Make compost without manure from fall leaves or a mix of hay, straw and vegetable scraps. Compost without manure will break down quickly and be ready for your garden in 3-6 months. Make a simple wire cage to hold your compost without manure, it is fast easy and cheap.
How to compost with just fall leaves
You can make compost with just fall leaves and no manure. This is the easiest compost to make and it creates nutrient rich compost in around 6 months. Here are simple steps to making compost with just leaves.
Step 1: Create a cage with wire around 4 feet by 4 feet, place the cage in a shaded area of your garden out of the way. It will need to sit for around 6 months.
Step 2: Collect enough fall leaves to fill the wire cage.
Step 3: Shred the leaves using a lawn mower or leaf blower if you can. This will help to break them down quicker.
Step 4: Fill the wire basket with the shredded leaves. If you have used coffee grounds you can mix 2-3 cups through the leaf mix which will encourage more bacteria to your pile to help to break it down.
Step 5: Cover the wire cage with palm fronds or some hessian and a brick to weigh it down.
Step 6: Wait for around 6 months. By Spring, the leaves will have broken down to a dark soil like substance which is a perfect compost for your garden.
Check out this video on how to make this leaf compost.
Do you need manure in your compost?
You do not need manure in your compost. If you don’t have access to a farm or have chickens yourself then making compost with fall leaves or a mix of straw, vegetable scraps, tree trimmings and worm castings will be great. Having a compost bin at home is a great way to avoid any trimmings or organic matter from leaving your home and ending up in landfill.
How to make great compost without manure
If you don’t have manure to put in your compost here is an easy recipe.
Step 1: Place a compost bin in a shady spot in your garden, or choose a spot that you can make a compost pile. If you are using a compost bin make sure it has contact with the soil, that will let microbes and worms into your bin to break down the compost.
Step 2: Add a layer of coarse materials on the bottom like sticks or sugar cane mulch. This will create air pockets which will help the compost to break down.
Step 3: Mix together 2 parts brown material to 1 part green material on the ground before adding it to your bin. Brown materials include shredded cardboard, hay, sugar cane mulch and fall leaves. Green materials include vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and green leaves.
**I avoid putting grass clippings in a small compost bin, but small amounts will be fine as long as you mix them in.
Step 4: Once you have mixed the ingredients together on the ground, put them into the bin. Mixing the ingredients will make them break down quicker.
Step 5: Water the ingredients with a watering can or hose. Add some extra seaweed tonic and fish emulsion to support the good bacteria to grow and break the mix down.
Step 6: Keep adding brown and green materials and mix them through regularly.
The key to making successful compost at home is getting the right balance of brown and green materials and mixing them regularly. If you find that the mix looks too wet, then add some more brown materials. If the mix looks too dry, add some more green materials and water them in.
Placing a lid on top of your compost bin will help to deter vinegar flies and ants, but if the compost mix is well balanced you shouldn’t have any pest insects.
Compost will take anywhere from 3 to 6 months to break down depending on the weather. In warmer weather, the mix will break down quickly. The mix is ready to add to your garden when it looks like dark rich soil. It will be full of good microbes, carbon, nitrogen and other nutrients from the food scraps.
How to add worm castings to compost without animal manure
Worm castings are the manure of worms and a great addition to your compost if you have them. They are not an essential ingredient but like other animal manures they will add carbon, nitrogen and good microbes which will increase speed that your compost breaks down.
Worm castings on their own can be used as a soil conditioner, so if you don’ have a compost, you can add them straight to your garden bed and dig them in. Just mix around 1-2 handfuls to 3 square feet of soil.
What to use in compost instead of manure
Animal manures add microbes, carbon and nitrogen to the soil and a mix of other nutrients depending on what the animal fed on. Here are some other ideas to add to your compost instead of animal manures.
Adding a small amount of garden soil to your compost is a great way to add soil microbes and garden worms. Soil microbes and garden worms will make their way into your compost over time but adding a shovel full of garden soil will make the process quicker.
If you have a worm farm, adding worm tea to your compost will add moisture, carbon and nitrogen. It will also contain soil microbes to kick start the break down process. All of that goodness will concentrate in your compost making it nutrient rich to add to your garden soil in a few months time.
How to use compost without manure in a vegetable garden
One of the best uses for compost without manure is in your vegetable garden. If you make compost fall leaves or a mix of brown and green materials including food scraps it will the perfect soil conditioner for your vegetable garden.
When animal manures are added to compost you need to make sure that it has broken down over enough time to kill any nasty bacteria from the animal’s system. This can take many months but if you make compost without manure this is no longer a problem.
How to use compost without manure on flowers
Compost made without manure will contain a complex blend of nutrients that are perfect for your annual and perennial flowers. Whether you are growing pansies over winter or a long flowering daisy, compost can either be dug into the soil before you plant or scattered over the top of the plants root zone.
Make sure when you are scattering compost that you rake back the mulch from the base of the plant and place the compost underneath. This will help the nutrients to reach the plant roots easily.
Placing mulch back over the top of the compost will help to keep it moist and attract worms to the surface of the soil. As the worms dig through, they will aerate the soil allowing more oxygen and helping soil microbes to grow and make nutrients available to the plant.
Making compost from leaves or a mix of sugar cane mulch and food scraps will give you rich compost ready to add to your garden.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.