Recycle-Back Yard Composting

Gourmet Composting Anyone????


Backyard Composting

The best way to compost food waste is to mix it with dry leaves, sticks and twigs, wood chips, sawdust, dried/dead plants, shredded newspaper, or paper from a home shredder, and mixed yard waste. Always cover fresh material with a layer of wood chips and a dusting of dirt, or with unscreened, mature compost. A compost pile in your backyard will have lots of microbes taking up residence. Keep in mind that the microbes need oxygen, water, and food; the same things we need to survive. If the pile gets too wet or dense with food scraps, it will smell bad and composting will slow down or stop altogether.


Composting can be done Gourmet Style, requiring more effort, with quick results–or can be done more casually.

Gourmet compost piles that have the right blend of nitrogen (greens) and carbon (browns) and are kept moist and fluffed regularly, will heat up to temperatures of 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The high temperature will kill most weed seeds and speed up the decomposition process so that the compost may be ready in 2 to 3 months or less.

Casual compost piles are also quite workable since compost will happen even if you just pile on yard and food waste, water sporadically, and wait. Since these piles don’t get too hot, often worms will migrate into these and they will breakdown material. Casual composting can take several months.

If you are thinking about starting a compost pile in your backyard, you may want to familiarize yourself with the microbes that live in your compost pile.

Finished Project

Compost is finished when the original material has been transformed into a uniform, dark brown, crumbly product with a pleasant, earthy aroma. There may be a few chunks of woody material left; these can be screened out and put back into a new pile.

You may want to stop adding to your compost pile after it gets to optimal size (about 3 cubic feet) and start a new pile so that your first pile can finish decomposing.

Give it a Try

Home composting is best learned by practicing. Through practice and observation you will find what works best for your home situation, and you can modify the process to suit your needs. For more information about composting, check with your local community or city for workshops, handouts, or guides on composting.

Backyard Composting Bins

Composting can be practiced in backyards in a homemade or manufactured composting bin or simply an open pile (some cities do require enclosed bins).

Typical homemade bins can be constructed out of scrap wood, chicken wire, snow fencing or even old garbage cans (with holes punched in the sides and bottom). For additional information on building your own bin, see CalRecycle’s Building You Own Composting Bin: Designs for Your Communityguide.

Manufactured bins include turning units, hoops, cones, and stacking bins. Take the time to consider your options and then select a bin that best fits your needs.


Back to Top