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How To Make Compost At Home For A Thriving Garden

How To Make Compost At Home - woman with a composting bin; hands scooping compost out of bin

The Many Benefits Of Making Your Own Compost

Thanks to the combined efforts of almost everyone in our household, our backyard garden has been thriving this year! We’re up to our eyes in squash, tomatoes, and lots of other garden goodies. :-)

And although we’ve had a rotating compost bin next to our garden for the past few years, this is the first year we’ve really been consistent with our composting efforts. And now that our bin is brimming with “black gold,” I can’t help but wonder why we didn’t make the effort sooner!

There are so many benefits to incorporating composting into your efforts in your garden, and it’s surprisingly easy to do! So today I thought I’d share a little bit about the benefits of composting, and share some pointers for how you can get started with it at home! :-)

Related: 5 Things That Smart Gardeners Plant In The Fall

3 Ways Your Garden Benefits When You Make Compost At Home

Turning kitchen scraps and recyclables into compost is not only good for the planet, it can be great for your garden too! Here are a few of the ways that adding compost to your garden soil can benefit your plants.

How To Make Compost At Home - closeup of strawberry plant; closeup of broccoli plant

1. It Improves Soil

Adding light and fluffy compost to your soil will improve its aeration and ability to hold water. And that means more air and water can get down to the roots of your plants!

Related: Stop! Here’s Why You Need To Keep Your Leaves This Fall

How To Make Compost At Home - closeup of zucchini plant, closeup of basil plant.

2. It Provides Nutrients

Compost is rich in nutrients that your plants need to thrive. Additionally, compost can release those nutrients over a longer period of time than many commercial fertilizers.

How To Make Compost At Home - plants in tubs; ladybug on leaf

3. It Attracts Garden Helpers

Adding compost to your garden can attract more worms to your soil. Worms are great for gardens, as they help aerate the soil and they leave behind nutrient-rich waste. Compost also attracts and feeds healthy bacteria that can help keep plant diseases at bay!

Now that we’re all more familiar with how compost helps gardens, let’s dive right in to explore how it’s actually done! (I’ve done my best to stick to the basics here. Composting can get as complex as you’d like it to be, but it can also be as simple as following these 4 steps!)

How To Start Composting At Home

How To Make Compost At Home - smiling woman with compost bin

Step 1 – Get A Composter

A composting setup can be as simple as a small fenced area, but not everyone wants to look at (or smell) a pile of rotting organic material! Choosing a backyard composter can be a more visually appealing option. Our composter has two covered bins that rotate freely, which makes “stirring” the compost clean and easy! (I couldn’t find our exact model online, but this one is really similar.)

If you don’t have the yard space for a composting set up, you can always save your kitchen scraps in an indoor compost bin. When it gets full, you can either transfer the contents to your compost pile or bin, or donate them to a local composting service.

How To Make Compost At Home - adding veggie scraps to compost bin; adding cardboard to compost bin.

Step 2 – Build Your Layers

The process of making compost is relatively simply. It all comes down to layering two types of material: green and brown.

“Green” layers can include:

“Brown” layers can include:

  • Dried leaves, grass, and hay
  • Cardboard tubes
  • Dryer lint
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Wool or cotton rags

The following items should not go in your composter:

  • Dairy products
  • Meat
  • Oil or grease
  • Pesticides
  • Pet waste
  • Onions or garlic (Worms don’t like them, and we want our compost to be worm-friendly!)
How To Make Compost At Home - woman rotating compost bin

Step 3 – Maintain Good Composting Conditions

Taking care of compost is simpler than I thought it would be! There are three main components involved in caring for compost: moisture, airflow, and temperature.

The ideal level of moisture in your compost pile is about the same as a wrung-out sponge: moist, but not wet. If it feels a bit dry, just sprinkle some water over it!

And to make sure your compost is getting enough airflow, you’ll want to turn it over with a garden fork every few weeks. (This is where having rotating bins really comes in handy, because you can just turn them over and call it a day!)

How To Make Compost At Home - woman putting thermometer into compost in bin; close-up of thermometer dial

Temperature is the third factor you want to watch out for, because cold compost won’t do much of anything. Using a simple compost thermometer is an easy way to make sure it’s staying warm enough that everything can break down properly!

2 Simple-But-Useful Compost Troubleshooting Tips

  • Your compost isn’t progressing or changing, add more “green” material.
  • If your compost is wet and/or smelly, add more “brown” material.
How To Make Compost At Home - woman's hands scooping up rich dark compost

Step 4 – Use Your Finished Compost

Finally, don’t forget to use your compost! When it looks like soil, it’s ready to go into your garden. Just mix it into your soil, and your efforts are sure to pay off in “spades!”

Looking for more gardening tips? Explore them all!

Do you use compost in your garden?

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • I am unable to afford to buy a compost bin so I am trying a pail with a lid. I do turn it once a week and add water if needed. I don’t think it is hot enough. Other than putting it in direct sun – any other ideas? I live in South FL but it has been quite cloudy the last 3 weeks which is very unusual.

  • Hi Jillee,

    Thank you for your interesting articles on so many different subjects.

    I’m another gardener who is against putting dryer lint into the compost heap. Much of what we wear is man-made and the lint contains microfibres that are not good for the soil. Also, I’ve been making compost for many years and always put onion scraps into my bins. As long as there’s not an overwhelming amount of onion, the worms will still munch everything up – they might just leave the onion until last! On the other hand, they do leave citrus peel alone and that simply rots away after quite a long time.

  • We do something equally beneficial…. We raise earthworms! We have three adults in our household and produce very little material for composting. Instead, we feed select compost materials to the earthworms. The earthworms then “fertilize” the soils where they live, which can be used for a natural fertilizer in our gardens. Once a week, we flush out their “farm” and from this we get worm tea, another great fertilizer in liquid form. Like composting, it can take a while to learn, but once you get the hang of it, earthworm farming can really be beneficial. Here’s where we got our farm: https://ourvitalearth.com/

    • I read a book entitled, “The Earth Moved” a few years ago and would recommend it as an interesting read. It’s about worm composting and the role of worms in underground ecology.

  • I have been composting for years now. I am still earning. My husband put blackberries bushes in the compost. Now we can’t use it. The bushes spread like weeds.

  • We “composted” for years in our last house, tossing all of our fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells and coffee grounds in a two-section, open bin (made of shipping pallets) at the bottom of the hill. We didn’t do much to maintain it or follow the green/brown ratio (other than switch from one section to the other after a few years to let the first one decompose) but we did get some potting and garden soil out of the bottom. The main benefit to us was that we cut our amount of garbage by nearly half, and combined with recycling we had maybe one bag of trash per week. I also got a couple of sprouted avocado pits out of it which I used as houseplants for a few years :). We’ll need to set up a system like yours once our new home is built and I can start gardening in earnest.

    • I am curious about this. Where would the plastics come from? Our man made fibers casting off tiny bits, then in the compost bin, they wouldn’t break down. Are you thinking that these micro plastics might make their way into our food chain by way of the food we eat from our garden? I don’t mean to be dense, but would like to know more about why you wouldn’t put dryer lint in your composting.. I didn’t know that worms didn’t like onions and have composted them for years.

      • Chiming in.
        Unless all of your clothing, bedding, and towels are 100% cotton, some of your dryer lint contains the particles from polyester and other substances made from petroleum.
        These do not decompose, hinder the decomposition of surrounding particles, and poison the soil.

    • Just what I was thinking.
      As a soil enhancer, compost is great and benefits either sandy or clay soil.
      The nutrients, however, are questionable, as the diversity of plants results in different nutritional needs.
      Many Master Gardeners have their compost tested.
      Every year.

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