Backyard Composting

Picture1.gif$20 Compost Bins Available Now for City Residents

Composting is a natural process in which macro- and micro-organisms break down organic
materials such as leaves, grass and vegetable scraps to form a rich, soil-like substance. The resulting compost is a dark, rich, organic material. When added to soil, compost provides nutrients to plants and improves the water-holding capacity of soil.

Roughly 20-30% of the material in a typical landfill, including yard trimmings and kitchen scraps, could have been composted. Backyard composting can reduce the trash waste stream, save thousands in municipal tax dollars on tipping fees, and reduce energy and greenhouse gas emissions associated with putting these materials in the landfill.

Getting Started

Choose a 4’x4’x4’ grass or soil area in your yard that is easily accessible to create a compost pile or purchase a compost bin. Piles and bins can be used throughout the year, and more than one bin or pile area may be desirable so that a new batch of compost may be started while another is finishing. A good compost pile will consist of 2/3 “browns” and 1/3 “greens.”

Greens” are high in nitrogen and are typically soft and wet. They include kitchen scraps (veggie and fruit), coffee grounds, tea bags, fresh leaves, grass clippings, and weeds (not invasive or nuisance, e.g., Poison Ivy, English Ivy, Multiflora Rose, etc.).

“Browns” are high in carbon and are usually dry. They include paper products (napkins, paper towels, and non-glossy newspaper), dried leaves and flowers, and bedding from small pets such as hamsters.

What Not To Compost

  • Chemically-treated wood products/waste
  • Dairy products
  • Diseased plants or leaves
  • Disposable diapers
  • Fatty food waste (no grease)
  • Fish or fish bones
  • Human or dog/cat waste
  • Meat and meat scraps
  • Peanut butter
  • Plants that have gone to seed
  • Plastics

Important Components

Temperature, moisture, and oxygen are three very important components of composting. Compost should feel warm to the touch except in cold winter months. Composting materials should feel moist but not soggy. If compost feels dry, add more green materials. If compost feels soggy, add more brown materials. Also, ensure that enough oxygen reaches the center of the pile by mixing or turning it regularly. During the summer, the more turning that occurs, the faster the process will occur.

Prevent Odor and Animals

Your compost pile will not produce odor or attract animals as long as you place only appropriate "green" and "brown" materials in it, and you turn compost regularly.

Using Finished Compost

Compost is ready for use when it looks dark and crumbly and none of the starting ingredients are visible. Work it into the top 6 to 9 inches of the yard or garden as a soil amendment/conditioner or apply it as mulch.

Additional Resources