How to Compost Organic Materials


Compost is an organic soil conditioner and fertilizer that can help you add a rich layer of humus to your gardens and lawn. Composting converts organic materials from your kitchen, garden, and yard and turns it into what is called "black gold" by many gardeners. By creating a compost pile on the ground, rather than using a commercial bin, worms and other beneficial microbes from the soil will move into your compost and be subsequently transported to your garden.

Step 1

Lay straw or twigs 1 to 2 inches thick in an area of your yard or property that is out of the way. This will form the base of your compost pile. The smallest your compost pile should be, according to the University of Illinois, is 3 foot by 3 foot by 3 foot and the largest size that you should make your pile is 5 foot by 5 foot by 5 foot.

Step 2

Add a layer of lawn clippings or other material on the twigs.

Step 3

Add an inch of manure, clover, buckwheat or wheat grass on top of the lawn clippings. This will help speed composting.

Step 4

Continue adding clippings and kitchen waste to your compost. As you add materials to your compost pile, try to achieve a 25:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio by mixing different materials. "Green" materials add nitrogen. "Brown" materials add carbon.

Step 5

Cover the pile with a 4-by-8 foot-sheet of plywood.

Step 6

Keep your compost moist. If you go through a dry spell where you do not get much rain, add about half as much water to your compost pile as you do to your garden. Keep your compost moist, but do not allow it to become soaked. Your compost pile should have between 40 percent and 60 percent moisture.

Step 7

Turn the pile ever few weeks with a shovel to help keep the compost aerated. Allowing oxygen to reach deeper in the pile will help in the composting process.

Step 8

Take the temperature of the interior of your compost pile regularly. The ideal temperature should be between 135 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature drops too low, aerate the pile by turning it. Although this will initially lower the temperature, the additional oxygen should help the temperature rise. If you find your pile is too hot, turn it more frequently to reduce the stored heat.

Things You'll Need

  • Straw or twigs
  • Lawn clippings, shrub trimmings, and non-meat organic kitchen waste\
  • Manure, clover, buckwheat, or whea tgrass
  • Shovel
  • 4 foot x 8 foot sheet of plywood
  • Compost thermometer
  • Pitchfork


  • Eartheasy: Composting
  • Compost Instructions: How to Compost at Home
Keywords: composting, compost piles, making compost

About this Author

Although he grew up in Latin America, Mr. Ma is a writer based in Denver. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for NPR, AP, Boeing, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, RAHCO International, Umax Data Systems and other manufacturers in Taiwan. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, English and reads Spanish.