How to Make Great Compost | Can I make my own compost?

Anyone can make their own compost! It’s not hard and in fact it’s downright simple. I started making my own compost right after we moved into our house and now I actually have 3 compost piles. This works nicely for me. I have a “new” pile that is relatively fresh, in that it’s far from being ready to be used. My oldest pile is very rich and full of wonderful nutrients, my own “black gold”. And my middle pile is close to being ready to use. I do the 3 pile system because I am constantly adding and subtracting from my piles. It’s just my system and once you have been making your own for a while you will develop your own system.

So how do I make my own compost?

There are 3 simple key ingredients to making your own compost:

  • Green material
  • Brown material
  • Sufficient moisture

Green material is high in nitrogen. To achieve this you may use kitchen scraps like coffee grounds (it’s ok to toss the coffee filter in too) any peelings, from potatoes, vegetables, fruit cores, and scraps and even eggshells are wonderful. Any type of kitchen waste that is not meat or that contains fat can be composted. Any manure from farm animals. (DO NOT USE dog and cat waste), grass clippings, leaves, and weeds you have pulled are also green materials.

Brown material is high in carbon. Things like newspaper, paper, sawdust, branches and twigs, and straw are considered brown material.

Water or sufficient moisture is the final key ingredient in your compost pile. Without moisture, your pile will take months to breakdown, and if left dry, will not break down at all. BUT if your pile is too wet, it will smell and become slimy as the ratio of bad bacteria outweighs the good. You want it to remain damp, but not soaking wet. If you do not get enough rainfall you can dump a bucket over it, or spray it down with a garden hose. About once a week should keep things moving along.

You will know that your compost pile is right if it consistently becomes hot in the middle. This is important to sterilize your compost and kill any of the weed seeds. It will also kill any bad organisms or bacteria that may be in your pile. The heat is your proof that the ratio is working nicely for your compost pile. But don’t fret over it. It takes a while to get comfortable with your mixture and your ratios may go up and down a bit before you get the hang of it. It’s ok!

Perhaps I should have added one more important ingredient. But it’s not an ingredient at all. You should turn your pile occasionally to keep things mixed up. It’s certainly not something you “have” to do, but it helps to move things along more quickly. If you are like me, you will never have enough usable compost so stirring things up helps create more compost more quickly. If your pile heats up, gets sufficient moisture, and gets turned regularly, you should have dark, wonderful compost in about one to two month’s time. Congrats! You have made your very own “black gold”.

Do I need a compost bin?

I personally don’t use a compost “bin” but a lot of people prefer to use one. I have tried a couple but because I make so much compost and use so much, the bins just aren’t large enough for me. But there are many on the market today and they come in all sizes. I recommend doing a little research before you purchase one. Several questions you might want to ask yourself are:

  • Where are you going to keep it?
  • How much scrap material do you have to put into it?
  • How often can you empty it?
  • Where are you going to empty it?
  • What about the cleaning of your bin?

My method is the “pile” method or as the case may be 3 piles. But I live in the country and have acres to play with so storage, convenience and smell etc..are not an issue for me. I keep a garbage can on my back porch so that I can dump my scraps into it regularly without having to walk out back (sometimes thru the snow) to throw out an eggshell. I have used the “on the counter compost buckets” and other items over the years but I have found this works best for me. Once a week, or so I drag my garbage can out to the compost pile, dump it, hose it out and hose down the pile while I am there. I also usually dump newspaper and some other types of paper in the garbage can first because it makes a nice liner in the bottom and therefore cleaning it out easier. Easy Peasy!! I am all about EZ! 😉

Can I build my own compost bin?

Of course you can. There are tons of plans and ideas available and also DIY kits. Again, I recommend asking yourself the above questions before you decide on which “bin” you wish to purchase or build. You can also check out some of our recommendations on our compost bin page!

Compost can be purchased at any garden supply center, home center and even discounts stores, but it is very easy (and much less expensive) to make your own. Not to mention the recycle factor! So whether your garden is indoors or out, compost will help all your plants grow better.