Backyard Composting

Composting is nature’s way of recycling materials. It is the natural breakdown of organic wastes by bacteria, fungi, worms, and other organisms under controlled conditions. Besides conserving resources and diverting organic material from landfills, backyard composting can save you money. By diverting your household’s food waste from the garbage, you can reduce the size and cost of your garbage container.

Food Waste Composting in Four Easy Steps:

Ingredients and Materials Needed:

  • Compost container
  • "Green" compostable materials (see description under bullet #2 in section titled "How To")
  • "Brown" compostable materials (see description under bullet #2 in section titled "How To")
  • Stirring tool: shovel or pitchfork
  • Water

How To:

  1. Construct: Select a dry, shady spot near a water source to place a compost bin. Build your own or purchase one from your local gardening store.
  2. Add: While this ratio can vary slightly due to the environment, using a food waste and compost mixture containing a ratio of one part "green" materials to two parts of "brown" materials is often the most effective.
    • “Green” compostable material: fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, bread products, grass clippings, plant trimmings and weeds. These materials are high in nitrogen.
    • “Brown” compostable material: includes fallen leaves, straw, sawdust, wood chips and twigs. These materials are high in carbon.
  3. Mix: For open compost bins, turn the compost with a stirring tool regularly, but no more frequently than once a week. This prevents unpleasant odors and quickens decomposition. If strong odors occur despite regular turning, add additional "brown" materials such as straw, sawdust or dry leaves. If the pile seems too dry and materials are not composting, add enough water for compost to appear “damp” but not soggy.
  4. Use: The final result of composting food waste and yard waste is a dark, crumbly, earthy-smelling mixture that can be used as a fertilizer, mulch or in a potting mix.

Helpful Hints

  • Avoid adding the following items to your backyard compost container: grease, oil, fat, bones, dairy products or meat. This will reduce the possibility of the compost pile becoming odorous and attracting wildlife.
  • Do not add any pet waste to your backyard compost container. Pet waste carries pathogens that may cause illness if used in vegetable gardens.
  • For more information and resources on backyard composting, visit the EPA's Compost at Home web page.