Compost is a wonderful soil amendment and very easy to make. You need organic matter, moisture, oxygen, and bacteria.

Compost bin

Containers need to have plenty of ventilation and some moisture.

Nothing. Compost can be created by making a 6x6x5 foot pile of alternating brown and green debris. The brown supplies carbon, the green supplies nitrogen.

Chicken wire in a cylinder. Mount 2 stakes in the ground and wrap chicken wire around it. Remove the chicken wire, turn the compost, put the compost back in chicken wire receptacle. The cylinder should be about 3 feet in diameter and 3 to 4 feet tall.

A homemade container can be made by taking a small garbage can and perforating it with 1/4 inch holes on the sides and bottom. A closed container has the advantage of keeping critters out better and hiding the contents from the neighbors.

Compost tumblerCompost tumblers have an advantage of being easy to turn the compost material. They do not hold as much as a garbage can.

How to make compost

Construct a pile 4 to 6 feet tall. Start off with a 6 inch layer of brown material followed by 3 inches of green material.

One layer is (green) plant debris, which adds nitrogen.

  • leaves
  • grass clippings
  • unseeded weeds
  • kitchen scraps
    • vegetable and fruit scraps
    • coffee grounds
    • breads
    • pastas
    • tea bags
    • ground egg shells

6 to 8 inches deep followed by 1 to 2 inches of (brown) debris, which adds carbon:

  • cow manure
  • topsoil
  • dried leaves
  • dried grass clippings
  • shredded newspaper (not colored ads)
  • straw
  • hay
  • sawdust
  • nitrogen-rich fertilizer
  • soil
  • twigs

Do not use:

  • poisonous plants (e.g. poison ivy)
  • meat
  • fat
  • bones
  • dairy products
  • oils
  • diseased plants
  • pesticides
  • used kitty litter
  • garden plant roots
  • plastics
  • styrofoam
  • medical waste
  • batteries
  • diapers

Chop or grind large materials into small pieces. Run over stuff with a lawnmower. Use a leaf sucker that chops up leaves.

Keep compost moist but not soggy nor dry. It should have consistency of a wrung-out sponge. Add a thin layer of soil every once in a while. Soil is rich in microbes.

Turn the compost pile every week or so. This reduces odors and helps compost decompose evenly. Compost should be ready in 1 to 3 months.

Before using compost, sift it through a 1 inch mesh screen, like chicken wire. Chop up the pieces left over.

In order to get the composting kickstarted, your pile needs to be hot and wet. The two biggest problems a compost system encounters are lack of heat and lack of moisture. These affect the composting process in different ways.

  • Try to keep the internal heat of your compost bin at 110 °F (43 °C) or higher. Between 110 °F (43 °C) and 140 °F (60 °C) is the ideal temperature for your pile. If your pile dips below 110 °F (43 °C), consider adding more green nitrogen-rich material or more water.
  • Try to keep the compost pile damp throughout — never soaked and never dry. A moist pile will heat up more efficiently, allowing for better composing in the end
  • New compost needs more water than a partially rotted one.
  • Don’t get the compost too wet


Use a lawnmower or leaf picker-upper to chop leaves into a fine mulch. The mulch can be left on the ground or added to the compost pile.

Keep the composter in a sunny area to speed up decomposition and keep out ants.

Bury kitchen scraps under at least 10 inches of compost in the bin so the smell does not attract animals or flies.

If there are a lot of ants, that is a sign the compost is not being turned enough.

Build three containers: one for composting, one for soil to add to compost, one for starting compost.

Turn the compost often.


Compost Info

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