Compost helps your plants thrive. Here’s how to make your own.

Compost bin with an open lid showing landscape debris, egg shells, and vegetable scraps.Creating a compost pile is a simple, rewarding activity that can lead to more beautiful flowers, bigger vegetables, and a greener lawn—but you have to do it the right way for the best results. Fortunately, composting is inexpensive and doesn’t take too much time, so we wanted to give you a few tips on how to get started.

Choose the right area and/or container. Some people think that creating a compost pile is a messy, stinky process. But it certainly doesn’t have to be—although you might not want to create a compost pile right next to your back door.

We recommend using a compost bin, which is a ventilated container made of wood, plastic, or metal wiring. Ventilation allows oxygen to break down the organic materials that eventually become compost. Choose an area that receives at least some sunlight, as heat speeds up the process. And keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need a bin—you can create a compost pile in an isolated area of your yard if you have the space.

Pick the right materials. The right ingredients make all the difference when it comes to the quality of your compost. Use a variety of ingredients instead of relying on just one or two things, and make sure these ingredients are a good combination of green and brown. You should also keep your compost moist to assist with decomposition, so add water if the pile is dry. Here’s a good starting list of materials you can use:

  • Grass clippings
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Egg shells
  • Natural fabrics including cotton and wool
  • Leaves
  • Coffee grounds
  • Bamboo
  • Straw
  • Untreated wood chips
  • Plant trimmings
  • Dryer lint
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Pine cones

Avoid the wrong ingredients. While picking the right ingredients is key, avoiding the wrong ones is just as important. It’s true that most organic materials will be fine in a compost pile, but there are a few things you should avoid, including:

  • Diseased plant material
  • Meat or bones
  • Dairy products like butter or cheese
  • Animal droppings
  • Large branches
  • Ashes
  • Inorganic materials like metal or plastic

Maintain the pile. While you can compost all year long, you’ll get better, faster results in the summer because of the heat. You can speed up the process by regularly turning over the compost in your pile, which allows materials to mix together and leads to more oxygen and moisture infusion. This also helps get rid of unpleasant odors that can occur when a compost pile sits untouched for too long.

Continue adding material to your pile on a regular basis—it’s best practice to add a little bit every day if possible. And don’t forget to keep it damp with water, but don’t add so much that your pile starts to rot.

Use it! The great thing about compost is its versatility. You can use it with excellent results on just about anything in your yard that grows. During a warm summer (and depending on materials), you can expect compost to be ready in a couple of months. The best indicators that it’s ready include a uniform, dark-brown color, dryness, and a loose texture.

You can spread anywhere from two to six inches of compost on your beds, or you can even sprinkle a thin layer around your lawn to encourage vibrant growth. While compost can help your plants any time of year, the best time to use it is in spring—you can even mix some in with your mulch.

Using your own compost is one of the cheapest, easiest ways to improve the look and health of your landscape. It doesn’t take long to get started—and it doesn’t hurt that homemade compost can also save you a few bucks on fertilizer. If you’re looking for other ways to make your landscape even more gorgeous, contact us today.

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