How To Make Compost -- Organic Fertilizer
Organic Gardening with Compost
Composting can be a fun family project and produces great organic fertilizer for gardens. Everyday table waste and trash can be easily composted.
To save money on groceries, more people are thinking about growing a garden to help feed their families. Composting is a great way to make organic fertilizer to use in the garden.
The addition of organic fertilizer builds up the garden soil by adding nutrients. Since it is organic, the fertilizer does not contain pesticides or herbicides and will not harm the people who eat the food from the garden.
The organic materials that get added to compost piles, compost bins, or a compost tumbler are things that typically get thrown in the trash. By composting these items instead, a family or individual can be creating organic compost year-round that will make their garden grow and be bountiful all summer long.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Warner
The Basics of Composting
The simplest way to compost materials is to keep the organic materials that are good for composting and piling it together. The methods described above all use the basic principles of adding organic materials, water, and air to allow the products to get hot enough to breakdown and create rich compost.
Add the items in the list below to the compost bin in small enough pieces that they will breakdown easily. For example, large newspaper can be ripped into individual pages then torn in half. Spread layers of food scraps, newspaper, grass clippings or other organic material, a small amount of manure if desired and water till damp. Continue adding organic material as it becomes available.
Turn the compost pile or bin weekly to help the organic materials get mixed into the hot part of the compost to breakdown faster. A small compost pile can be ready to use in a few months if it is consistently turned or aerated and kept damp but not wet.
How Composting Helps
Composting reduces the volume of
garbage requiring disposal;
saves money for you and your community
in reduced soil purchases and reduced
local disposal costs; and
enriches the soil by adding essential nutrients, improves soil structure, which allows better root growth, and increases moisture and nutrient retention in the soil.
Plants love compost!
Source: Lowell, MA
Small Shovels for Composting
Use a small shovel, like one of these, to easily turn your compost. Stirring the organic matter is key to aerating it and keeping it "cooking."
Making Compost - Choose How to Compost
The choices of how to compost include using the following methods:
- Compost piles are simply areas in the yard or garden where waste products are piled, allowed to decompose, and scooped out when they have turned to compost to use as fertilizer.
- Compost bins are enclosures, either hand made or bought, that the waste materials are thrown into to better contain the organic materials until it turns to compost.
- A compost tumbler is similar to a compost bin but is designed to be turned so the compost material can be tumbled instead of having to manually turn the compost to aerate it.
Compost Bins Come in All Sizes - Compost in your kitchen or yard
Use Compost as Mulch
Spread 1 or 2 inches of compost around
annual flowers and vegetables,
and up to 6 inches around trees and shrubs.
Read More About How to Make Compost
Mix in a small amount
of compost with potted plant
soil for growing indoor plants
like herbs, flowering plants,
and green plants.
Compost Organic Materials
to get organic compost
Use the following organic materials (peels, cores, leftovers, rotten, you get the idea) to make organic fertilizer:
grapefruit, oranges, lemons
coffee grounds and filters (unbleached filters are best)
cardboard egg cartons
dryer lint, from natural fabrics like cotton and linen
shredded paper, white paper with black ink
leaves and grass clippings
chicken, horse, or rabbit manure
Using these composting tips won't guarantee a great-producing garden, but they will help gardeners make good fertilizer that makes the harvest safe for their family to eat. Young children can toss food scraps into compost piles, and older children can help turn the compost, aerating it so the materials break down faster producing good compost quickly.
If your compost pile is wet and
smells like rotten eggs, it's not
getting enough air and the pile is too wet.
To solve this problem, turn the compost and add coarse, dry waste such as straw or corn stalks.
Leave These Out of the Compost Pile
Some things just aren't meant to be composted
Some materials are best not composted for several reasons. They may attract rodents or flies, they may not breakdown as efficiently, or they may contain chemicals that would contaminate the compost. Here's a list of a few items to throw in the trash instead of the compost bin:
- bread and other grains (because rodents like them and will be attracted to the compost pile)
- meat and bones
- oily foods like dressings or fried food of any kind
- colored and glossy paper
- cat and dog feces
- pine needles, because they are too acidic
- weeds that have gone to seed, which will grow in the compost creating more weeds
- dryer lint from clothes made of synthetic fibers
Worm farming is particularly useful for people who would like to compost their food scraps but do not have space for a backyard compost bin.
Source: DEQ Louisiana
Read More About Composting - From government agencies who have researched what works best
- Create Your Own Compost Pile | Composting | US EPA
You can create a compost pile in your backyard or indoors, depending on your available space. Backyard and indoor composting are most suitable for households to convert small quantities of organic materials, such as yard trimmings and food scraps, in
- Home Composting -- California Recycle
Basic 'how-to' information on composting at home provided by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).
- Kids - Composting with Willie the Worm
Composting with Willie the Worm -- Hi Kids! My name is Willie the Worm and today I will be your compost host! Composting is a great way to help the environment and it something that everyone can do! Follow along as I tell you more about composting.
- Oregon Metro: Guide to effective composting
Learn how you can save money and reduce waste by composting certain food scraps and yard waste. See information on different methods, and read about easy solutions to composting problems.
- InterLinc: How to Make Your Own Compost
Composting piles are made up by layering different plant materials together. Micro-organisms feed on this plant material and leave behind compost. To build a compost pile, follow the instructions on this page.
- Composting -- Lowell, MA
An estimated 30% of your household trash is compostable food waste. Learn more about Composting and making your own 'gardener's gold' on this page!
- Making a Worm Farm -- LA DEQ
Want to make a worm farm? Worm farming is a simple way of turning vegetable and fruit scraps into a great potting soil or soil amendment for your garden or house plants. It can be done year round, by apartment dwellers and home owners.