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Yard trimmings and food scraps make up nearly 1/6 of what the average household throws into the garbage. Change your throwaway habits and opt to reuse your perishable organics for your lawn and garden. Additional benefits to composting include:

  • * Improves the quality and fertility of your soil*
  • * Conserves natural resources
  • * Reduces weeds
  • * Reduces run-off of fertilizer and pesticides into storm drains

Like any recipe, you'll get the best results if you use the right mix of ingredients to make your compost. The key materials are nitrogen-rich "greens," carbon-rich "browns," water, and air. All of these are essential, and easy to mix together for quality compost.

How to Backyard Compost

A backyard compost is perfect for any household with a yard. It is a simple practice that requires little effort and few materials. There are several methods of composting including: placing materials in open piles, burying materials in trenches or enclosing materials in bins.

Here are the Six Easy Steps of Backyard Composting:

1. Obtain a Bin

2. Gather Your Materials

  • * Waste is classified as either brown or green material. To begin, use equal amounts of green and brown materials and chop them into 1-inch pieces (the smaller the pieces, the faster they decompose).


Greens provide nitrogen, and act as a source of protein for the microbes that are hard at work in your compost pile.

  • * Green leaves
  • * Coffee grounds
  • * Tea bags
  • * Plant trimmings
  • * Raw fruit and vegetable scraps
  • * Fresh grass clippings
  • * Hair
Browns are a source of carbon, and provide energy for the microbes.

  • * Dried grasses, leaves and some weeds
  • * Straw
  • * Woodchips
  • * Twigs and branches
  • * Sawdust
  • *Shredded newspaper
Avoid these items:

  • * Diseased or infected plants
  • * Meat (including fish) and meat by-products, grease, dairy products
  • * Pet food
  • * Glossy or treated paper
  • * Seeds from tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelon,etc
  • * Pesticide and herbicide treated plant materials
  • * Pet feces and litter
  • * Invasive weeds
  • * Charcoal ash
  • * Corncobs and stalks

3. Dump Your Materials Evenly Into Compost Bin

  • * Start with approximately 1 cubic yard of yard waste materials. Shred yard waste to less that 1" in size. Use equal amounts of green and brown materials and mix thoroughly.

4. Turn or Stir Your Compost Every 7 to 10 Days

  • * Stir the bin and add more water every 7 to 10 days. Remember to keep the bin full by adding fresh material regularly.

5. Keep Your Compost Hot

  • * Keep your compost between 120 to 140 degrees to help the materials break down properly

6. Harvest Your Compost

  • * Your compost is ready to use when it's dark brown, crumbly and smells like fresh-turned earth, generally within 2-6 months. You also should not be able to identify anything that was used to make it. To harvest your compost, remove the finished compost from the bottom of the bin (the finished material naturally collects there) and screen it using a simple 3/8" size screen.

Master Your Compost Skills

The County's Master Composter Program has excellent resources for home composting. Visit the site for any additional information including training classes to be an expert composter.