How to Make Actively Aerated Compost at Home


Many people shun the idea of composting simply because of the time involved in producing finished compost, which can take up to 2 or 3 years, depending upon the composting method that you use. Making actively aerated compost at home is a simple but labor-intensive way to produce compost more quickly. The key to aerating your compost sufficiently is to make the commitment to turn your compost layers at least once every five to seven days. In fact, according to Robert Raabe, Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of California-Berkeley, turning your compost daily can produce finished compost in as little as 2 weeks.

Step 1

Choose a prime location for your compost pile. Look for an area that is conveniently located and has good drainage to keep your compost pile from getting too moist. Opt for a location that has between 4 and 6 hours of sun each day. Use a spade to peel back a 3-foot-square section of sod to expose the topsoil at your compost location.

Step 2

Collect equal amounts of high-nitrogen waste (such as horse manure, fresh grass clippings, coffee grounds and vegetable peels) and high-carbon waste (such as newspaper, cardboard, straw, sawdust and dead leaves). Shred large chunks or pieces of organic waste into smaller sections, keeping their diameters smaller than about 1½ inches.

Step 3

Spread a 6- to 8-inch layer of carbon-rich materials across the 3-foot-square area of exposed topsoil. Top it with a 2- to 3-inch layer of nitrogen-rich materials, sprinkling the materials to keep them from clumping together. Toss three to five handfuls of plain topsoil on top of the double layer and mist it all lightly with water from a garden hose. Continue adding alternate layers of high-carbon and high-nitrogen materials until your pile is as tall as it is wide.

Step 4

Wait 48 hours for your compost pile to heat up. Push a manure fork into the pile and mix the layers together, fluffing them up by moving the materials from the center of the pile to the outside and shifting the materials on the outside edges to the center of the pile. Squeeze a handful of compost to check the moisture level; according to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension, you should be able to wring out only about one or two drops of liquid if it's at the correct moisture level.

Step 5

Collect a bundle of five to eight sticks that are at least 3 feet tall. Tie them together with a piece of string and insert the bundle straight into the top center of your compost pile to introduce more oxygen to the center of the heap. Remove the stick bundle to aerate your compost pile daily with your manure fork and replace the stick bundle back in the pile when you've finished turning the layers.

Things You'll Need

  • Spade
  • High-nitrogen waste
  • High-carbon waste
  • Topsoil
  • Garden hose
  • Manure fork
  • Sticks (36 inches or taller)
  • String


  • University of California: The Rapid Composting Method
  • University of Illinois Cooperative Extension: The Science of Composting
Keywords: aerating compost, turning compost, composting

About this Author

Regan Hennessy has been writing professionally for 11 years. A freelance copywriter and certified teacher, Hennessy specializes in the areas of parenting, health, education, agriculture and personal finance. During her time with Demand Studios, Hennessy has produced content for Ehow, Answerbag and Travels. Hennessy graduated from Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.