How to Make Compost

Every homeowner with a lawn and garden should learn how to make compost. It is much easier than you might think. And, since one of the best ingredients for composting is grass clippings, this makes compost an integral part of lawn care. Mowing with a mulching mower, returning clippings to the soil is healthiest for the lawn. Learning how to build a compost pile that will eventually break down on its own and provide you with natural fertilizer for the garden, is the first step toward an eco-friendly lawn.

So, What is Compost?

Compost is organic matter such as twigs, grass clippings, bark, shredded leaves, shredded newspapers, etc. that has been broken down by micro organisms like bacteria and macro organisms like insects and worms. Compost is a good source of nutrients for lawns, gardens and landscape beds because the nutrients are available to the plants in slow-release form. Completely composted material is less likely to burn grass or plants than quick release fertilizers. Compost can take a little as a few months to break down fully, or as much as two years. The amount of time it takes to go from a debris pile to rich compost for the garden depends on what is in the pile, the temperature of the pile, the moisture level, and the micro-organisms that are in the pile.

How to Build a Compost Pile

There are many types of compost: hot compost and cold compost, aerobic and anaerobic, quick and slow, compost that you turn and compost that breaks down slowly on its own. While there are great composting reference books available, and to read them, you would think that you need to understand a prolific amount of science. Composting is much easier than that. Here is a step-by-step guide to building a compost pile:

  1. Start with a quantity of several raw materials. You will need green matter (like fresh grass clippings), brown matter (like dried, shredded leaves or newspaper), and some soil.
  2. Begin layering the ingredients in a pile in the back corner of your yard, or somewhere tucked out of the way. Layer four inches of dry material, topped with two inches of wet or green material, with a few hands-full of soil.
  3. Continue layering until you have run out of materials.
  4. Give the pile a good soak with the hose.
  5. Then, let nature do its work.
You can continue to add fresh non-animal products like vegetable cooking scraps, rinsed eggshells, leaves, etc. It is always a good idea to add brown and green matter together so that the pile will heat up and break down most efficiently. If you live in an area with a garden center that sells compost tea, or a humic acid soil conditioner, pouring some compost tea on the pile or adding soil conditioner to the pile will add beneficial fungi and bacteria to the pile, helping it break down more quickly.

To Turn or not to Turn

Whether you turn your compost pile is up to you. If the pile is staying wet, and not breaking down quickly, it might not have enough oxygen in the center of the pile for aerobic bacteria to work. If the pile smells bad, turning it and introducing air into the pile can help those bacteria get to work, breaking down the pile and reducing the smell. Composting is a good way to return grass clippings, vegetable scraps, and leaves back to your yard.

Knowing how to make compost will help you keep the natural nutrition from your lawn and garden in your lawn and garden for the benefit of your plants. Start on your way to an eco-friendly lawn today.

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