Backyard Composting

Backyard composting is a way to manage organic waste in your own backyard that will produce organic fertilizer for your garden, lawn, and potted plants.

Composting is a process of natural decay. Bacteria, worms, and small organisms recycle yard and kitchen waste into nutrients for the soil. The result is a dark, earthy-smelling soil conditioner called “compost.”

Equipment Required:

A Compost Bin or Pile
  • Needs to be rodent resistant.
  • Needs to have drainage and air flow.
  • Optimum size is 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet.

You actually don’t need a bin to compost. Some people just use a large pile in their backyard. However, a commercial bin makes for a neater, rodent-resistant area and will generally provide for quicker decomposition. As well, they are readily available, compact, and moderately priced.

Aeration Tool
  • A tool to mix the material in your compost pile.

You can purchase an ‘aeration’ tool or use a shovel, pitchfork, or broom handle to turn over and poke holes in the compost pile.

Medium Sized Container
  • To collect the food waste for your compost.

You will need a container with a lid to collect organic waste from your kitchen and transport it to your compost bin (an ice cream pail works well). Keep this covered container beside the sink and place all organic kitchen waste inside. When it is full, take it out to the compost bin. Make sure to wash the container after emptying it to prevent fruit fly infestation.

Basic Composting Method

  • Place “brown” material at the bottom of your compost bin
  • Add kitchen scraps or other “green” material on top
  • Cover kitchen scraps with another layer of “brown” material
  • Keep adding layers of “brown” materials on top of “green” material
  • Bottom layers will be finished composting in 12 to 18 months in a passive setting (pile it and forget it)
  • In an active pile (aerated/turned weekly) bottom layers will be finished in 6 to 12 months.
  • In a hot compost pile (3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet and intensively worked) pile will be finished in as little as 18 days
  • For faster compost, chop materials into smaller pieces, add compost enhancer and/or move bin into the sun.

Composting Materials

Brown Material
  • Corn Stalks and Cobs
  • Dry Grass Clippings
  • Dry Flowers/Leaves
  • Straw or Hay
  • Wood Chips
  • Sawdust (not from plywood)
  • Wood Ash (small amounts)
  • Paper Towels and Napkins
  • Shredded Newsprint
  • Cardboard
Green Material
  • Coffee Grounds/Filters
  • Tea Bags and Tea Leaves
  • Egg Shells
  • Flowers
  • Fresh Grass Clippings
  • Juicer Pulp
  • Leaves
  • Fruits and Veggies
  • Juicer Pulp
Materials to Avoid
  • Barbecue Ashes/Coal
  • Dairy Products
  • Dishwater
  • Grease, Fats, Oils
  • Weeds with Seeds
  • Meat, Fish, Bones
  • Cat/Dog feces
  • Grains or Baked Goods
  • Materials Treated with Herbicide or Pesticide

Interested in learning more about composting, or joining a how-to workshop? We have a variety of community workshops and presentations available (click here).