How to Make Compost for a Green Garden

Updated on September 25, 2017
Juli Seyfried profile image

Juli likes fall but is sad to think that winter is next. Writing about gardening keeps her spirits up.

Late blooming Hosta benefits from last fall's compost.
Late blooming Hosta benefits from last fall's compost.

Composting is a fairly easy way to feed the plants in your yard. It's a sustainable way to recycle plant material from your garden and return it to the earth.

Fall is an excellent time to begin a compost pile. Available in your yard are the two main ingredients: dry, brown leaves and wet (not yet dried up), green plants. The dry leaves you raked up after are great to use. The still somewhat green end of summer plants, like annuals from your containers or flower beds as well as vegetable stalks also make good ingredients for compost. Together, dry and brown and wet and green plant material decompose or break down to form a wonderful soil to feed your garden next year.

There are many ways to aid the process of breaking down plants. Some are presented in the table below:

Different Ways to Compost

 
 
Large containers
Sold in stores or online, usually with lids
Containers that turn with a handle
Sold in stores or online
DIY ( Do It Yourself)
Build a container with bricks, concrete blocks, rocks or stakes and chicken wire
Piles
Just drop plant material on top of other plant material

Combination Container

You will learn how to build a combination container. This simple to make container is a pile within a stake and chicken wire enclosure. The enclosure keeps the materials in the pile together. The pile won't be blown away by wind or washed away by water. The mesh of the chicken wire is open so that air circulates, assisting the decomposition of the plant material. The pile should be ready to use next fall in time to feed the roots of your garden plants before winter begins.

Things You'll Need for This Project

Spade or shovel

Hammer

Four metal posts or stakes with a height of five feet

One roll chicken wire with a height of three feet

Long twist ties

Wire cutter

Measuring tape

Sturdy garden gloves to protect your hands from the sharp edges of the chicken wire. A long sleeve shirt and long pants will also protect from the edges.

First Steps

  • Figure out where you want to place it. A mostly sunny location is best as sun and rain help break down the plant material. With the measuring tape mark a three by three foot square. You can lay a metal post at each corner as a marker.
  • The spot needs to be reasonably level. With a shovel scrape off the dirt to make the floor of the container level.
  • Decide where the opening will be. It should be on the side easiest to get to with a wheelbarrow, so you can transfer plant material in and transfer compost out. Leave room for yourself. You will also be standing and working there with your shovel.

Sharp edge is folded over three to four inches at one end of the chicken wire roll.
Sharp edge is folded over three to four inches at one end of the chicken wire roll.

Next Steps

  • At one corner of your square, pound one stake into the ground about six inches deep. To make sure it's steady, give it a good shake. If it's a little wobbly, pound it in some more. Do the same for the other three stakes at the other three corners.
  • Wearing heavy garden gloves unroll the chicken wire carefully because the ends are very sharp. Fold back the beginning end, top to bottom, about three to four inches. Press by gloved hands or step on it to make the fold. This folded end will be on the inside of the container.
  • Measure about two feet from the folded end. The two feet of wire is the gate or opening. At the spot two feet from the end, slide the chicken wire through the stake from top to bottom. Do this by threading the stake through one hole in the wire at the bottom. Then thread the stake through one hole near the top of the wire. As you unroll the chicken wire, move on to the next stake and do the same thing. Go to the next and then the last one.

At bottom of chicken wire roll, thread one hole of wire over stake.
At bottom of chicken wire roll, thread one hole of wire over stake.

Final Steps

  • The chicken wire is now on the four stakes. Bring the wire to the beginning two foot piece, the gate, and overlap it by one foot. Using the wire cutters, cut off the remaining or left over chicken wire.
  • Press the edge back, top to bottom, three to four inches as you did for the beginning edge, with gloved hands. The pressed edge will be on the inside of the container. This is your “gate.” The gate is used when it’s time to remove the composted material.
  • Use twist ties in several spots top to bottom to fasten the gate pieces together to close the gate. This completes the container. Now it’s time to fill the container up.

Ingredients for compost pile: Brown and dry example: leaves.  Green and wet example: cilantro, end of season.
Ingredients for compost pile: Brown and dry example: leaves. Green and wet example: cilantro, end of season.

What Goes Into a Compost Pile

Two types of plant material need to go into the pile: dry and brown material, and green and wet material.

Dry and brown:

Fallen leaves.

Small twigs – less than three inches long.

Green and wet:

Annuals that are done for the year.

Leaves from plants that are trimmed back like the day lily's long leaves.

Stalks of vegetables after they’re done producing food for you.

Very long grass when somebody missed a cutting session. Usually cut grass should stay on the lawn to fertilize itself.

Kitchen scraps that have been reduced in a mini composting bin (small container with a lid) can be put into the pile when the scraps have turned to mush.

Note about the size of plant material: Some items may be too big. For example, a tomato plant stalk could be three to four feet tall. Chop it into three or four pieces with a shovel or use a pruner to make it smaller. Cutting plant material down to a smaller size will help it decompose faster.

What to Leave Out

Kitchen scraps not broken down: avoid wildlife visitors like rats, skunks and raccoons looking for something to eat.

Sick or diseased plants or parts of plants: prevent spreading the problem.

Weeds: seeds may not break down and may survive to pop up later.

Woody tree and bush branches: won’t break down well in a year. Many municipalities have shredding services for branches. Check with your local city to see what’s available for removal from your property. They may shred the material which can be used for mulch and may offer it for homeowners to use.

A full compost container.
A full compost container.

Maintaining the Pile

After it’s stuffed full from fall to late winter, don’t add any more material. Let it rest. Basically this pile can be left alone. If you want, take a shovel or pitchfork to stir it up from time to time. Some people feel that stirring it will help it to decompose faster. Since this container pile will take a year to break down stirring it isn't necessary.

Grab a shovel and dig up the mulch!
Grab a shovel and dig up the mulch!

It’s Ready!

When a year is up, the pile should be smaller than when you began. Since this pile was started last fall, it should be ready to use this fall. Before the current season’s leaves drop, bring your shovel and wheel barrow to the container and open the gate. The top of your pile might have debris on it. Just push the debris aside. Put your shovel in and pull out the most amazing food for your garden! It looks like dirt. Shovel it into your wheelbarrow and throw shovelfuls of it onto the flower beds and anywhere else you want to add nutrients to the soil. Spread it around with the shovel to make sure that all plants in the bed get their fair share.

Where to use the Compost

Place it in flower beds and around new plantings. What’s left over can be put anywhere in the garden to feed the roots for next year. Feed trees and bushes too.

What It Does for the Plants in the Yard

  1. Food for the roots. Compost is nature’s own fertilizer. It provides nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium plus some micro nutrients for your plants.
  2. Recycles what’s in your own yard. No need to buy fertilizer for garden beds. Cost savings for you.
  3. Watch for birds to borrow some of the material for their nests.

Make it Easy and Make a Second One

If you want, you can make a second container pile to collect plant material, once the first is full and decomposing. Having a second one allows you to keep throwing in the dry,brown and wet, green plant material all year. You'll have one in process and one ready to go. Green gardening with your yard's own recycled plant material. Just open the gate and fertilize!

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Juli Seyfried

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)