How to Make Compost




About: Hi, I'm Matt! A young guy from South Australia. I enjoy cycling, vegetable gardening and chicken keeping. I spend a lot of time restoring old tools and bikes. And I also enjoy the occasional multi - day hike...

This instructable will teach you how to make compost, great to dig into veggie gardens or any garden bed. Compost helps the earth by recycling food scraps, but it also helps plants thrive, trust me, they really take off with compost!

Step 1: How to Make Compost

Compost is made by piling up organic matter (leaves, kitchen scraps, cow sheep and chicken manure, lawn clippings etc.) and helping them to break down. If you occasionally turn it over with a fork it will break down faster but some just like to leave it. Firstly, how does all of this stuff get broken down? Well microorganisms come in and eat the organic matter and turning it into droppings, worms also like compost and have the best droppings, worms are welcome in a compost heap! this is how leaves and kitchen scraps are turned into soil. Now you'll need to know what can't go into compost. Things like onions, citrus, cat and dog faeces, plastic, dairy, meat, and sticks can't go into compost. The majority of these things are harmful to microorganisms so will take a lot longer to break down, some things like plastic can't break down, things like sticks are too dense and take way too long to break down and things like meat and dairy create odour and attract pests and rodents. Some manures are good for compost, the best of which being chicken manure, it contains a lot of nitrogen which is great for the soil, bedding straw mixed with chicken manure can go straight in to the compost and makes a great mix. 

Now, how to make the best compost:
For the best mix you need a 50 50 balance between nitrogen and carbon. Nitrogen being in kitchen scraps, grass clippings, manures, and freshly pulled weeds or green leaves, carbon being dead dry materials such as dead leaves, straw and similar materials. if you get a half and half balance between these two types of materials you will get the best results. 

Step 2: Compost Heaps, the Traditional Way

This is a compost heap, where you put all of your garden waste, kitchen scraps, chicken manure etc. in a big pile and use a fork to turn it over, this method is good, but can be an eyesore for some people.

Step 3: Compost Bays

This method involves bays made up using railway sleepers, scrap wood, bricks or similar materials. With this method the compost is more contained and a bit neater and the whole idea involves moving the compost between the bays, for example, one bay is to put new material in, once that breaks down a bit you move it to the next bay, then after that is broken down more you move it to the final bay to finish, therefore creating room for new material to go in while the older material is still breaking down, this means that you can make a large amount of compost at once and you have a continuous supply of it. 

Step 4: Neat Pile

This is another way of making compost, it is similar to a pile but is contained in an enclosure made of railway sleepers, timber, bricks etc. This is much less of an eyesore than just a raw pile so can be put out in the open or used in a small garden. 

Step 5: Compost Tumblers

This is a common method for small gardens or people who are starting out composting. It involves a plastic bin on a frame allowing it to 'tumble' and is meant to be easier than using a shovel or fork to turn it over. I find that tumblers are much more difficult than using a fork, the compost is at one end and you have to push down the other end to get it to turn over, and sometimes when the bin is full this is a very difficult task to accomplish. These can be quite costly too which is another setback. I wouldn't recommend them. 



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    9 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Anything that was once alive can be composted. This includes everything on your "don't compost" list except plastic. One of our local compost facilities composts dead livestock. You just have to know a little more about compost before starting to do animals and animal wastes.

    5 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I agree. I compost everything that is organic, i don’t care about the 'don’t use potato skins' or 'no bones'.
    Everything goes in. including cardboard. I don’t really do anything special like turning or tumbling. I just keep it moist. Maybe it takes a bit longer but I don’t care as I use 3 bins. get rich compost.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Sorry, I know this is from awhile ago but umm im new to this and I have a few questions. I jusy boight a house and would like to try growing vegtables and fruits. I live in oregon, it rains all the time here. Is it okay to leave compost outside in a bin or should I buy a tumbler? What is the differnce between the dirt you buy at home depot and compost? Do I need to make compost and add it to the dirt? My husband made boxes we bought dirt from home depot put it in planted lots of vegtable seeds but nothing grew except carrots? Im really cinfused abd would like to have a home grown vegtable garden. Also how do i keep bugs from eating the leaves of plants? Is there a safe pestacide for vegtables and fruits? Also do I have to rotate plants each year to a new box? Sorry I know this is alot of questions :(


    Reply 3 years ago

    Mel, as said, I had browswer crashing a few times. I managed to save screenshots so for the compost questions please check the picture I attached

    With regard to keeping bugs away. if you are planting veggies I'd stay away from any commercial pesticides. There are some human friendly ways of doing it. You could plant some repellent plants: marigold and garlic seem quite effective in keeping a number of bugs away. A spray with hjust water and soap is very good in keeping lice out of yr plants, but also dont underestimate insects that eat bugs. Ladybugs are doing wonders in keeping yr lice/aphids at bay.

    caterpillars are a different issue, though I only had them on cabbages. early planting and putting a proper net over them when the butterflies come helps.
    Slugs and snails can be kept away with eggshell around yr plants or use slug traps (basically a container filled with some beer and yeast.
    If you have raised beds, 2 blank copperwires around them say 1 cm apart, attached to a 9 volt battery does wonders


    Reply 3 years ago

    Mel, tried to answer you twice but but times my browser hung and had to start over. I will prepare a reply offline and send that to you shortly


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Interesting about the livestock compost. The reason for the don't compost list was to keep the compost quick to make, and have low odour to avoid complaints from neighbours. Thanks for the comment!


    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry for the late reply, but yes. Mushrooms will grow in this compost. As long as you add the mushroom spores to the compost and don't let the compost dry out. I've heard of toadstools just growing naturally in open compost heaps. But for the most success and to ensure you grow the type of mushrooms you want, I'd plant spores.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I see in the picture that the tumbler is closed, how can the oxygen get into?