Compost is a humus-rich product that adds essential nutrients to the soil and is a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers for growing strong, healthy plants. The conventional method of making compost is relatively simple to do at home and allows you to recycle kitchen scraps and yard debris. Making your own compost also reduces the amount of household waste that goes directly into the garbage can, making the practice environmentally friendly.
Select an area for the compost pile that is flat, bare and free of weeds and grass. An area behind a gardening shed works well so the pile is out of the way.
Lay down a 3- to 4-inch thick-layer of straw over the area for the bottom of the compost pile, or use a layer of twigs in place of the straw. This allows for good air circulation and drainage of the compost pile, which helps in the breakdown process of the compost material.
Add compost materials on top of the straw or twigs in layers, alternating moist and dry materials for quicker decomposition. Composting materials include fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds, tea leaves, newspaper, shredded paper, dryer lint, saw dust, cardboard, wood ash and chicken manure. When adding grass clippings and wood ash, sprinkle in thin layers to avoid clumping together, which can slow the breakdown process.
Add manure as the top layer of the compost pile. Manure has lots of nitrogen, which activates the compost pile and speeds the decomposition of the materials.
Water the pile well after the final addition of the manure until the pile is wet. Water the compost pile one to two times weekly so it stays moist. The pile should be wet, without the water pooling excessively.
Cover the pile with a piece of plastic sheeting and secure by placing heavy rocks on each corner. By covering the compost pile, moisture and heat are retained, which causes the composting process that breaks down the materials. The covering also protects against excess water from rain or automatic sprinklers.
Turn the compost pile every two to three weeks using a shovel or pitchfork. To turn, remove the covering and pick up the material with a shovel or pitchfork and flip it over. Try not to move the bottom layer of stray or twigs. Turning the compost every few weeks aerates the material and adds needed oxygen to continue the breakdown process.