chipper/shredder (optional)
  • Plastic sheet or tarp
  • Bricks or rocks
  • Spading fork or pitchfork


  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Making Compost From Yard Waste
Keywords: composting methods, free fertilizer, organic gardening

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.