3 ways to make your own garden compost

Looking for good quality compost without the expense of purchasing a fancy composter or pre-made compost tea? Here are three ways to create your own at a fraction of the cost.

3 ways to make your own garden compost

Make a low-cost kitchen composter

You'll be more likely to compost kitchen scraps if you have a composter that's closer to the kitchen sink than that pile way out in the garden. But judging by the glossy gardening catalogues, you'd think you have to spend a pile of money as big as a compost heap to get a good kitchen composter.

Instead, you can easily make your own inexpensive version:

  • Head down to a supermarket or home store to pick up a 115-litre (30-gallon) plastic garbage can
  • To make the can compost-ready, use a power drill with a125-millimetre (1/2-inch) bit, or a hammer and a large nail, to punch holes in it
  • Starting near the bottom of the garbage can, place the holes10 centimetres (four inches) apart in a ring around the side of the can
  • Then move up the side of the can15 centimetres (six inches) and drill a new ring of holes. Continue this pattern until you reach the top of the garbage can
  • Put a few drainage holes in the bottom too
  • Place the can outside your house in a location convenient to the kitchen and on the way to the garden
  • Use a bungee cord with hooks at each end to secure the lid against scavenging animals, and turn the contents at least once a week

Brew your own compost tea

What's compost tea? It's a liquid that's formed by steeping compost in water until the resulting brew is rich in nutrients and beneficial microbes. More versatile to use than compost, the tea can be used to feed plants of all kinds, replacing expensive fertilizers.

Garden stores will sell it to you, and numerous machines can be purchased to brew the tea, but it's easy to make your own with a few basic supplies:

  • The simplest method is to suspend a cheesecloth bag of rich organic compost in a bucket of water or a watering can for two to three days
  • Carefully remove the bag and its contents, then use the brew to feed your plants immediately

Brew a better compost tea

You'll get far more microbial growth — and thus more benefit for your garden — if you take a few additional steps:

  • Microorganisms will only grow if they get an adequate supply of oxygen, and an aquarium pump and hose are just the ticket to deliver it
  • Get a 19-litre (five-gallon) plastic bucket and place it near an outdoor electrical outlet
  • Attach one end of the plastic hose to the aquarium bubbler, and place the other end in the bottom of the bucket. Fill about one-fifth of the bucket with rich compost
  • Now fill a second bucket with water and let it stand overnight to let the chlorine in the tap water dissipate. Otherwise the chlorine will kill the microorganisms in the compost
  • Add the chlorine-free water to the compost, filling the bucket to within 15 centimetres (six inches) of its rim. Then add 30 millilitres (two tablespoons) unsulfured molasses to the mix as food for the microbes
  • Turn on the aquarium pump so it bubbles through the mix, and let it brew for two or three days, stirring occasionally
  • When you're ready to use it, strain the tea through cheesecloth into the second bucket and return the solids to the compost heap. Apply the tea to plants immediately

Creating your own garden compost doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. Follow these suggestions and soon you'll be throwing that gardening catalogue, with its expensive composters, into your homemade recycling pile.

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