Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Make Your Own Compost Activator

By Jennifer Loucks ; Updated September 21, 2017

Composting is the process of decomposing organic materials to create a nutrient-rich media used as a soil fertilizer. The compost bin must contain the proper level of carbon- to nitrogen-rich material in order to function properly. Adding a compost activator increases the decomposing rate by supplying food for the microorganisms. There is no need to purchase a compost activator because common gardening or household products are natural activators. The activator is added to the initial compost layers and does not need to be added again during the decomposition process.

Begin layering the compost pile by adding organic material such as vegetable waste, grass, garden debris and small twigs to the compost bin. Keep the layer between 6 to 8 inches thick.

Add material that has a dry to wet composition of approximately 3 to 1. The carbon to nitrogen (brown to green material) composition should be equal.

Add a 1- to 2-inch layer of activator on top of the organic compost layer. Homemade activators include fresh animal manure, spoiled fruit or vegetables, high-protein dog food or blood meal.

Moisten the activator layer lightly with water. Do not saturate or make the compost soggy.

Place a 1- to 2-inch layer of garden soil on top of the activator. Do not use a sterile potting soil or garden soil that is treated with insecticide.

Repeat the layering process until the bin is full by adding organic material followed by a homemade activator and layer of soil.


Things You Will Need

  • Carbon-rich material
  • Nitrogen-rich material
  • Compost activator
  • Water
  • Soil


  • Fresh composted material can be used as an activator for new compost piles.
  • Do not start a compost pile or bin on concrete pavement.
  • A compost pile that has a foul odor reflects conditions in which materials are too wet or there is not enough carbon-rich brown material.
  • Turn the compost pile every five to six weeks to increase oxygen levels in the material.

About the Author


Jennifer Loucks has been writing since 1998. She previously worked as a technical writer for a software development company, creating software documentation, help documents and training curriculum. She now writes hobby-based articles on cooking, gardening, sewing and running. Loucks also trains for full marathons, half-marathons and shorter distance running. She holds a Bachelor of Science in animal science and business from University of Wisconsin-River Falls.