How to Make Compost Fertilizer

Overview

Compost is a natural fertilizer that develops when organic material breaks down. Left alone, it may take up to one year for organic matter to convert to rich, black compost. There are methods to speed up the natural composting process. The quicker you want your materials to compost, the more labor intensive the process. The ways to speed up composting are by maintaining the proper moisture level and the optimal temperature. With a little work, you can have ready-to-use compost in a few months.

Step 1

Choose an out-of-the-way area for your compost pile. Adding only organic matter will prevent the compost pile from attracting pests or developing an odor, but most people prefer to locate the pile in an area that is easily accessible.

Step 2

Decide on an enclosure. The compost pile can be a mound of organic matter on the ground, or you can build an enclosure for it. The benefit of building an enclosure is that the pile is easier to keep contained to a certain area and, with some landscaping, is easy to hide. The enclosure can be as simple as several pallets from the hardware store tacked together, or as complex as a three-sided permanent structure.

Step 3

Gather the organic materials. Grass clippings, leaves and other yard debris are all good ingredients for a compost pile. Fruit and vegetable peelings, eggshells, coffee grounds and tea bags also make good additions. Some people add cardboard and paper to their compost pile. While these items will compost, they will take longer to break down than other materials.

Step 4

Water the compost pile when necessary. Imagine a freshly squeezed sponge. That is the amount of moisture that you want in the compost pile. A compost pile that is too dry or too wet will not break down as efficiently. Cover the compost pile with a tarp during wet weather and spray it with the water hose gently in dry weather to accelerate decomposition.

Step 5

Turn the compost pile regularly. Turning the compost pile generates heat, which speeds up the composting process. Some people are very structured about this task and shovel the entire compost pile from one spot to another, which puts the outer layer on the inside of the pile and the inside layer on the outside. Other gardeners simply turn the pile with a shovel, stirring it in place.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't add table scraps, meat or oil to the compost pile. This will generate odor and attract pests.

Things You'll Need

  • Organic scraps
  • Tarp
  • Water hose or can

References

  • Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection: "How to Make Compost"
  • Planet Green.com: "Composting Basics, Make Your Own Fertilizer"

Who Can Help

  • USAGardener.com: "Guide to Compost, Manure and Fertilizer
Keywords: organic matter, natural composting, compost pile

About this Author

Amy Hunter has been a writer for 12 years. She typically writes about health and lifestyle issues, and enjoys writing about hiking, camping, trail running and other outdoor activities. Her work has appeared in Sacramento Parent, ASPCA's Animal Watch and other print and online publications.