Making Your Own Compost

Monica Dix

Monica Dix › Food has been my constant thread: From barista & cooking gigs in art school, firing clay ...


Thinking about starting your own compost pile for next year’s garden? Monica Dix shares some great basic information and tips to help you get started towards creating some homegrown, nutritious feed for your soil.

Composting your food scraps can reduce the amount of trash you put into your landfill, save money on fertilizer, make your plants healthier and your vegetables tastier (without synthetic chemicals), and teach your kids something amazing about the ‘circle of life’. In this post, I will explain what composting is, and what you’ll need to get started.

What is composting?

Bacteria and fungi, as well as larger things like earthworms and beetles, will eat vegetable matter if we simply leave it where they can get at it. You have seen this happen on your kitchen counter when an orange spoils as a swath of white, gray, and green mold takes it over. If you left it long enough, insects would come to feast on it, too, like fruit flies and their larva. While this is gross when it happens in your tabletop fruit bowl, when we let nature take its course in a compost pile, we can turn trash into treasure. After a while, we can ‘harvest’ some rich, dark, composted material which we can add to garden soil. The nutrients, minerals, and hygroscopic (water-loving) matter in that compost will help to keep plants healthy, strong (resistant to pests), and even make them more nutritious.

Won’t that stink?

Most of the stink from rotting garbage happens when air doesn’t get into the decomposing vegetation. (We won’t be putting any animal products into our compost–I will explain why a bit later.) Bacteria that can thrive without oxygen (anaerobic bacteria) are usually the culprits when there is something stinky in a compost pile. But it’s easy to prevent those anaerobic bacteria from getting too comfy: keep stirring air into their personal space! So by ‘turning’ your compost, or using a compost tumbler, you can keep exposing air to new surfaces, and keep the stinkier bacteria population under control.

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Have you started your own compost yet?

This article originally appeared on It is partially posted here with permission of the author.

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