How-To: Let’s Make Compost! (DIY Urban-Style)


Yesterday, I posted about the 14-28 day cycle DIY urban composter/digester. Today, I’ll show you how to fill it and set it up for composting. I’m very excited to see where this bad boy is in a week!

So...if you’re not familiar with the general purpose of composting, here it is according to The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening:

The Purpose of Composting: Composting in heaps is an extension of a process that is going on almost everywhere in nature. When a lawn is mowed and the clippings are left on the ground, they compost. The straw that is left on fields by the combine decays into humus. Leaves that fall turn the fires floor into a compost area. The retailing of all the soils of he earth has been achieved and maintained principally by the decay of vegetable matter.

Gardening and farming disrupt the natural pattern of the return of plant matter to the earth. Compost is the link between Odeon agriculture and nature’s own method of building soil fertility.

When one composts in a pile, typically it can take a bit longer for the compost to “take off” as it is exposed to the elements, and does require a decent amount of turning to make sure one is getting the most out of the decomposition process.

That said, composting in bins has become very popular over the years for homesteaders and other organic gardeners and farmers. The city I live in will not legally allow compost bins (and even the rules on rotators are sketchy), so the options for composting without literally breaking the law in my city is tricky.

However, this contained 5-gallon bucket method not only works quickly to efficiently maximize the decomposition of the vegetable matter into humus, but also is contained...and because of the quicker-turnaround, also does not smell as compost piles (which aren’t turned often enough), are notorious for (and really have a bad rap, imo). make your own urban composter, make sure to check out the article I posted yesterday. Today, I’m going to fill it with goodies and show you that process.

What you need to fill your DIY 5 gallon bucket composter:

1 ) vegetable matter/food “scraps” (non animal products preferably), grass clippings, or other “greens”

2 ) dried leaves, dried sticks, as unprocessed cardboard as you might have around the house (I decided to try recycling my paper towel rolls as some of my “browns”)

3 ) 3 cups-ish of soil (to help get the process started)

4 ) water mister/sprayer (optional but totally handy)

As a general rule, you want to have 3X the amount of browns to greens in your mix.

The Steps

1 ) Layer it up...browns, soil, greens...browns, soil, greens...browns, soil greens (keeping in mind the 3:1 ratio of browns to greens as you layer).


Little bit of torn up paper towel roll on the bottom.


As you add your leaves, make sure to try to crumble them up as much as possible. Not only does this help with aeration, but also helps with faster decomposition.


Some of these twigs are probably not as small as I should have torn them up. I will be working on this as I turn it over the course of the next couple of weeks.


I just tossed about a cup of relatively moist soil onto the top of the browns in each layer. As you can see, I’m using just pretty basic potting soil.


2 ) Stir it up


Found a nice little stir stick in the back yard to give it a good stir. The Scientist (featured in the gloves) took a break from weaving together a trellis to hold the bucket while I stirred up the goodies. This is also the phase where if the mix of your vegetation and soil are not moist, based on multiple resources I’ve consulted is that basically of a wrung-out sponge, that you can spritz the mix with your spray bottle and continue to stir until it is moist enough. We had a nice amount of spent grains and coffee grounds to use in our compost this time, and they brought a nice amount of moisture...along with some spaghetti squash.

3 ) Cover it up with your vented lid


Ideally, heat will be generated (especially at the bottom of the top-inserted bucket), and microorganisms will get to work on their magic in decomposing the goodies for the soil. I’ve read a few different methods concerning how often to turn the compost. I plan to turn this one, either by hand or by stick, every couple of days to give it time to generate the heat before aerating. Also, since Missouri is in the middle of what seems like a third winter, I am keeping it far no smell.

Tomorrow I’ll have a microgreens update for you!

(They’re looking so good, and I’m putting more out to germinate today!🌱🌱🌱)

I hope this helps some folks make a kickass composter/digester, and if you have any tips/tricks/hacks on making this model better, please let me know! I love hearing expertise and experience from folks who have it!

Sunshine on my shoulders almost always makes me high. —John Denver


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Your post has been featured in Issue #4 of The Make It Healthy Project MAGAZINE! Many thanks for your contribution to the health of the Steemit community :-)


This is awesome! Thank you for the feature and I hope it helps folks along the way!! 💚


You're most welcome @jessamynorchard, I'm sure plenty people will find it very helpful! I too intend to become more green fingered so I like posts that make things to easy to learn and with lots of helpful photos!

Love this. Healthy soil and composting is such a vital part of keeping a healthy ecosystem and pulling Carbon out of the atmosphere. I interviewed Ryland Engelhart about this very subject a week or so ago. You may find it interesting. All the best, Ben


Thanks for checking out the article, Ben! I agree, composting is such a huge part of doing our part to keep things in balance. I know they’re severely out of balance anyway, but we can try, right?

I grew up in a home that composted all the time, so this past 10 or so years of city living has left me not only missing compost, but also feeling very wasteful when it comes to organic green food “scraps” that end up down a garbage disposal or in the trash when it could be turned into lucious goodness for our garden!

I am going to check this link out ASAP. Thank you again for checking it out and for sharing!

Nice post thanks! Our rule is no organic matter ever leaves the property :)


I’m done with the waste. It’s out of hand. There is no reason anything organic should go to waste, and I feel very strongly about doing my own small part in this very thing. Great rule to live by! Thanks for checking the post out, and I’m glad you enjoyed it! :)

I'd like to try this method using straw as the browns, it's about all I have for that. I can add a bit of bunny poop to the mix to speed up the process a bit.


Straw should work fantastically as your browns! Especiallly if you have some straw at the bottom of the pile that has already started to decompose! Same goes with can be overdone if it is dry, but the wet stuff that’s in the center of the pile is compost gold.


I have a bunch of wet straw out on the old compost pile, that should probably work as a starter. :-)


Very informative! I inherited three large compost containers on the property of the house I bought last summer. Never stirred them! I may be in for a mess of a time this spring when I try to revive the whole system!


Are the containers rotators or are they bin setups? It might be easier to revive the rotators vs the bins, however, I imagine if you get into that bin with a good pitchfork, you should have only a moderate pain getting it back up to speed!


Bins! Three of them at the back of my property. Originally when we looked in them there were plastic bags full of rotting produce. We at least went through the compost then to remove any non compostable material. We were pretty pissed that the previous home owners would do such a thing to us. Oh well... it's a small community, and they will be pissed when they see that we have torn down their crappy house and replaced it with an estate. I will definitely be posting the adventures in the renovations, especially since we will be living in trailers in our backyard during the renovations!

Recently I had seen a similar layering of leaves, newspaper and fish scraps to make fish emulsion. I had wanted some fish emulsion over the winter for my indoor garden (and grow tent) but was leery of making it to keep indoors.

When I attempted to buy some at the local garden store center, it was not available as they took the fish emulsion off the shelf; considered out of season.
This seems to be quite an easy recipe to do. thank you for sharing!


How did your fish emulsion turn out? This is something that has piqued my interest recently.


Unfortunately I didn't make it this past winter. I may attempt it this spring when I can leave it out in the garden shed. I was worried about it being inside the house (the smell) or out in the shed (freezing). If I can make it, I will definitely make a post about it.


I am definitely interested to see how it turns out! If you do end up making this post, please let me know!! That’s another one of those products that I don’t see the sense in buying if one could feasibly make it.

many thanks for share it with us, if every of us do it, the quantity of garbage in our street should be less and we have the oportunity to convert the garbage in other product very usesfull for food our plants and consecuently get food for us.
Many thank for sharing
Best Regard @galberto


We can all do our part. Even if it is a small one. This compost bin won’t make much of a difference, but it’s making a huge difference in our home and if everyone would get on board with such a simple extra step, there would be so fewer problems across the board. Same principle applies to many things in our world today, but we have to just keep rockin’ along, doing the best we can to make it a better place!

Thank you for stopping by to check out the article! :)

That's weird that your city does not allow composters. I would think they would encourage it unless the waste management people are taking and producing products from the waste to sell and they have a contract with the city. Odd either way. What about worms bins? Worms will actually produce more faster and better quality and would be under the radar or possibly a loop hole.


My city has the oddest regulations when it comes to stuff like folks being self-sufficient in the slightest. Sometimes it seems they are generally in opposition to all methods of sustainable sufficiency...including the collecting of rainwater. The tricky part is that a lot of people attempt to do it anyway, but the second that word gets out that they’re doing it, City inspectors will be knocking at the door wanting to get a look at what’s going on and ready to write tickets for violations.

We toe the line as much as we can. I know that worms will actually produce faster, I’ve done a lot of reading about red wigglers and composting using them, but I’m not entirely sure. I would imagine, in a bin-type situation, as long as it was kept small and wouldn’t create a stink (literally), that it would be fairly simple to get around that one.

Same goes with collecting rainwater. It’s an easier one to get around if you do it in a small scale...but still really sucks that something like these things are actually illegal.


Yeah that is pretty crazy. I would be moving quickly if it was possible.

a useful post and worthy of the word in the stack so beautiful .. salute successful jessam, support for @ tasier22 that has not been successful

Awesome. We have compost, a garden. Near Seattle. Love your smile. Great post. Thanks so much. I'm Oatmeal. Happy New Years 2019.

Alright, now I'm on a mission. I tried to get my super on board for a compost service just this week, but she wasn't having it because she worried about the mice problem (I live down the block from a construction zone that was abandoned property for years. When they started building, the mice which had flourished there moved out into the neighborhood. But I have never had mice, because I have cats 😸).


This method is supposed to tiny balcony approved, so it wouldn’t be a problem!! Go for it!!

hai ... a very beautiful and interesting post worth a count on, successful greeting
.. please support for us who have not