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A step-by-step guide to making and using compost.

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  • Post last modified:February 16, 2024
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Compost making and using a step-by-step guide.

compost making

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Making compost is a great way to recycle kitchen and garden waste, enrich your soil, and reduce the amount of organic material sent to landfills. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make bio-fertilizer:

Materials and Tools:

  1. Compost bin or pile
  2. Brown materials (carbon-rich): Dry leaves, straw, shredded newspaper, cardboard
  3. Green materials (nitrogen-rich): Kitchen scraps (fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds), grass clippings
  4. Water
  5. Shovel or pitchfork
  6. Aeration tool (optional)

Step-by-Step Guide:

Choose a Compost Bin:

Compost Bin

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Choosing the right bio-fertilizer bin depends on your space, preferences, and the amount of organic waste you generate. Here are several types of compost bins, each with its advantages:

Tumbler Compost Bin:


Tumblers make turning the bio-fertilizer easy and efficient. They provide good aeration, speed up decomposition, and are often raised off the ground, preventing pests from accessing the bio-fertilizer.


Tumblers can be more expensive, and their capacity may be limited. They work best for smaller households.

Wire or Plastic Mesh Bin:


These are simple and cost-effective. They provide good aeration and are easy to set up. They are suitable for small to medium-sized gardens.


They may not be as aesthetically pleasing, and they can attract pests if not managed properly.

Stationary Bin or Pile:


Stationary bins or piles are easy to set up and cost-effective. They work well for larger amounts of compostable material and are suitable for larger spaces.


Turning the bio-fertilizer may require more effort, and the composting process may take longer compared to tumblers.

Worm Bin (Vermicomposting):


Ideal for indoor or small-space composting. Worm bins use red worms to break down kitchen scraps quickly. They are compact and produce nutrient-rich worm castings.


Requires special care for the worms, and the system may not handle large amounts of yard waste.

Wooden Bin or Pallet Composter:


Wooden bins or pallet composters provide a rustic look and can be constructed to your preferred size. They offer good aeration and are suitable for larger gardens.


Building or purchasing one may take more effort, and turning the bio-fertilizer may require more physical work.

In-Ground Composting:


This is a low-cost option where you dig a pit in your yard to compost directly in the ground. It allows for natural aeration and drainage.


It might not be suitable for all soil types, and pests can access the bio-fertilizer more easily.

When choosing a bio-fertilizer bin, consider factors such as your available space, the volume of compostable material you generate, and your willingness to turn the bio-fertilizer regularly. Additionally, think about aesthetics, as some bins may be more visually appealing in certain settings.

Collect Brown Materials (Carbon):

Collect Brown Materials

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Brown materials, also known as carbon-rich materials, are an essential component of composting. They provide structure to the bio-fertilizer, balance the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, and create a well-aerated environment for beneficial microorganisms. Here are common brown materials you can collect for composting:

Dry Leaves:

– Collect fallen leaves from trees, preferably shredded or chopped for quicker decomposition.


– Straw is an excellent source of carbon and adds bulk to the bio-fertilizer. Avoid using hay, as it may contain seeds that could sprout in your compost.

Shredded Newspaper or Cardboard:

– Use shredded newspaper or cardboard as a source of carbon. Ensure that the cardboard is free of glossy coatings, as these may contain chemicals that you don’t want in your bio-fertilizer.

Wood Chips or Sawdust:

– Small amounts of untreated wood chips or sawdust can be added to provide carbon. Be cautious with sawdust, as it can pack down and limit airflow if added in large quantities.

Cornstalks or Dry Plant Stalks:

– Chopped cornstalks or dry plant stalks contribute carbon to the bio-fertilizer pile.

Straw or Hay (in moderation):

– While hay can be used, it may contain seeds that could sprout in your bio-fertilizer, leading to weed issues. Use it in moderation or ensure it’s well decomposed.


– Crushed eggshells are a good addition to the compost, providing calcium. While they are not strictly brown material, they balance the overall composition.

Coffee Filters:

– If you use paper coffee filters, they can be added as brown material.

Untreated Wood Ash:

– Small amounts of untreated wood ash can be added for carbon. Be cautious not to add too much, as it can affect the pH of your bio-fertilizer.

Paper Towels and Napkins:

– Unbleached paper towels and napkins can be added to the bio-fertilizer as brown material.

When collecting brown materials, it’s important to balance them with green materials (nitrogen-rich) in your bio-fertilizer pile. The ideal ratio is roughly 3 parts brown materials to 1 part green material. This balance ensures proper decomposition and helps avoid issues like a smelly or slimy compost pile.

Collect Green Materials (Nitrogen):

Collect Green Materials (Nitrogen)

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Green materials, also known as nitrogen-rich materials, are essential for providing the necessary nitrogen that helps activate the composting process. Nitrogen is a key element for the growth of microorganisms responsible for breaking down organic matter. Here are common green materials you can collect for composting:

Kitchen Scraps:

– Fruit and vegetable peels, cores, and scraps are excellent sources of nitrogen. Include items like potato peels, carrot tops, and other kitchen waste.

Coffee Grounds:

– Used coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen and add valuable nutrients to the bio-fertilizer. They also help improve the texture of the compost.

Tea Bags (without staples):

– Used tea bags can be added to the bio-fertilizer pile. Ensure they are made of natural materials and don’t contain staples.

Fresh Yard Waste:

– Grass clippings, weeds, and other fresh plant material from your garden are good sources of nitrogen.

Manure (from Herbivores):

– Well-aged manure from herbivores like cows, horses, or chickens is an excellent nitrogen source. Make sure it’s well composted or aged to avoid introducing potential pathogens.

Green Plant Trimmings:

– Pruned branches, leaves, and other green plant trimmings provide nitrogen and contribute to the green component of the bio-fertilizer.


– If available, seaweed is an excellent nitrogen-rich material. Rinse it thoroughly to remove excess salt before adding it to the compost.

Vegetable and Fruit Waste:

– Beyond kitchen scraps, you can add whole or spoiled vegetables and fruits to the bio-fertilizer pile.

Livestock Feed:

– If you have access to it, livestock feed, especially nitrogen-rich feed, can be added to the bio-fertilizer.

Hair and Fur:

– Pet hair or human hair can be added to the compost. They break down slowly but contribute nitrogen.

Remember to chop or shred larger materials to facilitate faster decomposition. It’s crucial to maintain a balance between green and brown materials in your bio-fertilizer pile. Aim for a ratio of approximately 3 parts brown materials to 1 part green material to ensure optimal conditions for decomposition and avoid potential issues like a foul odor or poor bio-fertilizer quality.

Mix Brown and Green Materials:

Mix Brown and Green Materials

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Mixing brown and green materials is a crucial step in creating a balanced bio-fertilizer pile. The proper combination of carbon-rich (brown) and nitrogen-rich (green) materials creates an environment that supports microbial activity, accelerates decomposition, and results in nutrient-rich compost. Here’s how to mix brown and green materials to make compost:


– Begin by adding a layer of brown materials to the bottom of your bio-fertilizer bin or pile. This provides a foundation for aeration and helps absorb excess moisture.

Add Green Materials:

– On top of the brown layer, add a layer of green materials. Ensure a good mix of kitchen scraps, fresh yard waste, and other nitrogen-rich materials.

Maintain the Ratio:

– Aim for a carbon-to-nitrogen (C: N) ratio of approximately 25-30 parts carbon (brown) to 1 part nitrogen (green). This ratio helps create a balanced composting environment.

Alternate Layers:

– Continue layering brown and green materials alternately. This helps prevent the bio-fertilizer from becoming too compacted and ensures a well-mixed, homogeneous pile.

Shred or Chop Materials:

– Shred or chop larger materials, such as leaves or vegetable scraps, into smaller pieces. This increases the surface area and speeds up the decomposition process.

Moisten the Pile:

– While adding materials, lightly moisten the compost pile. The moisture content should be similar to that of a wrung-out sponge. Adequate moisture is essential for microbial activity.

Repeat the Process:

– Repeat the layering process until your bio-fertilizer bin or pile is full. End with a layer of brown material to help cover and protect the bio-fertilizer.

Turn the Compost:

– Periodically turn the bio-fertilizer using a pitchfork or shovel. This helps aerate the pile, distribute moisture evenly, and accelerate decomposition. Turning the bio-fertilizer every few weeks is beneficial.

Monitor and Adjust:

– Keep an eye on the moisture level and adjust as needed. If the bio-fertilizer is too dry, add water. If it’s too wet, add more brown materials.


– Composting is a natural process that takes time. Be patient and allow the materials to decompose over several weeks to months.

By mixing brown and green materials in the right proportions, you create a well-balanced bio-fertilizer pile that fosters the activity of beneficial microorganisms. This results in nutrient-rich bio-fertilizer that can be used to improve soil fertility in your garden.

Add Water:

Add Water

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Adding water to your bio-fertilizer pile is a crucial step to ensure the right moisture content for effective decomposition. Proper moisture levels facilitate the activity of microorganisms, helping to break down organic materials. Here’s how to add water to your compost:

Check Moisture Level:

– Before adding water, assess the moisture content of your bio-fertilizer pile. Grab a handful of the material and squeeze it. The compost should feel as damp as a wrung-out sponge.

Watering Technique:

– Use a watering can or hose with a fine mist setting to add water. This allows for even distribution without causing the materials to become too soggy.

Water Gradually:

– Add water gradually, ensuring that it penetrates the entire compost pile. Focus on areas that appear dry, and avoid creating waterlogged conditions.

Mix as You Water:

– If possible, turn the bio-fertilizer as you water. This helps distribute moisture more evenly and promotes aeration, crucial for the composting process.

Avoid Overwatering:

– Be cautious not to overwater the bio-fertilizer. Excess water can lead to anaerobic conditions (lack of oxygen), slowing down decomposition and producing unpleasant odors.

Consider Covering:

– If your bio-fertilizer pile is exposed to heavy rain, consider covering it with a tarp or a lid to prevent excessive water accumulation.

Adjust as Needed:

– Monitor the moisture level regularly and adjust accordingly. During hot and dry periods, you may need to water more frequently. Conversely, in wet conditions, you might need to turn the bio-fertilizer more often to improve aeration and drainage.


– Applying a layer of mulch on top of the bio-fertilizer can help retain moisture. Use straw, leaves, or other coarse materials to create a protective cover.

Remember, maintaining the right moisture balance is crucial for successful composting. Too little water can slow down decomposition, while too much water can lead to issues like compaction and unpleasant smells. Regular monitoring and adjustments based on weather conditions will help you achieve optimal moisture levels for a healthy and productive bio-fertilizer pile.

Turn the Compost:

Turn the Compost

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Turning the compost is a vital aspect of the composting process, promoting aeration and ensuring that all parts of the pile have access to oxygen. Turning helps accelerate decomposition and prevents the development of anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions, which can result in a smelly and ineffective bio-fertilizer pile. Here’s how to turn the bio-fertilizer:

Use a Pitchfork or Shovel:

– Have a pitchfork or shovel ready for turning the bio-fertilizer. A pitchfork is often preferred as it allows for better aeration and mixing.

Choose the Right Time:

– Turn the bio-fertilizer every few weeks, or when you notice the internal temperature decreasing. Composting generates heat as microorganisms break down materials, and turning helps distribute this heat evenly.

Check Moisture Level:

– Before turning, check the moisture level of the bio-fertilizer. It should be as damp as a wrung-out sponge. If the compost is too dry, consider adding water during the turning process.

Start from the Center:

– Insert the pitchfork or shovel into the center of the compost pile and lift the materials. This allows the cooler, outer material to move to the center, where decomposition is typically more active.

Work Outward:

– Continue turning by moving outward from the center. Lift and mix the materials to ensure that both brown and green components are thoroughly combined.

Break up Clumps:

– Break up any clumps or compacted areas you encounter during the turning process. This enhances aeration and prevents the formation of dense, oxygen-deprived pockets.

Aim for Homogeneous Mixture:

– Strive for a homogeneous mixture. The goal is to distribute moisture, oxygen, and microorganisms uniformly, promoting efficient decomposition.

Monitor Temperature:

– As you turn the compost, pay attention to the internal temperature. A well-aerated bio-fertilizer pile will heat up, indicating active decomposition. If the temperature is consistently low, it might signal a need for more turning or adjustments in the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio.

Cover When Needed:

– After turning, consider covering the bio-fertilizer pile with a tarp or lid to retain moisture and protect it from heavy rain.

Repeat the Process:

– Repeat the turning process regularly throughout the composting period. The frequency may vary based on factors such as the size of the pile, weather conditions, and the type of materials used.

Turning the bio-fertilizer helps create optimal conditions for microbial activity and accelerates the breakdown of organic matter into nutrient-rich bio-fertilizer. It’s an essential practice for maintaining a healthy and efficient bio-fertilizer pile.

Monitor and Adjust:

Monitor and Adjust

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Monitoring and adjusting your bio-fertilizer pile are essential tasks to ensure successful composting. Regular observations allow you to address issues promptly and create optimal conditions for decomposition. Here’s a guide on how to monitor and adjust your compost pile:

Check Moisture Levels:

– Regularly assess the moisture content of your bio-fertilizer pile. It should feel as damp as a wrung-out sponge. If it’s too dry, add water during turning. If it’s too wet, incorporate more brown materials and increase aeration.

Temperature Monitoring:

– Use a bio-fertilizer thermometer to check the internal temperature of the pile. A well-functioning compost pile will generate heat as microorganisms break down organic matter. If the temperature is consistently low, it might indicate the need for more nitrogen-rich (green) materials or increased aeration.

Odor Inspection:

– Pay attention to any unpleasant odors. Foul smells could result from anaerobic conditions, indicating poor aeration. Turning the bio-fertilizer and incorporating more brown materials can help alleviate this issue.

Adjust Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratio:

– Maintain a balanced carbon-to-nitrogen (C: N) ratio in your bio-fertilizer pile. If the composting process is slow, add more nitrogen-rich (green) materials. If the pile has an ammonia smell or is too wet, add more carbon-rich (brown) materials.

Turning Frequency:

– Adjust the frequency of turning based on the temperature and decomposition progress. If the temperature remains low, consider turning more frequently to improve aeration and mix the materials.

Incorporate Amendments:

– Depending on your observations, you might consider adding amendments such as rock dust, bone meal, or compost activators to enhance the nutrient content and microbial activity in the bio-fertilizer.

Manage Pests:

– Keep an eye out for pests such as rodents or insects. Avoid adding meat, dairy, or oily items to deter pests. If a pest problem arises, cover the bio-fertilizer or use pest-resistant compost bins.

Size Matters:

– Consider the size of your bio-fertilizer pile. Smaller piles might heat up more slowly, while larger piles might need more frequent turning. Adjust the size based on your available materials and space.

Patience and Observation:

– Composting is a natural process that takes time. Be patient and observe changes over time. Adjustments may be needed, but consistent monitoring will help you identify and address issues.

Quality Check:

– Once the bio-fertilizer appears dark and crumbly with an earthy smell, it’s ready to use. If there are still visible materials, consider sifting the bio-fertilizer or allowing it to decompose.

Regular monitoring and adjustments ensure that your bio-fertilizer pile remains healthy and productive. By paying attention to moisture levels, temperature, and other factors, you can troubleshoot issues early on and produce high-quality compost for your garden.



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Practicing patience is a key aspect of successful composting. Composting is a natural and biological process that takes time, and understanding this can help you achieve better results. Here’s why patience is important and how to maintain it throughout the composting process:

Natural Decomposition:

– Composting is a natural process driven by the activity of microorganisms. These microorganisms break down organic materials into nutrient-rich bio-fertilizer. Nature operates on its timeline, and the process cannot be rushed.

Variable Decomposition Rates:

– Different materials decompose at different rates. While some materials break down quickly, others may take much longer. For example, woody materials or large chunks may require more time compared to smaller, softer materials.

Temperature Fluctuations:

– The internal temperature of the bio-fertilizer pile fluctuates based on the activity of microorganisms. Cooler temperatures may slow down the process, especially in colder seasons, while warmer temperatures can speed it up.

Optimal Conditions Take Time:

– Creating the optimal conditions for composting, such as the right carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, moisture levels, and aeration, may take some experimentation and adjustments. It may take weeks to months to find the right balance.

Turning and Aeration:

– Turning the bio-fertilizer regularly helps aerate the pile, providing oxygen to microorganisms. However, even with regular turning, composting still requires time for materials to decompose fully and for beneficial microbes to do their work.

Seasonal Variations:

– Composting can be influenced by seasonal changes. During colder months, microbial activity may slow down, while warmer weather can accelerate decomposition. Understanding and accepting these seasonal variations is part of the process.

Quality Takes Time:

– Quality bio-fertilizer, rich in nutrients and beneficial microorganisms, is worth the wait. Rushing the process may result in an incomplete breakdown of materials and a less effective end product.

How to Maintain Patience:

Set Realistic Expectations:

– Understand that composting is not an instant process. Setting realistic expectations helps you appreciate the gradual transformation of organic materials into bio-fertilizer.

Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome:

– Instead of constantly checking for the final product, focus on the composting process. Enjoy the learning experience and the journey of turning waste into valuable soil amendments.

Learn and Adapt:

– Use the time to learn more about composting, experiment with different materials, and adjust your methods based on your observations. This learning process can be fulfilling and contribute to your gardening knowledge.

Celebrate Small Milestones:

– Acknowledge and celebrate small achievements, such as reaching the optimal carbon-to-nitrogen ratio or observing an increase in temperature. These milestones signify progress in your composting journey.

Be Patient with Setbacks:

– Setbacks, such as a smelly bio-fertilizer pile or slow decomposition, are a natural part of the process. Use these moments as opportunities to learn and adjust your composting practices.

Remember that composting is a sustainable and environmentally friendly practice. Embracing the persistence expected for this cycle can prompt a feeling of achievement and a significant asset for your nursery over the long haul.

Harvest the Compost:

Harvest the Compost

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Harvesting the bio-fertilizer is the final step in the composting process, and it involves collecting the finished, nutrient-rich compost for use in your garden. Here’s a guide on how to harvest bio-fertilizer:

Check for Maturity:

– Ensure that the bio-fertilizer is fully matured before harvesting. Mature bio-fertilizer is dark, crumbly, and has an earthy smell. It should no longer resemble the original materials you added.

Cease Adding New Materials:

– Stop adding fresh materials to the compost pile a few weeks before you plan to harvest. This allows the remaining materials to fully decompose without introducing new organic matter.

Prepare for Harvest:

– Choose a time when the bio-fertilizer is dry and ready for harvesting. This makes the material easier to handle and minimizes the risk of excess moisture in the harvested bio-fertilizer.

Move Unfinished Material Aside:

– If there are still recognizable materials in one section of the bio-fertilizer, move them to the side. You can return these materials to the compost pile to continue decomposing.

Sift if Desired:

– If you want a finer bio-fertilizer, consider using a bio-fertilizer sifter or a screen to separate the finished bio-fertilizer from larger particles. This step is optional, but it can result in a more uniform product.

Collect the Finished Compost:

– Use a shovel or a garden fork to collect the finished bio-fertilizer from the center and outer edges of the pile. Transfer the harvested compost to a wheelbarrow, container, or directly to your garden beds.

Return Unfinished Material:

– If there are still partially decomposed materials in the pile, return them to the center to continue composting. This is part of the ongoing composting process.

Store or Use the Compost:

– Store the harvested bio-fertilizer in a covered bin or container if you’re not using it immediately. Make sure to keep it in a cool, dry place. Alternatively, spread the bio-fertilizer directly onto your garden beds.

Top-Dress Garden Beds:

– Spread a layer of compost on the surface of your garden beds as a top dressing. This enriches the soil, improves its structure, and provides essential nutrients to your plants.

Start a New Compost Pile:

– Once you’ve harvested the bio-fertilizer, you can start a new bio-fertilizer pile with fresh materials. Use the lessons learned from the previous composting cycle to optimize your composting practices.

Remember that composting is a continuous process, and harvesting is just one phase. By regularly turning and maintaining your bio-fertilizer pile, you can ensure a steady supply of nutrient-rich compost for your garden. Harvesting the compost and incorporating it into your soil contributes to the health and fertility of your garden beds.

Use the Compost:

Use the Compost

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Using bio-fertilizer in your garden is a fantastic way to enrich the soil, improve plant health, and promote sustainable gardening practices. Here’s how to effectively use bio-fertilizer in your garden:

Mix into Garden Soil:

– Before planting, incorporate compost into your garden soil. Spread a layer of bio-fertilizer over the soil surface and use a garden fork or tiller to mix it in thoroughly. Aim for a depth of about 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) of bio-fertilizer mixed evenly into the soil.

Improve Soil Structure:

– Compost helps improve soil structure by increasing its ability to retain moisture and nutrients. It also enhances soil aeration and drainage, creating an optimal environment for plant roots to grow.

Top Dressing:

– Apply a layer of bio-fertilizer as a top dressing around established plants. Spread a thin layer (about 1-2 inches or 2.5-5 cm) of compost on the soil surface around the base of plants, being careful to keep it away from the stems. This helps suppress weeds, retain moisture, and slowly release nutrients into the soil as it decomposes.


– Use bio-fertilizer as a mulch to cover bare soil in your garden beds. Apply a thicker layer (about 2-4 inches or 5-10 cm) of compost around plants to suppress weeds, conserve moisture, regulate soil temperature, and add nutrients to the soil as it breaks down.

Seed Starting Mix:

– Create a seed starting mix by combining bio-fertilizer with other soilless growing mediums such as perlite, vermiculite, or peat moss. The nutrient-rich bio-fertilizer provides young seedlings with essential nutrients as they grow.

Container Gardening:

– Mix compost with potting soil when planting in containers. Use a blend of 1 part bio-fertilizer to 2 parts potting soil to provide plants with a nutrient-rich growing medium. Make sure the bio-fertilizer is well decomposed to prevent burning delicate plant roots.

Compost Tea:

– Make compost tea by steeping bio-fertilizer in water. Use a porous bag or container to hold the compost and steep it in water for a few days. Strain the liquid and use it to water plants. Compost tea provides a nutrient boost and beneficial microorganisms to plants.

Incorporate into Planting Holes:

– Mix compost into the planting hole when transplanting seedlings or planting new plants. This provides immediate nutrients and helps establish healthy root systems.

Seasonal Applications:

– Apply bio-fertilizer seasonally, such as in the spring before planting and in the fall after harvesting. This replenishes nutrients in the soil and prepares it for the next growing season.

Monitor and Adjust:

– Regularly monitor the health of your plants and soil. Adjust the frequency and amount of bio-fertilizer application based on plant needs, soil tests, and observations.

Using compost in your garden improves soil fertility, promotes healthy plant growth, and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers. It’s an eco-accommodating method for supporting your plants and making a flourishing nursery biological system.

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