How to Make Compost – Part 2


Santa Barbarara Landscaper Bruce Koehler

Bruce Koehler - President, Down to Earth Landscapes Inc

The Composting Process – Part 2

With a little know-how, anyone can make compost from home. Simply gather the right ingredients and nature will do the rest for you. Compost does not have to be made in a special place. You can simply collect your ingredients in one place and cover them with a polythene bag or can use a bin or other form of container, which can be bought from your local nursery, or you can build your own.

Where Do You Make Your Compost?

You want to select a location that is sunny with some shade during the day.  You want the composting material directly on soil or grass, not on concrete of other hardscape surface. Also, locate your composting area away from any flowing water such as a creek or river.
The bin or container you select should have a lid or cover and be easily accessible. It is often insulated.

Recommended Compost Ingredients

General Guidelines

If it was once living, it will compost. However, you should avoid meat, dairy and cooked food. They can attract rodents and other wildlife and should not be home-composted.

  • Use a mixture of “brown” and “green” organic material. The right balance is perfected with experience over time, but a common rule of thumb is to use equal amounts of greens and brown material.
  • Use grass mowing sparingly. They are effective ‘activators’, getting the composting started, but on their own will decay to a smelly mess.
  • Use older and heartier plant material to give body to the finished compost – Since it is slower to decay, it is suggested they are best chopped or shredded first.

Specific suggestions

Green Composting Materials (Nitrogen)

  • Young green weed growth – avoid weeds with seeds
  • Cut Grass
  • Raw vegetable peelings
  • Soft pruning
  • Animal manure from herbivores e.g. cows and horses
  • Poultry manure
  • Urine (diluted with water 20:1)
  • Coffee grounds

Brown Composting Materials (Carbon)

  • Tree and shrubs branches (less that 6” diameter)
  • Sawdust
  • Wood shavings
  • Fallen leaves

Best Composting Methods

There are two popular methods for making compost.

Method 1: Hot Heap Compost

Uses a large quantity of material to start produces faster results

If you want to make a huge amount of compost fast, the hot heap route is for you. Here are the steps:
a) Collect and assemble all your material. Check that you have a balanced mix of tough and soft material.
b) Cut up or shred the tougher materials.
c) Mix all the ingredients carefully before putting them in the container. Add water sparingly as you add it to the container. Make sure the container is air-tight so that no content will dry. Between 5-7 days the heap will heat up.
d) A week or two later when it begins to cool down remove the contents and turn and mix the heap. You could add dry matter if the heap is soggy or water if it is too dry. Return the material to the bin. Repeat this process as many times as possible until the heap not longer heats up.
e) Leave the heap to complete the process of composting. A hot heap usually takes 6-8 weeks to be ready

Method 2: Cool Heap Compost

Uses smaller amount of material to start and takes longer to produce results

This is the ideal method for making compost when you have small amounts of green and brown and you add to the heap as you create waste. Follow the steps below:
a) Collect materials, such as grass, weeds, woody pruning, kitchen waste, etc. enough to make about a 30-inch layer in the compost container. Use materials that will make it easy for you to create air spaces in the heap.

b) Continue adding materials to the container as you get them. If most of the available ingredients are “green” such as kitchen scraps, then use household paper and cardboard to create a better balance between nitrogen and carbon ingredients.

c) The contents will most likely shrink as composting takes place and you’ll be gradually adding more ingredients. This method can take up to a year for you to have a full container of compost.
d) If you cannot wait for the whole container to compost, you could remove the contents from the bottom of the container as they have likely decomposed already. After this, mix the remainder thoroughly and add water or dry material if the heap is dry or soggy respectively. You can then allow the heap to compost without any disturbance.

Remember that the more you turn the heap the faster the process will be. So, if you started with the cold heap method and you want to speed things up, then put in more effort by turning more frequently.

When is the Compost Ready to Use?

As we discussed, depending on the composing method used, it can take from 6 weeks to over a year. The process is complete when the material is dark brown and has an earthy foresty aroma.  It will not always be fine and crumble in your hand.  It can be sticky and clumpy but still be ready for use in your garden.

Please contact our company today at 805-765-2553 to ask us a question or book a consultation with one of our experienced team members. Alternatively, you can visit more of our website to learn more about our company and services.

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