How to Make Compost

Choose from the many easy ways to make compost for increased garden productivity: low-cost homemade bins, piles sans bins, chicken power, pest-proof tumblers — even indoor worm bins!


| October/November 2012



How to Make Compost

Many households compost using multiple methods, and you should experiment to find the composting strategies that work best for you and your garden.


Illustration By Melanie Powell

Compost is the ultimate ingredient for building fertile soil. If everyone composted their kitchen and garden waste, the world would be a cleaner place, and we would all enjoy more productive organic gardens. Some folks are intimidated by this unfamiliar and seemingly mysterious process — but have no fear! Composting is nothing more than guiding the natural process by which organic wastes decompose. You simply cannot do it wrong. The only challenge is finding sufficient organic materials to make enough black gold to sustain your garden.

Composting is so worth the effort. Adding compost to your garden feeds the soil food web and provides a slow release of nutrients to your crops.

Compost also vastly improves soil structure, allows the soil to hold in moisture better and improves friability (workability).

After surveying hundreds of MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers and checking out what our Facebook community had to say during Compost Awareness Week 2012, we were blown away by the many answers to the question of how to make compost at home.

Many households compost using multiple methods, and the techniques described here are a distillation of strategies employed by MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers. Whether you have chickens, goats or other veggie-eating, manure-producing animals also has huge implications, because animals can figure so prominently in a composting loop. Making compost with critters will get its turn, but first let’s look at some of the most commonly used compost-making systems.

Composting Techniques

Most gardeners make compost by combining their kitchen and garden waste in an outdoor compost pile and waiting for it to rot. There is no need to buy special activators or inoculants, because each dead plant and bucket of food waste added to compost activates different strains of the naturally occurring microbes that promote decomposition.

phyllis
3/16/2015 7:39:25 AM

I AM WONDERING WHAT TO DO IN THE WINTER TIME WITH YOUR SCRAPS. I HAVE A COMPOSTER THAT I USE IN THE SPRING SUMMER AND FALL BUT I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THE SCRAPS IN THE WINTER. CAN YOU JUST PUT THEM IN THE COMPOSTER AND WAIT UNTIL SPRING? PHYLLIS


phyllis
3/16/2015 7:34:53 AM

r


gloria
8/31/2014 12:49:46 PM

This is a great article for laying out the basics of composting and http://www.compostbinsandmore.com. For most of us it's really hard to know where to start. My husband and I have tried piles, open metal bins, tumbling bins, and now stackable tower worm composting bins. All seem to have their pros and cons. We continue using all the methods to take care of our yard waste and kitchen waste. The best advise is to just start with something!!!


rainbow1
10/9/2013 2:18:25 PM

Composting is good . . .if it is clean and does not contain animal parts or manure. The NPK however, is quite low and often only classed as a 'soil treatment' and not a fertilizer. If you want fast organic grow without the hassle use Rainbow Farms Fertilizer (www.rainbow-farms-fertilizer.com)which is mealworm derived and have NPK of 4-3-2 and truely organic without the following crud found in commercial organic brands: Most "ORGANIC" fertilizers have many undesireable or harmful contents used to boost NPK ratings. There is one fertilizer that truely is organic. www.rainbow-farms-fertilizer.com Here is what is contained in others: Blood Meal is powdered cattle/pig blood from slaughterhouses. These animals are fed antibiotics, growth hormones and steroids. Bone Meal is a mixture of finely and coarsely ground animal bones and slaughterhouse waste products. Also contains the chemicals mentioned above. In the 1980’s bone meal was identified as a cause of Mad Cow disease. Feather Meal is made from hydrolyzing and drying and grinding chicken feathers. Bat Guano is a source of Mycosis disease, Cryptococcosis disease and Histoplasmosis disease. Chicken Manure has antibiotics/growth hormones and steroids from the special feed they eat.


lynn
10/8/2013 10:33:32 PM

Hi .. I just start making my own compost about a month ago. For the greens, I used tea leaves and coffee ground most of the time, maybe use canteloupe rinds once (without seed). However, today I notice the compost has sprout. Is it supposed to sprout? did I do something wrong to my compost? Please advise Thanks


avalona22
8/10/2013 10:26:43 AM

 I live in Avalon Gardens which is an ecovillage founded by http://spiritualution.org/about/gabriel-of-urantia in the 1980s. We live in the desert climate of Southern Arizona and composting is key to us being able to grow food, can't see us being able to do without it. All the leftovers from our meals are composted in bins we then mix into the soil or feed our animals. Composting toilets are also a good way to be eco-friendly and assist in building soil health.


bcstones
8/9/2013 10:47:36 AM

Long time ago, my Dad told me that straw drew nitrogen from the soil...so while he did use it to line his potato 'patch', he also added nitrogen in various forms. I always tried to use alfalfa hay in my garden, which I was told released nitrogen into the soil as it broke down.
Is either of these true?


hans quistorff
9/25/2012 8:36:18 AM

In addition to the above, I also do liquid composting. I have one of my plastic barrels that I put grass trimmings i and put a grate on top when about half full and stack a couple of cement blocks on top to hold it down. I then fill it with water and let it set in the sun. when the water becomes dark brown I pull the cement blocks and scoop out buckets of the compost tea to water my plants. Then replace the blocks and refill the water. When the tea gets weak I remove the remains from the barrel and use it for mulch and start over.


edea
9/14/2012 11:16:49 AM

Most rural areas have compost at their own home, now its turn for the urban areas to do so; through these guide you can make this successfully. It’s time to take good care of our Mother Earth. IndustrialSolutions.us


edea
9/14/2012 10:25:58 AM

a






Crowd at Seven Springs MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Sept. 15-17, 2017
Seven Springs, PA.

With more than 150 workshops, there is no shortage of informative demonstrations and lectures to educate and entertain you over the weekend.

LEARN MORE