Ways & How

How to Make Vegetable Compost for the Garden

How to Make Vegetable Compost for the Garden

Amidst food shortages in some parts of the world, statistics say that about 40% of agricultural produce goes to waste. About 30% of household waste is also organic. With so much of these materials going directly to landfills when they have the potential to enrich the soil, it just makes perfect sense to turn your vegetable scraps into compost. You can then begin the cycle again by using the compost to fertilize a vegetable garden! Composting is a rather straightforward science, easily learned by greenhorn gardeners. Combine high-nitrogen materials like vegetables scraps with ingredients rich in carbon like shredded dry leaves to create backyard “black gold.” If you are interested in learning how to grow your own food and reduce your household waste, here is an easy-to-follow guide on how to make vegetable compost for the garden.

  1. Assemble your materials and equipment. Collect vegetable scraps and fruit peelings from the kitchen or pulled vegetable and garden plants and set them aside in a bucket. Prepare a spade, shovel, hoe, hose, rake, and knife or food processor.


  2. Wash, chop, and shred bulky ingredients. Ingredients contaminated by oil and milk or any other dressing need to be washed clean or they will turn sour and attract pests. Bulky wastes need to be sliced or chopped while soft ones can be ground in the food processor. If you are using discarded plant materials from the last harvest, choose materials that are not diseased.

  3. Dig a hole to accommodate your clippings. Use wood chips and twigs to create a six-inch layer for a base. As the pile eventually settles, it may compact the pit and prevent aeration. This base allows air to circulate in the pit to aid in decomposition. Beneficial microbes thrive in aerobic environments.

  4. Top the base with a two-inch layer of your vegetable scraps. Throw in a thin layer of soil.

  5. Add a six-inch layer of high-carbon ingredients. Dried leaves and grass cuttings make an excellent carbon layer.

  6. Hose down with water until moist but not soaked.

  7. Continue adding layers of nitrogen and carbon until you have filled your pit. Maintain the moisture level of the compost.

  8. Turn the pile with a shovel or garden fork every two weeks. You should see steam come out of the pile the first time you turn it. This indicates that the pile is heating up due to the decomposition of materials. Work the pile from the center outwards, and from the outside to the center.

  9. Ensure that the pile is moist. You will know if you have achieved the right level of moisture when earthworms start taking up residence in your vegetable compost.

  10. Check the smell of the compost. Although decomposition often gives off a strong odor, when done right, a vegetable pit will smell sweet, and its soil will turn black and crumbly. Your vegetable compost is ready to use when it turns into “black gold.”

Remember that in learning how to make vegetable compost for the garden, there’s no limit as to what you can toss into your vegetable pit as long as it is “green stuff.” Fruit cores and rinds, rice, spent vegetables from soup stocks, pasta, bread, oatmeal—practically any kitchen waste that is plant-based and even fresh grass clippings—all contain nitrogen. Dried cow manure, while technically not green in color, is also rich in nitrogen and can be used as part of your “green stuff.” Similarly, you can toss any organic “brown stuff” into your carbon layer. This could be shredded newspaper, straw, fall leaves, and dead flowers. Keep the ratio three parts brown to one part green. Once your compost pile has reached three feet high, it’s time to dig another pit.


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