How to Make Compost Without Manure (4 Steps)

When making your own compost, you need the correct ratio of brown to green materials. Brown materials, such as fall leaves and tree branches, are rich in carbon, while green materials like grass clippings are naturally rich in nitrogen. The perfect balance between these materials yields the perfect compost. Despite its color, manure is a popular green material used in composting due to the high levels of nitrogen present in it. However, it is possible to compost without the use of manure. 

When composting without manure, other nitrogen-rich green materials should be used to supplement the nitrogen in your compost. One could use higher volumes of common green materials, such as fruit and vegetable waste of grass clippings. Coffee beans and hair are also surprising sources of nitrogen for composting.  

Replacing manure in your composting can be easy when you understand how composting works. Composting requires a careful balance of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials, so replacing a big source of nitrogen, such as manure, should be done with care. Using these steps to cut out manure from your composting, your garden will be thriving in no time! 

A Breakdown of Compost (…Before Your Own Compost Starts Breaking Down) 

When it comes down to our gardens, we want to give them the right nutrients and matter to do more than merely survive. We want to see our gardens thrive! Using compost is a necessity when it comes to your garden. In fact, by not using it, you could be risking the health of your plants. Here’s why! 

Plants and soil need air, water, and nutrients to survive, just like humans do. Compost plays an important role in this regard, as compost can help your soil better retain air, water, and nutrients needed for a lush garden. Compost further aids your soil in retaining a neutral pH balance, keeping it healthy. 

Did you know that there’s a simple way to tell if your soil is healthy? All you need to do is look out for earthworms! Not all insects and pests are harmful to your garden, and earthworms are certainly the exception. Earthworms are little troopers doing their part to see your garden thrive. Through their movements in your soil, they allow for improved drainage in your soil. Furthermore, they play a positive role in the availability of nutrients in your soil.  

All in all, earthworms help your soil structure remain stable, allowing your hard work in the garden to pay off. These little creatures are a clear indicator that microbial life is thriving in your soil, a requirement for healthy soil. Unfortunately, earthworms cannot do it all on their own and need a little help from you. You may be wondering how I can help the earthworms in my garden? 

Well, that’s easy: compost! Compost, which is decaying organic matter used to support plant growth, is one of the key tools used in supporting the microorganisms present in your garden. However, compost itself needs to be balanced correctly in terms of the various matter that comprise it. When this ratio is correct, your compost will help your garden thrive. 

Compost is made up of brown and green material. Using the phrases ‘brown’ and ‘green’ has become common jargon when talking about compost, as it directly describes the materials going into it. Brown materials include wood, paper, straw, dry grass, and autumn leaves that have dried. Green materials, on the other hand, include organic kitchen waste, freshly cut grass, and recently dead plant matter. 

While using the words ‘green’ and ‘brown’ to describe these materials used in compost is easy, it’s not wholly correct. Green materials have a higher concentration of nitrogen, whereas brown materials have lower levels of nitrogen. So, when it comes down to your compost, it’s about striking the right nitrogen balance essentially. 

Manure is also commonly used in the making of compost. Most commonly, the manure used in compost is provided by chickens, cows, and horses. Based on our understanding of what exactly manure is, it would be easy to assume it’s a brown material when used in compost. However, this would be incorrect, which is why using the terms ‘green’ and ‘brown’ isn’t always accurate. 

When it comes down to composting manure, using the Green and Brown rule of thumb, it would seem logical to include it in the brown side of the compost ratio. However, manure actually has high levels of nitrogen contact. This means that, despite its color, manure is actually a green material. 

However, whether you simply don’t have access to any cow, chicken, or horse manure, or manure just isn’t for you; you don’t need to use it in your compost. It is possible to make compost without manure, and we’re going to break it down for you!

Can You Compost Without Manure? 

Manure is typically seen as one of the key components that comprise compost due to the high levels of nitrogen present therein. Using manure in compost is actually a tried and tested method that has been used for centuries. However, just because there’s a way something is usually done doesn’t mean it’s the only way!

The high levels of nitrogen that are available in green compost matter helps the breakdown of other materials in the compost. Due to the adequate contents of nitrogen present in manure, it’s a proven method of speeding up the composting process. However, there is more than one way to make compost, and manure plays a more important role in one of them! 

The method you use to make your own compost depends on how much time you have in your hands and how badly you want your own compost! If you decide to take the route referred to as ‘cold composting,’ you won’t have to spend too much of your own time, but it could take some time. Cold composting involves adding organic matter to your pile and simply waiting for it to be ready, though this can take up to two years before yielding compost that is usable in your garden. 

For those individuals looking to make more compost faster, hot composting is a popular method. In this type of composting, which could yield more volume than the other balance, the balance between carbon and nitrogen is crucial. The Nitrogen-rich materials used in this compost heat up the compost, allowing for the faster breakdown of the composting materials. While this method requires more work from your side, it is a surefire way to yield compost more quickly. 

In order to heat up your compost pile, you’ll need to keep a watchful eye on the balance of carbon materials to nitrogen-rich materials. The carbon materials refer to ‘brown’ matter, such as fall leaves and pieces of wood, as discussed earlier. The nitrogen-rich materials are typically provided by fresh grass cuttings, vegetable, and fruit waste, as well as manure. 

When hot composting, your ratio of ingredients needs to be correct in order to get it to the desired temperature. The temperature of your pile is monitored over time. The compost pile may need to be turned, or water may need to be added in time, which is dependent on the temperature of your heap. 

While the use of manure in hot composting is common, it is not a necessity. Essentially, hot composting is about striking the right balance between carbon and nitrogen in your composting heap for the successful breakdown of the materials. Therefore, as long as you make up for the Nitrogen that won’t be provided by manure, your heap will still thrive. 

Whether you’re cold composting or hot composting or not composting at all yet, there are alternatives to using manure in your compost. From Nitrogen substitutes to secret methods, there are ways to use manure in your compost.  

4 Steps to Composting Without Manure 

Whatever your reason for not wishing to use manure in your compost, these steps are for you. Let us look at some ways that you can make compost for your garden without using any manure! 

Step One: Focus on the Other Green Materials in Your Kitchen

This step may seem obvious, but it’s an important one! By excluding manure from your list of possible green materials, you’ll need to focus on the other green materials providing nitrogen to your compost pile. 

In fact, there are plenty of green materials that can be used directly from your kitchen. From fruit pits to rinds and cores to raw or cooked leftover vegetables, there are plenty of materials that can provide your compost with the required amount of nitrogen. 

You know better than anyone about what you have at home. No matter what items you’re using in the kitchen, it’s always a good idea to search whether or not the leftovers thereof can be used in compost. You’ll be able to find an answer within seconds, and you’ll never have to waste matter that could have been used in your compost again. 

Step Two: Coffee Can Do a Lot More Than Just Keep You Awake

This step works alongside step one, but it’s so important it deserves its own step. Like manure, coffee browns are brown in color, but when it comes to your composting, they’re nitrogen-rich green matter. Using coffee grounds or coffee filters as a nitrogen-rich substitute for manure can be done in a few different ways. 

For starters, like in step one discussed above, you can recycle coffee beans or filters by simply adding them to an unturned pile, especially if you’re cold composting. Remember, coffee grounds and animal manure have a very similar ratio of carbon-to-nitrogen, so you want to ensure the correct balance or ratio of coffee grounds or filters to a high carbon source. 

Another method to make your own compost without manure will yield results for you within six months. This method involves layering coffee beans, leaves, and fresh clippings of grass in a 1:1:1 ratio, using equal volumes of each. Using this method, you should turn your pile once a week until it is ready, which could be as soon as three months later. 

There is one more way in which coffee grounds can be used, whereby you can spread your recycled coffee grounds on the surface layer of your soil. You should then cover the surface with leaves. This will help keep your soil healthy and is a great substitute for manure!  

Step Three: Your Garden Can Help You in More Ways Than One 

When it comes to using materials straight from your garden for your composting, some options are more obvious than others. Leaves and grass clippings, for example, are common materials from your garden that are frequently used in composting. However, there are a few more materials that you should consider! 

While your flowers will look fantastic throughout their season, there’s another use they can fill when the time comes. When the plants in your garden have completed their season life cycle, you can pull them out, and they can be used in your composting. This has great nitrogen potential for your composting. 

There’s another great source of nitrogen that can be found in your garden, and it’ll allow you to kill two birds with one stone. Weeds can irritate us, but they can serve a purpose! By pulling them out and using their foliage in your compost heap, you both tidy your garden and generate a healthy supply of nitrogen for your composting. 

Step Four: Hair Could Help You Compost 

Hair is a surprising source of nitrogen that could make for a fine manure replacement in your compost heap. You could clean your own hairbrush and utilize those locks trapped in the bristles of the brush. While it will provide you with some nitrogen, it may not be a sufficient amount for your composting needs. Before you resort to contacting your barber or pet groomer to collect some hair, there are a few resources you can use at home in addition to your hairbrush. 

Pets can be a surprisingly good source of nitrogen – and we’re not talking about using their manure. (However, while we’re on the topic of pet manure, cat and dog manure cannot be used. It would be best to stick to manure from cows, chickens, and horses – but be sure to follow careful guidelines.) If you’re cleaning out your pet’s brush or sweeping up their hair, you could add it to your compost heap, too! 

If you have birds, you could use any shed feathers in your compost bin. However, you don’t necessarily need a pet bird. An old feather pillow that nobody wants to use anymore could be great for your compost heap! If you keep small pets such as rabbits or hamsters, the hay and shavings that are used in the beddings of their cages are great sources of nitrogen. This could be another great source of nitrogen for your compost heap. 

With a little help from your hairbrush and your pets (and maybe even an old pillow), you could supplement your compost pile with a nitrogen-rich source without resorting to the use of manure. 


When it comes down to composting, manure has often been a popular source of nitrogen. Nitrogen is a crucial component in composting, but nitrogen-rich materials need to be carefully balanced with carbon-rich materials to yield satisfactory compost. No matter what your reasoning is for not wanting to use manure as a source of nitrogen in your compost, there are some alternatives to consider. 

One method simply entails focusing more on other green, nitrogen-rich materials from your kitchen or garden to make up for the absence of manure in your compost. As long as you maintain the appropriate balance between nitrogen and carbon materials, your compost will turn out just fine! Coffee grounds and filters are another great source of nitrogen and can be incorporated into your composting in a few different ways. An even more surprising source is hair – yours or even your pets – which can be used to supplement nitrogen in your composting.

When it comes to replacing manure with other nitrogen-rich substances, it’s all about being more conscious about the green nitrogen-rich materials are already in your home. When you utilize all of your other sources of nitrogen at home, your compost (and your garden) will be thriving in no time. 

Recent Posts