Backyard Composting

What Is Composting?

Composting is a natural process by which organic materials decompose. Making compost is a managed version of this natural process. By concentrating the activity in one place and balancing food, air and water, compost happens faster.

Why Should We Compost?

Backyard composting allows you to recycle your yard waste and vegetative food waste into a rich soil amendment right in your own backyard. It is a great way to save money, reduce the waste that goes to the landfill and improve the quality of your growing vegetation.

Getting Started

Identify a place in your yard that is out of the way but accessible to deposit yard and food waste. Make sure you can reach this location with a garden hose. There are many ways to construct a compost bin starting from the very simple, (A pile on the ground) to the fancy (A store bought composting bin with aeration holes and turning mechanism).

Most people choose to construct a simple box form out of old lumber or pallets with slats spaced apart for adequate ventilation. This is cheap and keeps with the reuse theme.

Now start creating a pile of vegetation. Try for a 2 to 1 ratio of brown materials (dried leaves, woody material) and green materials (Food scraps, grass, etc.) Add enough water so that the pile is evenly moistened. (Like a damp sponge) Turn the pile weekly or when you notice the top layer start to dry out. A good pitchfork is recommended as it is easier to use than a shovel.

Depending on variables such a temperature, moisture content and how often you turn the pile, you could get a rich compost material as soon as a month or as long as a year.

Avoid the Usual Pitfalls

There are times when you may experience an odor emanating from your compost or a lot of flies surrounding it. This is usually due to not immediately covering food waste deposited into the pile. When food waste is added, be sure to turn the pile immediately, or add some fresh leaves or grass on top of it. This will keep the odors and flies away.

How About Worms?

After a while, you may notice that worms are starting to populate your compost pile. Good job! That's an indicator that you have a good compost mix going on and the worms are happy to be there. Redworms are great at recycling decomposing organic matter into rich humus. They generate nutrient rich worm castings which improve soil fertility and structure.

You can jump start your worm populations by purchasing redworms at most local nurseries, bait shops or over the internet.

Higher Volumes?

Remember, smaller bits of green waste decompose faster than large pieces. If you continually have large quantities of green waste to compost, you might consider the purchase of a chipper/shredder to grind your green waste into finer particles.