An Informative Guide on How to Make Compost
There are many ways to improve your soil’s fertility, but one of the best
is by adding compost. Compost contains natural organic matter, nutrients, and organisms that keep soil healthy.
Compost is made from materials such as grass clippings, leaves, weeds, and kitchen scraps. So not only is it great
for your soil, it’s free!
The Compost Bin
The first thing you need is a composting bin or container. In deciding what type of bin to use,
just keep two things in mind. First, the compost material needs air. The bin should have plenty of ventilation
coming from the sides and top. Second, the compost needs water.
1. One choice is a simple wooden bin. All you need is some 2 x 4 boards (pressure treated to
prevent rot) and galvanized screws or nails. Leave the bottom of the wood bin open to attract earth worms. The
bin should measure at least 3′ x 3′ x 3′. Otherwise, the compost pile will be too small and will never heat-up
(more on heating later).
2. You can also use cinder blocks to form walls as a bin. Make sure to leave gaps between the
blocks for proper aeration.
3. Another choice is a bin made out of a plastic trash can. Remove the bottom of the trash can
to attract earth worms and drill holes in the sides and lid for aeration.
4. You really do not even need a bin. A simple pile of material will produce compost just fine.
And, if you do not want to constantly turn the pile for aeration, place PVC pipes, which have been drilled with
holes for aeration, layered throughout the pile. As you add compost material, layer the pipes horizontally and
vertically. The pipes will carry air deep into the pile, where it is needed.
Once the type of compost bin has been determined, it’s time to start filling and making “brown
1. There are many types of organic matter that can be used for composting, and those that should
be avoided. To have efficient composting depends on the correct balance of organic matter.
2. There are two types of organic matter used in composting; carbon based and nitrogen based.
Combine these ingredients in a 3:1 ratio, respectively. This is important in creating a well balanced compost pile.
For every three parts carbon based matter add one part nitrogen matter.
3. A good rule of thumb to remember is dry material is high in carbon and green succulent or
wet matter is high in nitrogen. So, combine 3 parts dry with 1 part wet.
CARBON RICH (dry)
Horse manure with bedding
NITROGEN RICH (wet)
Poultry manure (fresh)
Pig manure (fresh)
Cow manure (fresh)
Horse manure (fresh)
4. There are certain materials that should never be used as compost material.
Anything containing pathogens (human or dog feces)
Clippings containing herbicides
Bones, meat scraps, or any fatty food scraps
Highly acidic matter
5. It is best to shred or chop matter before adding to the compost pile. The smaller the pieces,
the quicker it will decompose.
6. It’s important to keep compost moist, but not wet. Sprinkle the pile with water whenever you
notice it has dried out.
7. Even more important is to turn the compost as often as you can, at least once a week if you
have time. The quicker you want the material to decompose, the more often the pile should be turned. Compost you
buy in bags at the store is made commercially in “factories.” The material is under constant agitation
and decomposes in about two weeks. If you turn your pile every week, you should have compost in about 4 months.
8. As your compost pile increases in size, and if it has the proper aeration, you will notice
it heating up. The decomposition of matter produces the heat, so a hot pile is normal and good.
9. Here is a recipe that will yield some great compost in about 4 months:
° Spread a 6-inch layer of dry material on the area to
° Spread a 2-inch layer of wet, nitrogen rich material.
° Spread a 1-inch layer of soil.
° Sprinkle with wood ash or lime.
° Water, but do not soak the pile.
° Repeat until the pile is about 5-feet high.
° Cover the pile with a tarp or close the bin.
° Turn the pile with a pitch-fork every week.
Here are some solutions to composting problems:
1. If the pile does not heat-up, add more nitrogen rich material.
2. If the pile is too wet and smells, turn the pile more frequently and add more dry, carbon
3. If the center of the pile is dry and hasn’t decomposed, turn the pile, wet it thoroughly,
and cover with a plastic tarp.
4. If the pile is warm and damp only in the center, the pile is too small. Rebuild the pile to
at least 3′ x 3′ x 3′.
5. If seeds are sprouting from the top of the pile, increase the temperature by adding nitrogen
rich material. Keep the pile moist and turn frequently. Don’t add plants that have set seed.