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!

How to Make Compost

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.

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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.

Mangled coffee filters and their kin can be unsightly, however, and aged leftovers sometimes attract unwanted animals and insects in search of food. For these reasons, many composters divert their kitchen waste into an enclosed composter or the chicken yard before they combine it with bulkier pulled weeds, spent crops, and other yard and garden waste in a slow compost pile.

“To keep from feeding critters, our kitchen waste first goes into three black compost containers until unrecognizable. Then we add it to our big fenced-in bin for yard waste. We make pounds and pounds of compost this way,” says reader Mary Conley of Omaha, Neb.