Backyard Composting

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Here are some basic instructions on how to get started on composting in your backyard.

Step 1. Construct or buy a compost bin

homemade_compost_binYou can compost materials in a pile or in a compost bin, which you can buy at a local hardware store, gardening supplies store, or make yourself. 

The following website explains how to start your own composting pile: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/newsroom/features/?&cid=nrcs143_023537

Step 2. Collect food and yard waste.

collecting_food_in_kitchenCollect food scraps, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts ,coffee grounds (even the filter), egg shells, and yard waste (such as leaves, grass and twigs).

When collecting food waste, we suggest having a container in your kitchen, such as a compost caddy or Tupperware container, to collect your scraps. The container locks in the smell, carbon and temperature making the “cure” process quicker for your composting pile or bin. Tip: You can store your container in the freezer to reduce any smells.  

 

Step 3.  Fill your composting bin or pile with a balanced mixture of green (nitrogen materials) and brown (carbon materials).

outdoor_compost_binWe recommend filling your compost bin or pile with approximately one third of green materials (e.g. food scraps, grass) and 2/3 brown materials (e.g. leaves, twigs, hay, shredded newspaper).  If you have too many green (nitrogen) materials it will cause your pile to be slimy and stinky and it won’t break down easily.  Where as, too many brown (carbon) materials will slow down the composting process.

Your compost pile needs to be moist but not too wet and soggy. It should have the consistency of a moist sponge.  If you can pick up the soil and ring it out then it’s too wet. If it's too wet, you can add chopped leaves, hay or even shredded newspaper.  If your compost pile is too dry, add food waste or spray it down with some water.  

Step 4. Turn your composting pile or bin approximately once per week.

Once you have all your materials, the most important step is to make sure your compost pile is kept at a high temperature and has lots of oxygen.  To do this, turn your compost tumbler or compost pile (with a pitchfork or shovel) approximately once/week. This aerates the material and speeds up the process. 

Step 5. Wait! Your compost will take a month or more to “cure” and be ready.

When compost is ready, throw it on your lawn or garden! This adds nutrients for your plants and helps retain moisture in the soil.

How do you know if your compost is ready?

· The pile has shrunk significantly, up to one-half its original volume. 

· The original organic materials that you put in are no longer recognizable. 

· The compost has a dark crumbly appearance and has an earthy odor.

Tips for your composting to be successful!

Activate your compost:

You could make the “curing” process go by quicker by turning the compost more frequently or adding activator materials such as comfrey leaves, grass clippings, and young weeds (without the seeds). 

Steaming compost pile?:

No problem. A hot, steamy pile means that you have a large community of microscopic critters working away at making compost.

Covering unpleasant odors:

Odors can be reduced, or eliminated, by following two practices: first, remember to not put bones or meat scraps into the compost; second, cover new additions to the compost pile with dry grass clippings or similar mulch. If the compost smells like ammonia, add carbon-rich elements such as straw or dried leaves.

Matted leaves, grass clippings clumping together?:

This is a common problem with materials thrown into the composter. The wet materials stick together and slow the aeration process. There are two simple solutions: either set these materials to the side of the composter and add them gradually with other ingredients, or break them apart with a pitchfork. Grass clippings and leaves should be mixed with rest of the composting materials for best results.