How to Make Your Own Compost

Ways to quickly and easily complie your compost and diminish the odor, too.

| May/June 2002

  • Photos by Joe Coca

Before human manipulation, all organic things on earth were completely recycled. Plants, animals, and insects lived on the land. When they died, bacteria decomposed them. They returned to the earth and enriched the soil with their remains. No dumps. No landfills. Simply a never-ending cycle of matter reshaping and nurturing itself.

You can speed up the process, take away the odor, and make it more convenient, but even if you do nothing, organic things decompose. And that’s what makes composting such a no-brainer.

Start Simple

Yard waste—responsible for 15 to 30 percent of the annual curbside trash in the United States—is a great place to begin composting.

“I recommend starting with grass clippings and dry leaves,” says Mary Tynes, editor of Master Composter. “Many people begin composting because they’re amazed they can throw food waste outside. But if they don’t know what they’re doing they can attract every stray dog, bear, coyote, and rodent, and odor problems could develop, too. Well, you won’t have any problems with dry leaves and grass.”

Basic Ingredients

The word compost comes from the Latin componere, which means “to put together,” and that’s really what the art of composting is—mixing the right ingredients in the right amounts to create a microorganism-friendly environment. These ingredients are carbon, nitrogen, air, and moisture.

Carbon is the energy source—it does for compost what carbohydrates do for your body. To identify carbons, think of things that burn easily: dry leaves, cornstalks, cardboard, hay.

7/24/2014 9:06:17 PM

Compost can certainly bring new life to a garden, and is a great way to re-use things that would normally find their way to the I really appreciate your article. My family has had a compost pile for years, and it’s very simple to do. We don’t fuss over watering it and such, but we turn it every so often and it really does a remarkable job of turning trash into treasure. I think lots of people are scared to try it because it might be unsightly, but there are some nice products available that can keep it looking neat and orderly:

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