Save time and money with your own homemade compost

July 27, 2015

Making your own compost is easy, cost effective and great for your garden. Here's how to make compost piles that can nourish your garden.

Save time and money with your own homemade compost

Compost: Good for you and your garden

  • Compost is a naturally created fertilizer that releases the right amount of nutrients and improves drainage.
  • Compost attracts earthworms that can improve the soil by aerating it and leaving their own nutrient-rich castings.
  • Making your own compost can save you money and time. You can skip hours of bagging lawn waste that would otherwise go to the landfill.
  • Compost has less odour than you may expect.

Create your own compost bin

  • Starting a compost heap can be as simple as piling lawn waste, including leaves and grass clippings, in a bin behind your garage.
  • Use a bin made of stacked concrete blocks, or mesh wire tacked to wooden poles.
  • A more elaborate and more efficient system uses three bins: The first bin has compost that's ready to use. The second bin has partly decomposed compost. The third stores recently collected yard waste.
  • Make sure you choose a level, well-drained location in a shady or semi-shady spot near a water source.

Your compost recipes

  • You can put just about anything from your yard and kitchen into a compost heap, including eggshells, coffee grounds, onion skins, small twigs and spoiled produce.
  • Avoid weeds, meat scraps or bones, bacon fat, cat litter or dog feces. These attract other animals and can spread disease.
  • Shredded or chopped materials decompose faster than bulky ones.
  • You need to sprinkle a compost pile with water to prevent it from drying out and to aid the decomposition process.

Make your compost hot or cold

  • "Cold" composting is simply piling whatever materials you have onto the heap and letting them break down, which usually takes one to two years.
  • "Hot" composting works faster. Layer carbon-rich materials (dried leaves and plant parts, sawdust, newspaper) with nitrogen-rich materials (grass clippings, manure, green leaves and plant parts). Every few days, turn and water the pile to keep it moist.
  • Hot compost only takes a few weeks, and the heat kills most weed seeds and disease pathogens, which cold composting does not.

Decompose to taste, then spread

  • You can judge when your compost is ready by its look and feel.
  • Cold compost develops at the bottom first, so remove about two-thirds of the top material and take what you need from the bottom. Afterwards, pile the unused compost back into the pile.
  • In a hot compost heap, compost makes up most of the pile, but it may have more chunky materials. Return any chunks to the pile to decompose further.

Using your compost effectively

  • Use cold compost as a fertilizer and soil amendment by tossing a few spadefuls into the bottom of a planting hole.
  • In a new garden bed, spread it 2.5 centimetres (one inch) thick and work it in as deeply as possible.
  • You can also put a handful or two of compost into the bottom of indoor and outdoor container plantings.
  • If your soil tends to be clayey or sandy, when you turn over the soil in the spring, work in compost to a depth of 30 centimetres (12 inches) or so to create a more workable soil.

Home-made compost can save you time and money while still giving your garden the nourishment it needs. By making a compost pile on your property, and knowing how to properly manage the ingredients, you could spend less and have an even healthier garden.

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