How to Make a Homemade Compost

Overview

Making your own compost is a great way to improve your soil and the environment. Recycling yard and kitchen waste significantly reduces the amount of household garbage sent to landfills each year. Compost can be made using either the hot or cold method. Although cold composting is very easy and requires little labor, it can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete the process. Under ideal conditions, hot composting can deliver a well-aged product loaded with nutrients and microorganisms in just a few weeks.

Step 1

Select a site for your compost pile that is within reach of a water supply and preferably hidden from view. An efficient hot compost pile should contain at least one cubic yard of material. This is roughly five by five feet at the base, sloping up to three feet high.

Step 2

Move bulking materials such as straw, hay, corn stalks, wood chips or sawdust close to the pile location. Energy for the decomposition process is provided by high nitrogen materials such as grass and yard clippings. Uncooked fruit and vegetable waste can also be used as energy materials. Clear the site of debris and move the materials nearby.

Step 3

Start a small pile by mixing together two parts bulking materials and one part grass clippings. The pile will compost faster if the ingredients are chopped up as finely as possible.

Step 4

Take a handful of the mixture and squeeze it firmly to check the moisture content. Ideally the material should be just damp, producing just a few drops of water when compressed. If there is a lot of water, spread your materials on the ground to let them dry out for a few days before continuing. Add water sparingly if the starter mix is dry.

Step 5

Continue adding and blending the materials together until the pile is roughly one cubic yard in size. Keep checking the moisture content as you build. When properly mixed and watered the core temperature of the pile should reach 110 to 160 degrees within a few days.

Step 6

Turn your pile once a week with the garden fork. Move the outer materials to the center and get plenty of air into the pile. Add water only if needed.

Step 7

Check the texture of the pile each week. When it has turned dark brown in color and crumbles easily in your hand, it is ready for use anywhere in your garden.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Garden fork
  • Grass clippings
  • Straw or hay
  • Garden hose

References

  • USDA: National Resources Conservation Service: Composting
  • Washington State University Extension: Backyard Composting: How to Make Compost
Keywords: make homemade compost, composting yard waste, homemade compost pile

About this Author

Based in Surrey, British Columbia, Stephen Oakley is a freelance writer focusing on environmental issues, travel and all things outdoors. His background includes many years spent working in the Canadian wilderness and traveling worldwide.