How to Make a Compost Starter


Good compost requires four ingredients in their proper proportions: moisture, oxygen, nitrogen-based organic matter (greens), and carbon-based organic matter (browns). With the actions of the right decomposing microorganisms the material is on its way within weeks to being a valued addition to the landscape and garden. Under some circumstances, adding a compost starter loaded with ready-to-go microorganisms to the process helps do it quicker and more thoroughly. Making a variety of do-it-yourself compost starters is easy.

Step 1

Shovel several pounds of dirt from the garden into the new compost pile and mix it in. If your garden has a poor microorganism base, ask someone who has been organically gardening for at least several years if you can use some of their soil as a starter. The existing microorganisms within the soil will be all that is necessary to begin decomposition in the compost.

Step 2

Add and mix a few pounds of completed compost from another pile to a new compost pile. This will ensure the necessary microorganisms that specialize in organic decomposition are available to start the process

Step 3

Mix either a shovel of garden dirt or finished compost into a five-gallon bucket of water that has set out for at least 24 hours to rid it of chlorine. Add a spoonful of unsulfured molasses and stir vigorously for several minutes. Over the next two days stir for at least five minutes twice a day to ensure the bacteria has enough oxygen in the water. On the third day, the water should have seen a tremendous growth in the bacterial level, which when poured over and mixed into the compost will immediately jump-start it.

Tips and Warnings

  • If using soil, first ensure that there are no harmful chemicals or additives in the dirt. Do not use soil that has been recently treated for weed or insect control.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • 5-gallon plastic bucket


  • Doug Green's simplegiftsfarm: Compost Starter
  • DoItYourself: How to Compost
  • Facts OnLine: Composting

Who Can Help

  • Nashville: The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening
Keywords: composting basics, jumpstart compost, create compost

About this Author

Jack Burton started writing professionally in 1980. He has written for "Word from Jerusalem," "ICEJ Daily News" and Tagalong Garden News. Burton managed radio stations, TV studios and newspapers, and was the chief fundraiser for Taltree Arboretum. He has a Bachelor of Science in broadcasting from John Brown University, and retired from the Navy Reserve in 1999.