Thursday, March 8, 2012

How to Make Compost

 Compost is like a mulch and fertilizer all mixed together.  If you're a gardener, you know how great it can be for your soil.  It adds valuable nutrients,  helps clay soil drain better, and sandy soil retain water.  So how do you make a compost pile?

1. Choose an area that is out of sight, yet convenient to your garden.  You don't want to have to look at your compost pile every day, but you also don't want to walk a million miles to get to it.

2.  Gardening stores sell all kinds of composting bins.  Some can get kind of expensive.  If you're short on cash, you can use a stiff wire mesh to contain your compost.  The ideal size is 3 ft by 3 ft by 3 ft.  Compost breaks down quickly with that size.

3.  Compost is made up of two basic things:  green garden debris and brown garden debris.  Green debris includes stuff like raw vegetable peelings from your kitchen, coffee grounds, grass clippings, and animal manure from herbivores (don't use dog feces or cat litter!)  Brown debris includes things like dry leaves, newspapers, and sawdust.  Things NOT to include are meat, oil, dairy, or plants treated with herbicides.  Green ingredients are high in nitrogen.  Brown ingredients are high in carbon.

4.  You'll want a mix with the ratio one part green debris to two parts brown debris.  Too much green debris makes your pile stink.  So, if your pile is smelling bad, up the brown debris - add newspapers.

5.  To jump start the microbial action, toss in a shovelful of finished compost or garden soil.

6.  Your pile should be moist, but not too moist.  Add some water if it starts to dry out.

7.  Turn the pile once a week to keep the airflow continuous.

8. Your compost should be finished in about two months.  You'll know it's done when you can't tell what any of the original materials were.


  1. Very helpful post. Should it have an airtight cover?

    1. No. You want the air to help break down the compost. You can cover it though, to keep out rain, or other unwanted debris, if you'd like. Just be sure to turn the pile at least once a week.

  2. I am going to, hopefully, get a composter this spring. I can't have one that's open because of all the wildlife that would get in and spread it to the four-winds.
    Those are good tips.

  3. Great tips. Can't have a composter where I live, but my mom has one in the far corner of her yard. It certainly comes in handy for fertilizing the vegetable garden. Have a great week!