How to Make Compost at Home and Recycle Your Household and Garden Waste!

Updated on March 14, 2018
eugbug profile image

Eugene is an avid gardener and has been passionate about growing things for nearly 40 years. He also has a keen interest in DIY.


What is Compost?

Compost is organic matter in a semi decayed state also known as humus. It is used as a growing medium for vegetables and flowers. It can be used standalone for growing things in, or added to soil to condition it.

Why Buy Compost When You Can Make Your Own?

I heard someone speaking on the radio the other day about the amount of waste produced in the home and how people just throw out everything without seeing the value in things. They put organic material and kitchen waste into their recycle trash cans, pay to have it taken away and then go down to the nearest home store and pay for compost! So obviously it makes sense to create your own and save money.

What is Compost Used For?

Most organic waste in the home can be used as a basis for creating compost so it is a great way to recycle this material. Compost has several functions:

  • It contains nutrients from the decay process.
  • It has an aerated fibrous texture and so allows permeation of the oxygen necessary for roots to flourish. Plant roots can spread more easily in this medium than in plain soil without compost added.
  • The organic matter helps to retain moisture when it is dug into soil.
  • It is likely to add lots of worms to the soil and these creatures provide secondary aeration by tunneling through the ground.

What Can I Put Into My Compost Bin?

Avoid animal feces of any kind which can contain pathogens, especially cat and dog litter. Other than that, you can place all sorts of material into compost:

  • Grass clippings
  • Leaves
  • Weeds. Try to avoid weeds which have set seed for obvious reasons!
  • Soft prunings from shrubs and hedges.
  • Moss and other debris from gutters
  • Sawdust
  • Kitchen vegetable waste
  • Tea bags and coffee grinds
  • Dead plants and root balls from flower pots
  • Sand
  • Excess soil from alterations to flower beds or construction work. Avoid sub soil
  • I've never tried it, but you could probably use a document shredder to shred porous type newsprint paper as used for newspapers and add this to the compost. Don't use the shiny type paper from magazines as it is likely to take a long time to decay

Can I put Branches Into Compost?

No, but you can chip them and pile up the chippings. It takes years, but eventually the pile of chippings will reduce in size as the material decays and turns into humus.

Slatted timber compost bin
Slatted timber compost bin | Source

Do I Need a Compost Bin?

If you have a small garden or yard, you could consider buying a compost bin. This keeps everything neat and tidy. Alternatively you could make an enclosure from pallets. If you can get ones with sheets of timber on them, this will prevent the compost material from falling through. You could also use pallets with narrow gaps between the boards. The back wall of the enclosure is formed from one or two pallets, depending on how wide you want to make it. Use a scrap length of timber, 4 x 2 or whatever is available, top and bottom, to hold the pallets together. Use a pallet at each end to form the two sides.

Can I Make Compost Without a Compost Bin?

Sure you can! I don't actually bother using any containment for my compost heap. I simply pile everything up on the ground. I have two heaps forming at any one time. This process is probably slower than using a bin, as the heat isn't contained and decomposition proceeds at a slower pace, however it is a matter of choice which method you go for. In spring I start a new heap. I place coarse material such as soft prunings on the ground to act as a base and improve drainage. During the summer I just keep piling everything up and create a rectangular pile about 10 feet long. If the weather is dry, I water the pile to keep the fungi and bacteria happy. Every so often I spread a thin layer of soil on the pile which adds bacteria and worms to the mix. When the fall arrives, I gather up all the leaves from the garden and spread them on the pile. And so this completes the first pile. So it's not rocket science. You can add worms or accelerators to improve the decomposition rate, but these are not really necessary unless you are in a hurry. In Spring of the next year I begin a new pile and complete it in the Fall. By then, the first years pile is a year old and ready for use. You can continue this process forming new piles each year and using the previous years compost.

No Fancy Compost Bin, Just a Pile!
No Fancy Compost Bin, Just a Pile! | Source

How Do I Use My Compost?

You can use it straight off as a growing medium in planters, plant pots and window boxes for flowers. Annuals love it and grow rapidly as the roots penetrate easily through the compost.

When creating new flower beds, dig plenty of compost into the soil to increase the humus content.

If you are planting perennials, trees or shrubs, dig a hole about twice the width of the root ball. Mix soil and compost in equal proportions and spread the mix under and around the plant. Firm down well with your hands or boot.

Fuchsia grown in compost.
Fuchsia grown in compost. | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Eugene Brennan


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • eugbug profile image

        Eugene Brennan 3 years ago from Ireland

        Me too, but if it's left for a year, it's amazing how it decreases in volume!

      • Arco Hess Designs profile image

        Arco Hess 3 years ago from Kansas City, Kansas

        I have a huge pile of compost in my backyard just from vegetable and fruit peels. It adds up fast.

      • eugbug profile image

        Eugene Brennan 3 years ago from Ireland

        Thanks Thelma! Good idea! In fact anything organic will work, but some material decays quicker than others. I have been shredding branches from shrubs and trees over the last few years and it will be interesting to see whether this material decays over time. I haven't added it to the compost, but I notice the pile is shrinking over time, so some decomposition must be taking place.

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

        Great info! Thanks for sharing. BTW, you can use coffee grinds for your compost as well.

      • onthegrind profile image

        onthegrind 6 years ago from Florida, United States

        Oh yes, tea bags are good. I throw pet fur in there too!

      • eugbug profile image

        Eugene Brennan 6 years ago from Ireland

        And I just remembered you can use tea bags also!

        Thanks for the comment!

      • onthegrind profile image

        onthegrind 6 years ago from Florida, United States

        Good information in this hub. Another great thing for compost is coffee grinds.