We'll show you how to
make compost, the best ingredients for making compost, how to
treat your compost
pile, and general composting tips for success.
Not everyone is
successful. Not that composting is difficult to make, but you have to
get the right ingredients in the right balance. That is the key to
There are 6 essential
compost ingredients needed: 1) Heat 2) Moisture 3) The correct carbon to
nitrogen ratio in the organic material 4) Getting air to the
compost heap 5) Insects and
micro-organisms 6) Time!
What is Compost?
Compost is the breaking down of organic material such as grass
clippings, leaves, flowers, vegetable and fruit peelings and stems,
roots and hedge trimmings.
Once the organic material has broken down
you end up with a rich, friable material that can be added back into
the soil to add nutrients and goodness that is needed by plants for
good growth and development.
is a complete plant food and soil conditioner that has been
practiced for around 4000 years. It's great for soil structures, root
grow, soil water-holding capacities and worms. It turns everything from
vacuum cleaner dust to eggshells into great fertilizer.
More importantly, composting
diverts your green waste back into the
garden instead of ending up in a
landfill, which also helps to reduce the production of damaging
greenhouses gases and allows as to reduce
our ecological footprint
in a small way.
With half of what we throw away as domestic waste
coming from kitchen waste and our gardens, it really does pay to try
and recycle this waste, make compost and put it back into your soil.
Therefore it is good to know how to make compost properly.
People sometimes have
a compost heap together, they really don't have a clue on how to make
compost and muddle along and become disappointed with the end result.
They choose too much of one material, and the
compost heap either doesn't break down as quick as it should, or they
end up with a smelly mess.
Follow our simple
instructions on how
to compost, what
and what not to put in your compost heap to take the stress out of
compost making and get some composting know how. We will look
at what should go into
a compost heap so that it doesn't end up smelly and it does break down
into friable compost.
Making Compost In a Compost Bin
How to Make Compost and
after the Compost Heap
How to Make Compost -
Getting the Right
Heat and Temperature
When suitable material is collected in
a loose heap,
naturally occurring micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi and algae
start to feed on the softer, more succulent ingredients in the
composting process. At this stage,
the heap should heat up
to between 40
- 60°C. This heat speeds the rate of breakdown
and can kill diseases and weed seeds. It should also be too hot for
cockroaches and flies to breed.
2) How to Make Compost -
Correct Moisture Content
should be moist, but never
soggy. When it is soggy it will become smelly. This is
balance it out a bit by adding either dry lawn clippings, shredded
paper, sawdust or leaves to your compost when there is too much
Moisture – should be between 40 and
60%. Take a
handful of the composting material from 15–20 cm deep into the
heap/mound of composting material, and squeeze it. It should be about
as moist as a moderately squeezed wet sponge. If it is too dry, add
water to the heap. If it is too wet you may need to cover the heap with
plastic, or turn it over regularly to allow for more evaporation to
tender material is consumed, the rate of activity slows as the
organisms work on tougher material. As the heap cools, worms,
centipedes and beetles move in to help. By the end of the composting
of the ingredients have been broken down, mixed together and rebuilt
into a balanced soil food.
3) How to Make Compost -
Ingredients for the Right Carbon
mixing materials for your compost bin, the
carbon to nitrogen (C:N)
ratio is important. Micro-organisms in compost consume
energy, and absorb nitrogen to help them use protein efficiently. The
proportion of carbon and nitrogen should be approximately 25 parts
carbon to 1 part nitrogen by weight.
Most materials for
composting do not meet the ideal 25:1 ratio, so different materials can
be mixed to achieve the ratio required.
In general, the coarse,
dried out “brown" material contains little nitrogen but is high in
carbon. “Green" materials such as lawn clippings, vegetable scraps and
contain high levels of nitrogen. Brown lawn clippings from a dry
lawn will have less nitrogen than lush, green clippings. Clippings from
lawns that have been extensively fertilized will have an even higher
The correct blending of carbon and
helps ensure composting temperatures remain high long enough for the
process to work efficiently.
Given a steady diet of around 25:1,
micro-organisms can decompose compost rapidly. When the C:N ratio is
too high, insufficient nitrogen slows decomposition. When the ratio is
low, too much nitrogen leads to odor problems.
materials to achieve a good C:N ratio is important to home composting.
If you are composting high nitrogen materials such as lawn clippings,
they should be blended with a high carbon material such as chopped
leaves or mulched branches and twigs.
you add material to your compost
bin make sure that you have a balance
between wet and dry, nitrogen-rich materials such as your fruit
peelings, lawn clippings and then your carbon-rich materials such as
your dry leaves, sawdust, paper, straw etc.
and add this all in layers, of 5 - 10 cm deep. I am not often
able to layer things as I would like, just because of what I throw into
the compost bin at the time, however, I do watch it and if it becomes
too dry I add some more kitchen scraps, and if too wet, I add more
It also helps to add a thin layer of
soil to your layers, as well as adding oxygen to it by turning the top
Ideal way of Layering Materials in a Compost Pile
4) How to Make Compost -
Getting Oxygen to
Getting enough air to your compost pile
is very important. Open pockets not only open up the pile to air which
helps in the decompostion, but it also creates the homes for the
insects and microorganisms so necessary to help break down the material
Keep turning your compost heap over
every week to
get air to it. You can do this with a garden fork allowing the
vegetation that is lying on the bottom to enjoy the heat in the middle
If your compost pile includes a lot of
lawn cuttings, which are high in nitrogen, then you probably won't have
to worry about add an activator to get your pile to start
If you think your compost heap could do
little help, pop into your local garden center and pick up a commercial
activator. This will aid in getting your compost heap jump-started
again and the composting process back into action.
Otherwise, a homemade compost activator
is using urine on it from time to time or else add a few bunches of
nettles to the heap or some comfrey leaves.
A compost heap will mature
it is at least one cubic meter.
5) How to Make Compost using Insects
The insects and
microorganisms in the compost pile are essential for
the material to break down into the friable material you want at the
You want to encourage mites, worms, springtails, wood lice etc. In
addition to insects and worms, successful composting also needs
bacteria and fungi.
6) How to Make Compost
Under the right
conditions compost can be made fairly quickly - within
3- 4 months, although there is a way of making compost withing 2-3
How to Make Compost in
1. Choose an area that
is partially protected from the rain.
2. Place a layer of vegetable matter at the base of your compost pile
to a depth of about 6 inches. Make sure that you have the right mixture
of nitrogen to carbon.
3. Spread a layer of animal manure on top to a depth of about 3 inches.
4. Pile another layer of the materials in the same way and repeat until
the compost heap reaches about 4 feet.
5. Water the compost heap so that it is moist, but not soggy. Water
regularly, particularly if the weather is hot.
6. Turn over the heap with a fork after 3 weeks, and then again after 5
7. Your compost should be ready within 3-4 months.
How to Make Compost in
1. Chop all the
vegetation being used into very small pieces.
2. Mix equal parts of
vegetation with equal parts of fresh
3. Pile the mixture into a
heap measuring 3ft × 3ft ×
4. Cover the heap with
banana leaves or old burlap sacks.
5. By the third or fourth
day, the inside of the heap should
be heating up quite nicely. If you find that the pile is not heating
up mix more manure into it.
6. On the same
day turn the compost heap so that the
material from the center is now on the outside.
7. Turn the heap every two
days after that.
8. In 14 - 18 days, the
compost should be ready for use.
Know How to Make
Compost and WHAT Ingredients to Add to
your Compost Heap
First of all, to learn
how to make
compost, you need
to be patient. Good compost can take months to break down until it is
usable. However, if you have the right nitrogen/carbon ratio, your
compost heap will break down very fast and will heat up enough to kill
off any diseases that have entered your compost heap from diseased
plants, or will also kill off any weed seeds that have entered your
tip on how to make
compost is to get
valuable nitrogen into the heap by using hair. It is something I throw
into my compost bin
all the time. When I cut my husband's hair, it goes into the
compost heap, along with the dog's hair after a brushing and all the
contents of my vacuum cleaner. All of these are high in nitrogen and
will add value to your compost heap.
Vegetable Matter and Kitchen Scraps in the Compost Pile
I also put in all the grass
leaves and vegetable peelings, skins and scraps from my kitchen. Tea
and coffee grounds are also put in, including my used nettle
Paper is torn up and added to the bin, along with any animal farmyard
manure, weeds, straw, nut shells, stale bread and olive pips.
shells can be added, but stay away from walnut shells.
Add egg shells from eggs
that haven't been cooked and any seaweed that has been washed up on the
Chop up a couple leaves of comfrey, yarrow including the flowers,
valerian, chamomile with the flowers and nettle leaves are all very
good additions. Comfrey for Composting
break down a lot quicker than plants that are
woody or dry as they have a higher water content and a higher sugar
The smaller the pieces placed into the compost heap the better. This
provides a greater surface area for the insects and bugs to work on. If
large pieces are added to the heap then the break down process will be
very slow. Therefore any large branches and plants should be cut up and
Avoid anything with thorns.
Dry Matter in the Compost
Other additions you
could put in your
heap would be sawdust, spent hops, coconut fiber is great for retaining
moisture in your heap, and a little bit of sweet lime to keep your heap
Finally, if you have a fireplace or
this is the place to add your wood fire ash.
Farmyard Manure in the
Farmyard manure is an
essential component to add to your compost pile.
If you are
raising rabbits their droppings are very valuable as they can
added to your compost
and directly to your flower and vegetable beds without a waiting
period. However, when you are using other animal manures you do have to
be more cautious.
One should wait a minimum of six weeks to prevent problems such as
burning of leaves and roots from the presence of high levels of
ammonium ions in the fresh manure. This is particularly important when
composting with chicken manure, as it is very strong.
Free or Cheap Resources for Composting Material
If you don't have a farm
and you are looking for cheap sources of
composting material get woodshavings from timber production, spoiled
hay/unwanted feed at the end of an exceptionally good season; or
compostable factory wastes (e.g. rice hulls, poppy straw, sugar cane
waste etc.). Just make sure that the wood hasn't been treated with any
toxic applications, including your straw and hay.
to Make Compost and
What Ingredients NOT to add to your Compost Heap
In learning how to make
need to know that although you can throw
in most kitchen scraps, some
things you just can't throw in, and that is any meat or fats. However,
you can throw in fish, fish bones and fish skin.
Avoid Fat and Meat Scraps
reason not to add meat scraps and fat is vermin. If you don't want the
rats to invade your compost heap and form a colony then don't add any
meat and fat. Fat, along with oil, salt, disinfectants, antibiotics,
herbicides, and waste sprayed with pesticides will destroy any of the
good bacteria that should be present to help with the breaking down of
the material to form friable compost.
Avoid Weeds and Diseased
don't add weeds that have formed seed heads and weed with bulbs as
these are not always destroyed in the heating process, and you could
end up weeding your next flower beds far more than usual, which is not
what you want!
Avoid adding any diseased plants to
your compost heap. Rather put these in the rubbish bin or better still,
Diseased plant material should not be used in compost as it may
contaminate new areas when the compost is spread around at a later date.
Avoid Dead Animal
If you have access to
dead animal products such as bone, skins, offal
or similar, it is important to consider health regulations. Such
products also tend to attract vermin and insects to the compost site,
and so are best avoided. I have to say that I prefer to buy commercial
packets of blood and bone; something I consider mandatory when growing
Avoid Pet Poo
cows, horses, alpacas
or sheep all their manure is good for composting,
stay away from your pet droppings, especially cat and dog droppings as
these can spread disease.
Avoid anything that is
Finally, don't add
anything that won't
decompose such as glass, metal and plastic.
a Cheap Compost Bin
compost bin is a lot cheaper to
make than anything that you would buy commercially.
a roll of tightly meshed chicken wire and tie 4, 6 or 8 posts sharpened
at one end to the wire. Place them at 9 inch intervals. Push the
sharpened ends into the ground. Place a few small rocks on the ground
to form aeration.
Compost likes heat to break down all the
material, so cut a piece of old carpet, the same size as the diameter
of the homemade compost bin and place it on the top after you have
layered the chicken wire round with vegetation and farmyard manure.
Placing the carpet on the top will prevent any goodness being leached
out of the composter when it rains.
the right proportion of moisture and the right combination of
ingredients in your compost may take a little practice, but most
problems can usually be overcome. Find the solutions here to your
Composting Problem: My
Compost Heap is
sawdust or shredded newspaper to help absorb moisture, and turn
Compost Heap is
Composting Problem: My
Compost Heap is
Add a source of
nitrogen, such as animal manure or blood and bone meal
or vegetable scraps.
Composting Problem: My
Compost Heap is
the mixture goes
grey and smokes, turn and spread it out to cool the
Composting Problem: My
Compost Heap is
All compost releases
some smell when it is turned. Reduce smell by
keeping the compost damp but not wet.
Composting Solution: My
Compost Heap has
compost. Make sure the compost is hot in the center
and turn regularly to ‘cook’ fly and cockroach eggs. Add some ducks
to your homestead or garden. They are great fly catchers!
Compost - Now
that I have my Compost how do I use it?
the compost into flower and vegetable gardens to a depth of about 5cm.
It can be applied to the surface of garden beds as mulch or used as top
dressing for lawns. When using compost on the garden, take care to keep
it away from roots and stems to avoid burning.
single chemical fertilizer or animal manure by itself can match the
goodness of nutrient-rich, homemade compost. It boosts nutrient levels
in the soil, helps control diseases in garden wastes, saves trips to
the tip and backyard burning, and reduces garbage output significantly.
Healthy, chemical-free flowers, fruit and vegetables are a bonus.
if you can't use the compost on your own garden, it will almost
certainly find a welcome home with a ‘green-thumbed’ neighbor.
Information and Resources
Countryfarm Lifestyles Tip on How
to Make Compost
Urine is an
excellent source of nitrogen, including human urine, and
therefore worth saving as it a free source and very useful
activating your compost heap.
For those of you who are interested in
knowing how to make compost and what materials contain which of the
three necessary elements;
nitrogen, potash and phosphates, you can see a quick list below:
How to Make Compost by Adding Nitrogen:
raw bone meal
tea and coffee grounds
How to make Compost by Adding Potash:
How to Make Compost by Adding Phosphate:
hoof and horn meal
When you are making compost, of course
you will need a compost bin. We have some information on how to make a compost
bin, along with some plans, including one set of
plans to make a log
One subject we didn't touch on here is
worm farming. With worm
farming you can make good compost fairly quickly
which will give you an added dimension to your composting know how and
learning how to make compost.
on How to Make
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