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How to Make Compost Directly in a Garden Bed

By Kay Dean ; Updated September 21, 2017
Compost in an herb garden

Compost has long been a gardener’s friend, providing rich soil amendments for gardens. Composting is also an earth-friendly practice, reducing landfills by combining kitchen scraps with yard waste. There are many types of compost containers, both purchased and homemade. However, you don’t need a container to compost; you can compost directly in the garden bed.

Select a spot in the garden bed to build the compost pile. Place it where it is convenient to add kitchen and garden scraps and where you can remove the finished compost. If there is room, build a compost pile in the vegetable garden, flower garden or herb garden.

Start the compost by spreading a layer of manure over the area. Add leaves or old plants on top of the manure.

Collect green ingredients for the compost. Green ingredients, which include vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds and fresh leaves provide nitrogen. Set a lidded container, such as a plastic tub or crock, on the counter to collect kitchen scraps.

Collect brown ingredients for the compost. Brown ingredients provide carbon and include dried leaves, newspapers, straw and dead plants. The Riverside County Waste Management Department has a simple list of ingredients for composting. Rake fallen leaves near the compost area so you can easily add them.

Add both green and brown items to the compost at the same time. When the kitchen container is full, dump it on the compost pile and add several handfuls of dried leaves or a layer of newspaper.

Keep the compost damp, but not wet; it should have the dampness of a squeezed sponge. Sprinkle the compost with water, or pour old coffee or tea on it when you add the green and brown ingredients.

Turn the compost once or twice a week. Many things work to stir the compost pile, such as a shovel, pitchfork or even the handle of an old broom. Insert the shovel under the pile and lift to bring the rich, wet items on the bottom to the top of the pile.

Use the compost when it is dark, crumbly and smells like rich soil. You can use an old window screen in the frame to sift the compost. Shovel the compost on top of the screen and shake. Use the black soil-like compost on the garden and return the parts that are not finished back to the compost pile.


Things You Will Need

  • Manure
  • Leaves, old plants, newspapers
  • Kitchen scraps
  • Rake
  • Container to hold kitchen scraps
  • Pitchfork or shovel to turn compost
  • Tarpaulin (optional)
  • Old window screen and frame (optional)


  • Special containers for collecting kitchen scraps have a filter to block odors. While these might be nice, a simple lidded container works fine.
  • Some gardeners prefer to cover the compost pile with an old tarpaulin to keep animals away from it and to keep it moist.


  • Do not add diseased plants or any parts of a rose bush to the compost pile.

About the Author


After attending Hardin Simmons University, Kay Dean finished her formal education with the Institute of Children's Literature. Since 1995, Dean has written for such publications as "PB&J," Disney’s "Family Fun," "ParentLife," "Living With Teenagers" and Thomas Nelson’s NY Times bestselling "Resolve." An avid gardener for 25 years, her experience includes organic food gardening, ornamental plants, shrubs and trees, with a special love for roses.