Homemade Compost Piles


Recycle your yard waste into compost, a rich soil amendment that adds nutrients and organic matter to garden beds. Compost is also a key ingredient in many home potting mixtures, providing nutrients and the moisture holding capacity needed in planters and pots. As leaves, grass clippings and other vegetative matter decomposes in your homemade compost pile, it turns into a soil-like substance that is then used to improve your beds so that they provide the right balance of organic matter. Compost benefits any garden bed, but is especially useful for improving the quality of clay or sandy soils.

Step 1

Clear a 3-foot square area of debris for your compost pile. Choose an area that isn't prone to standing water, is easy to access and isn't close to trees and shrubs.

Step 2

Place an 8-inch layer of dead, dried leaves, small twigs and wood chips on the bottom of the pile. Brown materials such as these add carbon to the pile, one of the necessary components of a successful compost pile.

Step 3

Spread a 3-inch layer of grass clippings or green plant material on top of the brown material. Green plant material adds nitrogen, another necessary component. Mix the brown and green materials together thoroughly with a spading fork.

Step 4

Apply a ½-inch layer of garden soil over the organic material, which introduces the microbes needed for composting to the pile. Water the pile until it is moist.

Step 5

Add additional layers of brown material, green material and soil to the pile until it is approximately 4 feet tall. Water the pile again until it is as damp as a wrung-out sponge.

Step 6

Turn the pile once every two to four weeks with the spading fork. Move the materials on the outside of the pile to the inside so everything is evenly composted. Compost is ready to use when all the organic material is broken down to a soil-like substance.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not compost meat, dairy or greasy foods. These items can attract pests to the pile and they also produce foul odors.

Things You'll Need

  • Dead leaves
  • Small twigs
  • Grass clippings
  • Spading fork
  • Soil


  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Making Compost from Yard Waste
  • University of Illinois Extension: Building Your Compost Pile
Keywords: homemade compost pile, backyard composting, making compost heaps, soil amendments, recycling yard waste

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.