How to Compost Without Containers


Recycling fallen leaves, grass clippings and other yard waste into compost doesn't just save it from the trash pile, it also turns it into a rich soil amendment for your garden. Composting requires no special tools. While compost bins and containers are available to purchase or make, they aren't a requirement. Heap style composting just requires a bare space in a corner of you yard to begin building your pile. Within 2 to 12 months you will have your own nutritious amendment ready to use.

Step 1

Choose an area that is between 3 and 5 feet square to build your compost heap. Pick an area that is level and doesn't collect standing water after rainfall or snow melt.

Step 2

Create the first layer of your compost pile. Combine equal parts green waste such as grass clippings, green leaves and plant parts, and vegetable kitchen waste with brown yard waste such as dead leaves, small broken up twigs and sawdust. Add enough to make an 8-inch-high layer.

Step 3

Place a 1-inch layer of manure from a grain eating animal on top the layer. Alternately, sprinkle 1 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer or apply a commercial compost starter from a garden center to the heap, following package instructions.

Step 4

Lay 1 to 2 inch layer of garden soil or finished top soil on top the heap. Mix together all the layers using a garden fork.

Step 5

Continue adding green and brown yard waste to the heap, keeping the amount of each roughly equal. Turn the compost once a month with a garden a fork, or weekly to speed up the composting process.

Step 6

Water the compost heap with a garden hose if it begins to dry out and add more material if it is too wet. Compost should be just moist enough that one or two droplets come out when a handful is squeezed.

Step 7

Use the compost when most of the material inside is broken down and the compost resembles dark brown, slightly crumbly soil. Apply to garden beds or use in potting soil mixes.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not compost meat, dairy or greasy foods as these will rot and attract pests. Avoid making the heap over 3 feet high, as it will begin to collapse.

Things You'll Need

  • Yard waste
  • Kitchen waste
  • Manure
  • Compost starter
  • Fertilizer
  • Soil
  • Garden fork


  • University of Illinois Extension
  • University of Missouri Extension
Keywords: compost heap, home composting, 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. 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.