How to Make Food Compost

Overview

Did you know that instead of throwing all of your food waste into the trash you can recycle most of it into compost? Compost is decomposed organic material such as leaves and grass clippings, fruit and vegetable peels or rotted animal manure. The various compost ingredients are layered, stirred, watered and allowed to break down. The rich, dark humus that results is then used to enrich garden soil. It's important to keep certain items out of the compost---meat or other types of protein, fats, or the feces of meat-eating animals. While manure from straw-eating horses or cows is welcome in the compost pile, droppings from the family dog or cat are not.

Step 1

Remove fish scraps, bones, meat and butter from the food refuse you intend to add to the compost pile. These can attract pests to the compost pile, make it smell rancid, and slow down the decomposing process.

Step 2

Collect discarded food waste such as apple pulp, bread, coffee grounds, corncobs, egg shells, fruit and fruit peels, garden waste, husks, nut shells, stalks, tea bags, vegetables and vegetable peels in a large bucket.

Step 3

Cut any large pieces into smaller ones to foster quicker decomposition.

Step 4

Choose an area in your yard to place the compost pile. It should be flat, well drained and at least 20 feet from any buildings. Some shade is preferred, as direct sun can make the compost pile dry out. Avoid placing over tree roots or where water naturally drains.

Step 5

Using a mallet, pound the stakes about 12 inches into the ground at the four corners of the compost site to create a 3- to 5-foot square.

Step 6

Wrap the wire mesh around the stakes, creating a boxed-in area where the compost pile will be made. Secure the ends of wire mesh together with wire and fasten to the stakes.

Step 7

Cover the ground of the compost pile with a layer of grass clippings, leaves or other garden cuttings. Do not add plants that contain pesticides.

Step 8

Layer the food scraps you've collected over the clippings and then cover with a sprinkling of fertilizer or manure.

Step 9

Sprinkle the compost lightly with water. You want the pile to be moist but not soggy.

Step 10

Turn the pile every month or so using a pitchfork or shovel and continually add more layers. Keep the pile moist by occasionally sprinkling with water. The compost is ready when it is resembles rich, crumbling soil. This may take several months.

Things You'll Need

  • Bucket
  • Knife
  • 4-foot stakes (4)
  • Mallet
  • 3-foot-wide wire mesh (12 to 20 feet)
  • Wire
  • Garden hose
  • Pitchfork or shovel

References

  • "Vegetables and Fruits"; James Crockett; 1972
  • Compost Q & A
  • Building Your Own Compost Pile
Keywords: compost pile, making food compost, mesh wire compost bin

About this Author

Ann Johnson was the editor of a community magazine in Southern California for more than 10 years and was an active real estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelors of Art degree in communications from California State University of Fullerton. Today she is a freelance writer and photographer, and part owner of an Arizona real estate company.