Backyard Composting

This image describes 5 steps of how to make compostComposting in your backyard can be easier than it first sounds. Layering grass clippings, leaves, and adding food scraps can be all it needs! Your plants will thank you for it.

Getting Started, Step 1:  Setup - Choose a Bin and Location 

For backyard composting, you can buy a compost bin or build your own. There are numerous containers on the market for making a compost heap, although perfectly satisfactory ones can be constructed from scrap timber, bricks or wire mesh and twist ties. Try and use a bin with a lid to keep out the rain and keep in the heat. Improve drainage by breaking up the soil underneath the compost bin. The compost bin should be placed in a well-lit and well-drained area of the garden, preferably out of the wind.

Step 2:  Add Ingredients - Browns and Greens

It is recommended you start with ample browns. Browns are dry, making them easy to collect and store. Greens are usually wet and do not keep long, so periodically add them as they are produced in your household. See the list below of common green and brown materials that can be used in your compost! For ideal composting efficiency, the ratio of brown:green ingredients in your compost bin should be around 3:1. See the tabs below for common household materials that can be added to your backyard compost pile.

  1. What to Add to Your Backyard Compost Pile
  2. What to Avoid Adding to Your Backyard Compost Pile
Adding the right mix of materials will ensure that your compost pile stays healthy and productive in breaking down into the final compost product. 
  • Dry leaves
  • Wood chips
  • Shredded Paper
  • Sawdust and wood shavings
  • Kitchen and toilet paper rolls
  • Straw and hay
  • Cardboard
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds and filter paper
  • Teabags
  • Feathers, hair and fur
  • Eggshells
  • Grass and plant clippings
  • Chickweed
  • Bread, grains, and cereals

Poster Image showing example items that are "Greens" and "Browns" for compost piles. Step 3:  Maintenance - Air, Water, and Time

Active compost piles need moisture and oxygen. Try turning it weekly with a pitchfork or spade to speed up the decomposition process, and don’t let it dry out! Sometimes rain and the materials in the pile add enough moisture. You can add a little more when needed - (Think of the pile like a slightly damp, fluffy sponge).

If you notice the core of your compost pile is giving off heat, congratulations! You have the correct ratios of inputs, and your insulated pile is turning ingredients to a finished compost product quickly and efficiently. Once it becomes hard to turn, stop adding new materials and consider starting a second pile. This ensures that the first pile’s materials are given time to completely break down prior to use. Over time, your pile will shrink and cool off. Once it is dark and crumbly, usually taking anywhere from 4 months to a year, you can use your finished compost product to amend your garden soil.  For more information on the decomposition process, ingredients, and proper conditions, see the Additional Resources below.

Additional Resources