• Sameera Satija

    Expert Writer

    Auditor at Government of India, an environmentalist and a compost expert

    09 August 2018

Make Your Own Compost at Home In - 10 Easy Steps

In today's day and age, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has been increasing at an alarming rate. We could all do our bit, but by building a compost at home we can not only reduce the amount of garbage that our households generate but reuse it to make the soil better.

Making compost at home has never been so easy, all you have to do is, get a bin and then drill holes into it, once this is done, you'll have to layer the browns and greens, add water and mix it. After doing this, leave it to rest giving it an occasional stir, once it's done, lay it out under the sunlight. Your compost is ready!

The article contains 10 simple steps to make your own compost at home. Read the full article to understand the process:

To start your composting journey let us understand, how composting benefits the environment?

Composting is a process that decomposes organic matter (i.e. wet/green/ kitchen waste) in the presence of oxygen (aerobically). If the same material is dumped into landfills, it decomposes anaerobically (without oxygen) thus, emitting methane and other greenhouse gases which in turn accelerate the rate of global warming. There are 2 types of composting at the household level:
a. Aerobic- bin composting
b. Anaerobic- pit composting
On a household level, bin composting is suggested due to a scarcity of space, time and labour.

Image source: RitaE, Pixabay

Just as humans need supplements for better development, soil also requires supplements in the form of humus. Compost contains nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium along with other micronutrients, that acts as a natural fertilizer and eliminates the requirement of chemical fertilizers that would otherwise be applied to garden or crop soil.

What’s better? It’s completely free!

Image source: Pexels

What are the materials that can be used for the compost bin?

A well-balanced compost bin includes two parts of carbon matter per one part of nitrogen matter. Meaning to say, the proportion of carbon-matter must be two times more of the nitrogen-matter that is put in the compost bin.

Nitrogen matter is rich in proteins and so, provides the soil with raw materials for making enzymes. Carbon matter gives the compost its texture and fluffiness.

Ideally, making a hygienic compost bin means covering the protein-rich nitrogen matter with the carbon-rich material so as to prevent any foul odours from attracting pests. If you feel like your compost bin is giving out a foul odour, add more carbon matter to it. You can add the following green and brown materials right from your kitchen to your compost bin:

Other materials that can be added to the compost bin are: Old herbs and spices that are lying in the kitchen (masalas), ayurvedic medicines (make sure that these are ayurvedic only), dust collected after sweeping the house, nails (without polish), fallen hair (avoid hair strands that are coloured or chemically treated).

DON’Ts

-Do not use meat/ bones in a compost pit that is going to be kept indoors, it will attract pests and start smelling. I strongly recommend sticking to vegetarian material as non-vegetarian items take longer to decompose.
-Do not use pet manures in making compost that might be used for food crops-Banana peels/ orange rinds and peach peels should be avoided as they might contain pesticide residues
-Do not put glossy/ waxed paper or boxes with sticky labels in your compost bin

1) Get the Bin

Buy a bin which is deep enough to fit in layers of organic matter that you’re going to be putting in the bin. If you’re using an old bin, clean it thoroughly so that there are no traces of non-biodegradable material. If it’s a new bin, you would have to check for any sticky labels or tags and get rid of them. You could also use a plastic bucket in case you don’t have a spare bin. Another option could be to use earthen pots (“gamlas”) as your compost bin. You can also buy ready composters from the market if you want to go in for a more fancy and ready-made option.


This is an earthen pot that can be used as a compost bin. You may skip making holes in these pots


This is a Composter which can be bought from the market.

2) Drill the holes
Drill holes at the bottom of the bin/ bucket that you've got so that there is enough space for the oxygen to penetrate the compost material that you've put together. Drill holes into the bin and space it at approximately 3 inches from the first hole. If you are using an earthen pot ("gamla"), you do not need to make any holes as the clay ("mitti") allows the passage of air. By the end of it, the bin should look like this:


Drill the holes in a way that it allows maximum oxygen to enter the Compost Bin.

3) Layering
Composting is all about layering the right way. The first layer should be your browns. You can start with twigs and straw, keep this layer a few inches deep, preferably, 2-3 inches. If you are using a plastic container, keep the first/ bottom layer thicker as you would need it to absorb all the extra moisture from the second layer (greens).

Then add the nitrogen-rich (green) matter which consists of food scraps, seeds from fruits, leftover rice/ tea leaves and other material from your kitchen. I would suggest that you keep a colander /strainer ("chhanni") near the dishwashing basin so it is easier to collect kitchen scraps every day. I also prefer to keep a plate under the colander/ strainer ("chhanni") so that all the extra moisture and oil (if any), gets drained out of the leftover material (e.g. vegetable peels, leftover sabzis, tea leaves).
The next layer in the bin would be that of browns. You need to add in the carbon-rich material (brown) to top off the food scraps so that your compost doesn't stink or attract insects.

You would have to repeat this process for over 7 to 8 days and collect the greens over this period. The best material to use as a part of your browns is cocopeat as it absorbs all the extra moisture very quickly and will prevent your compost from being too moist or stinky.


You can use this chart while making the compost, so you know exactly how to go about the layering.

4) Layer with browns again
The most important step in the making of the compost bin is adding another layer of browns on top of the greens. After you're done layering the Green and Brown matter, cover with some more browns. As mentioned earlier, the best material to use for this layer of Brown would be cocopeat and soil. This allows the soil to absorb the nutrients from the materials you've put in your compost bin and makes the soil more fertile. The cocopeat soaks up all the extra moisture from your compost.

5) Add Water
If you see that your compost is very dry and lacks moisture, add water to the bin so it can get its fix of moisture from the water. The amount of water that needs to be added depends on the size of your compost bin. One thing that you must make sure of, is that you add enough water for all the layers of the bin to remain moist but do not overfill the compost bin with water. Adding water makes the soil more absorbent and allows it to take in all the nutrients from the organic matter that is added to the bin.

6) Cover to seal the moisture and heat
Cover the bin with a lid so that the water does not get evaporated or the smell from the greens (vegetable scraps/ tea leaves/ vegetable peels) does not escape the bin. Sealing the bin also helps the matter in retaining heat which quickens the decomposition process. In case your bin does not have its own lid, you could cover it with a wooden plank, a plastic sheet or a newspaper.

7) Mix the materials
You will have to wait for about 10 days after layering your compost bin. After 10 days, give the compost mixture a nice stir. This is done so that all the matter has broken down, after that, mix all materials that are in the bin to allow better blending of the soil, water and the organic material with oxygen. This will also help in quickening the process of decomposition. The best tool that you can use to stir the compost mixture is a three-pronged rod which is easily available in the market.

If you have bought a composter from the market, they would also provide you with this tool along with the composter.

You can keep adding the green and brown waste till the compost bin is 3/4th full. Once the compost bin is 3/4th full, keep the bin covered for one month. I would advise you to give the compost mixture a good stir every 15-20 days so that you get a better compost consistency. Occasional stirring also allows more oxygen to seep into your mixture, prevents lumps and helps you keep a check on maggots.

Please note, it is very important to have maggots in the compost bin so do not worry if you see maggots in the compost bin.

After about 40 days (10 days of collecting and layering plus 30 days of resting with occasional stirring), when the mixture begins to smell like soil ("mitti"), it is a sign that your compost is ready. Another sign that your compost is ready is the uniformity in its texture that can be achieved within 40-45 days.

8) Expose to Sunlight

Once your compost is ready, you will have to expose the ready mix to sunlight. This step is very important as it allows the extra moisture to escape. Another benefit of this step is that it allows the maggots to be removed from the mix. Keeping in mind the whole food chain, this process allows the birds a good treat in the form of the maggots and eliminates the maggots from the compost. Keep the compost under the sun for one whole day and check on it once in a while, giving it a stir.


Image source: Pixabay

CONDITIONS FOR COMPOSTING:
-Do not expose the compost bin to extreme weather conditions i.e., direct sunlight/ extreme cold or rains.
-The ideal place for a compost bin would be a balcony in your house. You will know exactly where to keep the bin if you think of it in terms of a household item that needs to be kept away from any damage. A compost bin needs an airy place and a moderate environment. Under normal weather conditions, one batch of compost takes about 45 to 60 days.

Problems during composting?

-If your compost does not have any maggots, you can add some water or buttermilk ("chaach") to it.
-If your compost has too many maggots that you want to get rid of, you can add more cocopeat (to take away all the moisture) or add some rice flour ("chawal aata") / turmeric ("haldi") / red chilli powder ("laal mirch").
-If there are very big chunks of the compost that is not breaking down, you can add some curd mixed with water to the mix and give it a stir. In case the rest of your compost is ready and you are left with some chunks, you can use it again and add it to the next batch of your compost mix (as part of browns)
-If you see that the worms are creeping out of the compost bin, you can spray a mixture of Neem Oil and water to the outer surface of the compost bin. In case you want to add neem to the compost mix, do not put the whole twigs instead, put only the neem leaves.


Image source: Jing, Pixabay

Composting is very important for countries like India as these compost bins are active alternatives to landfills. As per the Solid Waste Management Rules (2016), waste generators such as households, event organizers, street vendors, market associations, communities having more than 5000 sq. metres area, hotels, restaurants and every other body that generates waste shall segregate waste into wet waste and dry waste. After segregating waste, this waste material must be stored separately and handed over to Municipal workers or waste pickers.

The environment gives us everything that we need for our survival, it's time we start doing the same!

Have a query about composting? Write down in the comment section below, I will be happy to help.