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How to Make Compost

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If you learn how to make compost, you have a source of soil conditioner that improves the composition of the soil for your plants. Compost is not a fertilizer but does have nutrients that improve plant growth, improve soil fertility, and stimulate healthy root development in plants. Compost also helps create humus in the soil.

Location

The first step in how to make compost is to choose a location for the compost pile. Check that your city does not have by-laws or ordinances that prevent you from having a compost pile or placing it where you want it.

A compost pile can get messy, so place your pile within easy reach of a water hose to deal with any dirt and muck.

Bugs will make your new compost pile their home, so keep the compost at least two feet away from your house or other structure. Partial shade is good to keep the pile from drying out too much, but keep the compost at least two feet away from trees and fences.

The ideal spot for your new compost pile is probably a corner of your garden (not too close to the plants, because compost may attract slugs and other critters) that is far enough away from your home and any neighboring properties.

Containers

You can simply build your compost pile on the ground and fence it off, or you can use a bin or container to hold your organic material. Bins are useful for neatness, retaining heat and moisture, and avoiding the negative effects of wind and weather. You can use a homemade or recycled large plastic bin you have around the house or you can purchase one at your local garden center. Get tips for building a compost bin or buy composting equipment.

How to Make Compost

Be sure to include both “greens” and “browns” in your compost.

Greens provide nitrogen and are a source of protein for the microbes that work in your compost pile. Greens include green leaves, coffee grounds, tea bags, plant trimmings, raw fruit and vegetable scraps, and fresh grass clippings.

Browns provide carbon and energy for the microbes. Browns include dried grasses and leaves, straw, woodchips, twigs and branches, and sawdust.

NEVER add meat, dairy, oils, pet waste, or diseased plants to your compost pile.

Start by laying a base of browns, with 4-6 inches of twigs or other coarse browns on the bottom of the pile. Then, alternate greens and browns in layers about 4-6 inches thick, or just throw on whatever material you have at the moment.

Keep the pile moist but never wet. You can add some water when your pile seems to be getting dry. Or you could add some beer to your compost pile. Beer contains yeast, which will help keep the bacteria in your compost pile happy.

If the pile gets too wet, turn it more frequently to dry it or add more dry brown materials to soak up excess moisture.

Turning your compost pile about once a week is optional, but turning the pile does improve air circulation and speed up the decomposing process.

If you are interested in composting with worms, learn more aboutvermicomposting.

It’s Ready!

Compost is ready when it looks like dark soil and has an earthy smell. Now that you know how to make compost, start using your compost in your garden!

Vegetable Gardening Made Easier believes that composting benefits the environment by limiting the amount of products going into landfills. Anything that can be re-used should be recycled to save our plant’s resources.

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Updated: December 19, 2013 — 1:35 pm

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