The Benefits Of Homemade Compost (And How To Make It)

Think about what you ate today. 

How much food waste did you throw away? Throwing food waste away is like throwing money away!

It is a good idea to make your own compost heap. Composting is the perfect DIY project that allows you to save money, eat healthily, and improve the environment. 

It creates an ideal substrate to grow nutritious and healthy plants while keeping excessive waste out of landfills and water sources.

This article goes on to tell you about the many benefits of composting and how you can easily make it on your own.

18 Benefits Of Homemade Compost

Compost consists of mixed waste materials such as the following:

  • Plant foliage and stems
  • Vegetable and fruit waste
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds
  • Cardboard
  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Bark
  • Straw

After decomposition, the compost is spread onto a garden or mixed in with topsoil.

The following benefits demonstrate the value of using these decomposable waste materials for use as homemade compost. These benefits impact people locally as well as on a global scale.

1. Soil Nutrition

There are essential elements that all plants need to grow well. 

This includes 3 primary nutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Many factors, both natural and manmade, deplete the soil of NPK and other elements. 

Therefore, when you add compost to the soil, it enriches it, thus leading to healthy functioning plants. 

For example, grass clippings add nitrogen, aged manure adds phosphorus, and banana peels add potassium.

2. Protects Against Plant Disease

Healthy plants can more readily deflect diseases from pests, fungi, and more. 

Adding compost makes the soil fertile and efficiently nutritious resulting in hardy plants that better resist negative influences in their ecosystems.

3. Balances pH Levels

The pH of compost can vary depending upon what is in the mixture, yet when mixed in with topsoil can help to naturally balance the overall pH. 

Typically when the compost has broken down it has a pH between 6 and 8. Anything below 7 (neutral) is acidic and above is alkaline.  

Many plants do well in neutral or near-neutral soils, but some grow better in acidic or alkaline compositions. 

Testing pH Levels

If you wish to test your compost or topsoil and compost mixture for pH levels, you can use a testing kit, or you can do it on your own. 

To test the pH level at home, put 2 tablespoons of soil or compost in a bowl, and add ½ cup of vinegar. If it fizzes then it is alkaline. 

In another bowl, put 2 tablespoons of soil or compost into it. Add distilled water to moisten it. Add ½ cup baking soda. If it fizzes, then it is acidic.

Consider testing different samples from different locations of the garden or compost pile, since pH can vary.

4. Improved Soil Structure & Aeration

Plants need a substrate that retains water, yet allows the roots to grow and expand. 

Sandy soil is too loose, and clay soil is too dense. Amending soil with compost greatly improves the structure for growing plants.

The mixed material composition of compost also makes it an aerated soil structure. This benefits growing plants since it allows water and roots to penetrate them and take hold. 

It also encourages beneficial worms and microorganisms to go to work and keep the soil healthy.

5. Improves Moisture Retention & Infiltration

An improved soil structure by using compost also allows it to retain moisture. 

Compost can hold up to an impressive 20 times the amount of its weight in water. This is because compost is composed of mixed materials that make it bulky. 

This makes it much like a sponge, as water infiltrates into it. Plants’ roots can then grow into it and take up water.

6. Helps With Local Water Revitalization

Not only does compost benefit the plants and their access to water, but compost holds water in place long enough so that it can seep down deeper. 

Compost helps to decrease water runoff. Reduced runoff also protects ocean sources from being contaminated by chemicals. 

When water from rainfall reaches down to the earth’s impervious rock layer, it filters the water. 

The retention properties of compost also help to replenish local ponds, lakes, and other freshwater sources.

7. Reduces Erosion & Pooling

Again, since compost retains water in a sponge-like way, it reduces erosion. 

Excess water is absorbed by compost and slowly releases to infiltrate the ground. Water will not readily pool or wash away topsoil when compost is used.

This is beneficial for both small-scale gardening as well as has the potential for larger-scale impact (as mentioned above).

8. Weed Suppression

Compost can help to suppress weeds under a few conditions. 

Hot composting kills weeds’ seeds if you use weed waste in your pile. Hot composting requires that your compost pile has greens (more on that below) and is turned often to break down the material. 

The pH level (6 to 8) of compost generally will keep weeds at bay, as long as you remove any existing weeds before using compost as mulch.

9. Insect Pest Control

Healthy compost helps to deter harmful insect pests. This in turn also keeps away fungal infections and other diseases. 

Healthy soil and plants invite in beneficial insects, such as ladybugs. Ladybugs then keep harmful insects away such as aphids. 

Healthy plants in general are more resistant to illness and pest invasion, and compost gives them that healthy support.

10. Promotes Beneficial Microorganisms

Compost also suppresses diseases by being an excellent substrate for beneficial microorganisms. 

The organic matter is broken down by these microorganisms to create a nutrient-rich, fertile, and aerated substance.

11. Higher Yields

Studies have shown that composted soils produce higher yields of crops.

Plants are healthy and thriving and therefore have the energy to produce more.

12. Healthier Food

When vegetable and fruit plants grow in healthy composted soil, they are absorbing natural sources of nutrition. 

They have adequate hydration and reduced exposure to chemical pesticides and fertilizers. As a result, vegetation is healthier for people to consume.

13. Keeps Waste Out Of Landfills & Reduces Methane

Up to  ⅓ of food and yard waste is in landfills. This takes up space and also creates harmful greenhouse gasses, such as methane.

Compost responsibly and safely recycles organic waste into beneficial nutrition for plants. This makes healthy vegetation for your consumption, while keeping waste out of landfills.

14. Improves Carbon Dioxide Uptake

As microorganisms work on waste material in compost, it sequesters carbon dioxide (CO2) in the soil for plant use. 

Plants then use the CO2 for healthy photosynthesis.

15. Decreases The Use Of Chemical Fertilizers

The nutrition of compost in growing soil reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. 

As a result, this keeps chemicals out of the soil, local water sources, and oceans. This also keeps chemicals out of our food sources.

16. Composting Saves Money

While the initial setup for composting may cause some expense, in the long run, you should save money. 

Consider how much food waste you throw away daily. Think about how much you spend on fresh vegetables from the grocery store.

Composting waste materials is free and puts the nutrients back into homegrown food.

You’ll also throw away less, keeping any garbage service bills down and reducing the amount of waste that goes into landfills.

17. Composting Is Environmentally Conscious

Everything that is discarded impacts our soil and water systems, which affects our access to healthy food. 

As you explore the world of composting, it can make you, your family, and your community have an increased awareness of the impact we have on our environment. 

This could lead to more recycling, and how we approach the issues related to waste.  

18. Potential To Create Revenue And Jobs

On both small and large scales, composting has the potential to create revenue and jobs.  

If you have higher yields of produce, you can sell them at a curbside stand.

Community composting programs or plants can create new revenue and jobs on a larger scale. These “green” jobs can help to create carbon-neutral and sustainable opportunities, as well as a more resilient food system.

Consider supporting farmers’ stands and markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs to create local financial support.

How To Make Homemade Compost

Composting is not a complex process and is easier to do than you might think. 

Whether you are new to gardening or not, once you set everything up, you will find that composting is quite manageable.

Your compost needs both brown (carbon) and green (NPK) materials to make an optimal blend for growing healthy plants. Aim to have equal amounts and layers of both for the best blend.

Examples are as follows:

  • Browns: fallen leaves, branches, twigs, straw, pine needles, sawdust, unbleached toilet and paper towel rolls, shredded cardboard (without ink or stickers)
  • Greens: grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, aged manure (horse, cow, chicken, sheep, rabbit)

Please note: 

  • Avoid composing black walnut tree waste, since it has a naturally toxic substance that is detrimental to many plants. 
  • Other wastes to avoid using are dairy products, disease- or pest-ridden waste, fatty substances, fish or meat, pet or human feces, pesticide or herbicide-treated materials, coal, and charcoal ash.
  • Whichever of the following composition options you choose, make sure you add water to dry materials so that they are moistened.  
  • Turn or mix the compost every 4 to 5 weeks (outdoor) or 3 to 4 days (indoor) to encourage it to effectively break down. 
  • Material that is dark and rich in color, with a consistency like garden soil, is ready for use.

Backyard Compost

Decomposition in an outdoor compost pile can take from 2 months to 2 years.

What To Do

  1. Purchase or build a compost pile or bin in a dry and shady spot in your yard.
  2. As you collect green and brown waste materials, add them to the bin. 
    • Chop up any larger pieces into small bits so they can decompose faster.
  3. Moisten dry materials as they are added.
  4. Bury fruit and vegetable waste that is at least 10 inches into the pile. 
    • This helps to keep wildlife away.
  5. If you create an open pile, cover it with a tarp to retain moisture.

This video shows how to make a compost bin out of a garbage bin:

Indoor Compost

Decomposition in a small indoor bin can take from 2 to 5 weeks. Make sure to add both browns and greens to the bin, and that it gets mixed as well. 

You can use a commercially purchased or DIY compost bin indoors that sits on the countertop or underneath your sink. 

Keep in mind that these can release unpleasant odors, and many commercial ones come with a filter to reduce them. Adding an equal amount of brown waste materials can release enough carbon to control odors.

Many people like to have both an indoor and outdoor bin. Once the indoor one is filled, they add it to the outdoor compost pile.

Other Composting Options

Once you feel comfortable with composting from your yard and kitchen waste, you can try vermiculture or bokashi.

These involve adding worms or bokashi bran to your compost pile which assist with faster decomposition and fermentation.

Wrapping Up

Now that you know how to compost, you are well on your way to reaping the benefits! You can reduce your carbon footprint, improve the environment, grow nutritious and vibrant vegetation, and save money.