How to Make Compost Soil

Overview

Making compost, or compost soil, is primarily a matter of allowing organic material such as grass cuttings, leaves and organic kitchen waste (not meat or bones) to decompose together. After several weeks of decomposition, the organic material turns into a granular substance that is highly prized by gardeners for its nitrogen and other growth-inducing compounds. Many gardeners refer to compost soil as "black gold."

Step 1

Choose a location in partial sun and away from neighbors. While you can compost in a shallow hole in the ground, the best results are achieved on a concrete slab. An area approximately 4 feet by 4 feet is required.

Step 2

Make a pile of your yard leaves (chopped by a lawnmower is best), grass cuttings and kitchen waste. Your pile should be approximately 4 feet by 4 feet and 3 feet high.

Step 3

Dampen the pile so it is approximately as wet as a wrung-out sponge. Cover the damp pile with a black tarp and weigh down the edges so the tarp stays in place.

Step 4

Remove the tarp after two days and turn the pile with a shovel or pitchfork, moving the material that was on the outside of the pile into the center. The pile should be getting hot, which is good. Replace the tarp.

Step 5

Remove the tarp after an additional two days and turn the pile once again, moving the outside of the pile into the middle. The more air that is allowed into the pile as it is turned the better. The pile should now be quite hot, possibly even steaming. This is an excellent sign. If the pile has dried out, sprinkle a little more water onto it but do not make the pile soggy. Too much water will displace oxygen and slow decomposition. Replace the tarp.

Step 6

Remove the tarp every three days and turn the pile, sprinkling on more water only as needed. Replace the tarp after each turning. The pile should be getting smaller and the composition of the pile should be turning into a soil-like substance.

Step 7

Remove the tarp and continue turning the pile every three days until the pile has reduced in size by approximately 50 percent and is no longer warm in the middle. Composting is then complete, and you can sprinkle the compost onto your garden or into your flowerbeds.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never add meat, fish or poultry to your compost pile. Do not add dog or cat manure or any meat-eating animal fats or products to the pile.

Things You'll Need

  • Cement pad
  • Grass cutting
  • Leaves
  • Organic kitchen scraps
  • Shovel or pitchfork
  • Water
  • Black tarp

References

  • Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture: How to Make Compost
  • University of Missouri: How to Build a Compost Bin
  • Composting Instructions: How to Compost at Home
Keywords: make compost soil, how to compost, make compost fertilizer

About this Author

Larry Parr has been a full-time professional freelance writer for more than 30 years. For 25 years he wrote cartoons for TV, everything from SMURFS to SPIDER-MAN.