Skip to main content

Composting Tips for the Homeowner

Spring is in the air!  Gardening beds are being changed over and people are starting their warm-season landscape maintenance.  Its time to consider what to do with all of last season’s spent vegetation and plants parts.  How about recycling them right back into your landscape?  You don’t have to throw away any of that nutrient-rich debris.  The soil in Florida is naturally very poor and would benefit greatly from the addition of organic matter.  That would be compost and you can make that at home with just unwanted debris and some time.

counter-top bin with food and paper scraps

Lidded container for food & paper scraps; Photo by IRC Master Gardener Julia DeChants

How Do I Get Started?

Composting will allow you to turn your yard waste and kitchen scraps into rich organic matter for your soil.  It can be as simple or as precise as you would like. The following are a few tips on how to easily make your own compost:

black plastic composter bin

Backyard composter; UF/IFAS file photo

  1. Unit- purchase or build something that is at least 3-cubic feet to contain the debris.
  2. Place- the container should be in a shaded area where it will have some access to water.
  3. Materials- try to layer equal amounts of brown and green materials into the pile. Examples of browns would be dried leaves, hay, twigs; greens would be fresh cut grass, kitchen scraps, old green garden plants.
  4. Turning- at least once weekly, turn, shuffle and shift the materials in your compost pile, breaking up any clumps.  Be sure to add a little water if it seems to be drying out.

    turned compost in bin

    Sifting compost; Photo by IRC Master Gardener Julia DeChants

If you follow these tips, you should have finished compost in about six weeks.  It might not have a uniform texture, however, so you may want to sift out the larger pieces and return them to the pile for further decomposition.  Finished compost should act as a moist chocolate cake- it sticks together when you lightly squeeze it in your hand.

hand holding finished compost with earthworms.

finished compost and earthworms; UF/IFAS photo by Camila Guillen

  Apply the finished compost as you would mulch around existing plants or mix it into your planting beds as a soil amendment.  

For more information:

Compost tips for the Home Gardener https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP32300.pdf