How To Make Your Own Compost In 3 Easy Steps

How To Make Your Own Compost In 3 Easy Steps

I’ve been making my own compost for more years than I can remember and I’m here to tell you that it’s not difficult if you have a basic understanding and the right tools. That’s why I want to explain how easy it is to make your own compost by following these easy steps.

What Is Compost?

Essentially, compost is a nutrient-rich soil that is created from green waste that has been allowed to break down. And, this breaking down happens automatically without you having to do a thing except feed the compost.

As I’m basically a weekend gardener and have limited time to do all the chores that need to be done around the garden, I always look for ways to cut down on the time it takes to do various tasks.

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I remember years and years, expert gardeners would explain that compost needs to be added to in layers and turned regularly in order to aid the process.

Making Compost Is Now Easy Using A Compost Bin

These days, with the availability of a wide range of very functional compost bins, all of this work is no longer necessary. In fact, I have two different types of compost bins. One is a square bin with a lid on top. All I do with this one is just add green waste into the top.

The bonus with this type of bin is that it has a lift-up latch at the bottom on all four sides. This means that I can lift up one of these latches and retrieve the compost at the base of the bin. This can be done continuously as long as green material is constantly added to the top.

my own static compost bin
My static compost bin in my backyard
My own compost bin showing the lift up flap and the rich compost within the base of the bin
I’ve opened the lift-up flap to show you the compost

My Compost Tumbler

The other compost bin I have is a tumbler. This unit has two different compartments and is affixed to a stand that allows it to rotate. The idea here is that you fill one compartment and when that is full, allow the green waste to break down.

While this is happening, you have the second compartment that you can now add waste to. Unlike the static bin, this tumbler works best if you remember to tumble the bin on a regular basis. Especially after you’ve added some waste.

While this is not difficult, it can become a little heavy when the composting side has started to break down into a soil-like medium. But, even with this small amount of extra effort, it’s still an easy way to make compost.

My own compost tumbler
My own compost tumbler

What Are The Benefits Of Making Your Own Compost?

Composting is sustainable gardening at its best. What you’re doing is using the vegetable scraps from your kitchen as well as the lawn clippings and dead leaves from your garden to make soil. And, it’s free!

Once you have your composting system set up, it won’t cost you anything more to make nutrient-rich soil to add to your garden beds. You can even use this to make your own potting mix by adding a few other key ingredients.

In nature, especially in forests and woodlands, composting occurs naturally without anyone really being aware of it. As the trees lose their leaves, they end up on the ground.

Over time, these leaves mix with twigs and bark from the trees and break down to enrich the soil. Remember that no one goes around native forests and applies fertilizer to keep the plants growing. All the nutrients that the plants need come from the soil which is constantly renewed by the composting of green waste.

We can create this same type of effective ecosystem in our own gardens by making our own compost and then putting that back into the garden. On a side note, I would also never rake up leaves and burn them or dispose of them.

Rather, I put these either in the compost or scatter them around the trees and plants in my garden beds. I mean, why waste a good resource that will help my plants to grow without me having to add fertilizer?

Using Your Compost Can Result In Surprise Plants In Your Garden

Another bonus that I’ve found with adding compost to my veggie garden is that some seeds will survive the composting process. This means that I can end up with vegetables that I haven’t planted myself.

This year in my garden, I ended up with a huge pumpkin plant that must have sprouted from a pumpkin seed in the compost. I’ve never grown pumpkins before because I knew they took up a lot of space.

Nevertheless, I decided to let this plant grow and it scrambled all over the area where I grow vegetables. And, the result is two enormous pumpkins that will make a fair amount of pumpkin soup this winter.

a large pumpkin growing in my garden
One of the pumpkins with my gardening glove for size
another pumpkin I've grown
The second pumpkin which is nearly as big as the 1st one

So, this means that I’ve accidentally grown a vegetable that I’ve never tried growing before and for free! All I did was to make sure I kept the plant watered and gave it some additional organic fertilizer during its growing period. 

Other Bonus Plants From My Compost

Other plants that have come up on their own include a scrambling tomato plant with tiny grape size tomatoes that were so incredibly sweet, a dill plant and a Swiss chard (silverbeet) plant.

However, this leads us to one important consideration when making compost. Never through weeds into it. Especially ones that have seed heads. This is because the contents of the bin is unlikely to get hot enough to kill weed seeds and you’ll end up with weeds in your veggie patch.

Step-By-Step Instructions On How To Make Your Own Compost

So, now that you understand the benefits of making your own compost, here are the steps to follow.

Step 1 – Gather Your Necessary Tools

To make composting as easy as possible, you will need to invest in a couple of essential tools. However, these should last you many years and you’ll get tons of nutrient-rich compost to add to your garden.

  • Some type of lidded bucket or container for green kitchen waste
  • Large compost bin – either a static bin or a compost tumbler

That’s it! All the rest of the materials for your compost will come from your kitchen and your garden.

Step 2 – Collect Your Kitchen Waste

Ideally, you’ve invested in a smallish bucket with a lid to collect your kitchen scraps in. This means that you won’t have to go out to the compost bin every time you’ve finished preparing a meal.

But, what kitchen scraps can you compost? I mainly compost all my vegetable scraps and peelings and also my coffee grounds. These all go into the kitchen composting bucket. I also add eggshells and any leftovers that don’t contain meat.

So, basically, anything that was once derived from a plant, plus the eggshells. I also purchase a cling wrap that is made from potato waste and is compostable. This also goes into the bucket. On top of that used paper towels and tissues can also be thrown in.

Then, whenever the bucket is full, I take it out to one of the compost bins and empty it. 

Step 3 – Add Garden Waste To Your Compost Bin

Ideally, you want to place your compost bin in a corner of the yard where it’s out of the way but still gets some sun. The more sun your compost bin gets, the hotter the contents will be and the faster it will break down.

To aid in the composting process, you need to add some other materials besides your kitchen scraps. These include lawn clippings from your garden and fallen leaves that you’ve raked up.

You can also add prunings but make sure these are cut up quite small and avoid adding thick twigs and branches. These won’t break down all that quickly and you’ll end up having to pick them out of the finished compost.

Remember how I said not to add weeds to your compost? Well, there is an exception. If the weeds are all just green and they haven’t produced any flowers or seed heads yet, they can safely be added to your compost. It’s just the weed seeds that you want to avoid.

Continue Adding To Your Compost Bin

Just continue to add to your compost bin by layering in the green material as it becomes available. You can also add torn-up bits of plain cardboard and even newspaper. Just don’t add anything that is plastic-coated. Don’t forget to throw any used potting mix into the compost bin as well.

Then, it’s just a case of waiting until everything has broken down and you can harvest the nutrient-rich soil to add to your garden.

If this is your first time making compost, I would recommend that you get one of the static bins with the lift-up flaps. After a month or so, especially during summer, lift up one of the flaps to see whether you can harvest any of the soil. You might be surprised at how little time it takes to make the nutrient-rich soil that your garden will love.

What Can You Add To Your Compost Bin?

Here’s a handy table that lists what you can add to your compost bin and what should not be added.

Organic Material To Add To Your Compost BinWhat You Shouldn’t Add To Your Compost Bin
Fruit and vegetable scrapsDisease plant materials
Coffee grounds and used tea (leaf or bags)Pet droppings except for chicken manure
Crushed eggshellsCooking oil or fat
Lawn clippingsGlossy or plastic-coated paper or cardboard
Green plant pruningsWeeds with seed heads
Spent flowersLarge branches 
Weeds without seed headsMeat products and bones including fish
Cardboard and paperTreated wood
Dried leavesCitrus fruits due to their high acidity
Woody twigsDairy products like cheese & yogurt
Stale bread
Wood ash
Leftover rice and pasta
Leftover processed foods
Used toilet paper rolls

As you can see, there are a lot of organic materials that can be added to your compost. As a home composter, you should avoid animal products such as meat and fish as these can harbor bacteria as they decompose. This includes dairy products.

In most cases, a home compost bin doesn’t get hot enough to kill this bacteria.

Want More Information?

I’ve written a whole selection of posts about composting that you might like to read and refer to:

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need to add water to your compost?

In most cases, the fruit and vegetable scraps that you add and the green lawn clippings should provide enough moisture for healthy composting. Personally, I never add water to my compost bins and I always end up with perfect soil.

How long does it take to make your own compost?

The relies on certain factors such as the type and size of materials you’ve added and the time of year. You will always find that composting happens faster during the warmer months.

Why are there bugs in my compost?

It’s quite common to find pill bugs or slaters in your compost. These bugs are actually quite useful because they help to speed up the composting process. More often than not, you won’t find these bugs further down in the soil that is ready to add to your garden.

Can you add anything to compost to speed up the process?

If you want to speed up the composting process, there are certain organic compost activators that you can use. These include blood meal, fish meal, poultry manure and horse manure.

Final Thoughts

Making your own compost doesn’t have to be difficult or take up a lot of your time. If follow the three easy steps I’ve outlined above, you should be able to make nutrient-rich soil in no time and feed your garden the natural way.

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