How to Make Compost Starter


Compost starter is a substance that provides a nitrogen-protein source that feeds the microbial material in a beginning compost pile. It is a "booster start" to get the decomposition process going well. Animal products such as dried blood have been a traditional source for nitrogen-protein compost starters, but a handful of already-composted material does just as well. It is easy to get the compost pile started by using bone meal, blood meal, manure, fish meal, alfalfa meal or cottonseed meal. Other compost starters that are high in nitrogen are nettles, seaweed and comfrey.

Compost starter

Step 1

Spread a 4-inch thick layer of brown, carbon-rich material to start the pile. This may include shredded newspapers, dry leaves or grass, wood chips, pine needles or straw.

Step 2

Add ½ cup of the compost starter of your choice by sprinkling it evenly over the brown layer. If you are using a commercial compost starter, read the directions carefully for the amount needed.

Step 3

Add a 4-inch layer of green materials. Water until it is wet but not soggy. Water helps activate the compost starter.

Step 4

Repeat the layering process of alternate green and brown materials, spreading a handful of starter after each brown layer.

Step 5

Water the compost pile thoroughly, wet but not soggy. Decomposition has started and it will continue for three to six months until finished compost is available.

Step 6

Aerate the compost pile every two weeks by "stirring" a little bit with a pitchfork or strong stick. Just let air in, but do not turn the pile.

Tips and Warnings

  • Check weekly to see that the compost pile is moist and water if necessary. If the compost pile develops too many flies, put a layer of brown material on top. Flies are attracted more to the green materials as they decay.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden gloves
  • Compost bin
  • Compost materials
  • Compost starter


  • Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust: Making a Compost Heap

Who Can Help

  • Los Angeles County Smart Gardening Program: Water-wise Gardening
  • EPA: Compost, Environmental Benefits
Keywords: compost starter, make compost, compost tips

About this Author

Joan Norton, M.A., is a licensed psychotherapist and professional writer in the field of women's spirituality. She blogs and has two published books on the subject of Mary Magdalene; "14 Steps To Awaken The Sacred Feminine:Women in the Circle of Mary Magdalene," and "The Mary Magdalene Within."