Backyard Composting

Backyard composting is an easy way to recycle yard and food waste into valuable soil amendment. All organic materials will decay from the activity of microorganisms. Composting is simply a way to speed up the process.

A simple recipe for backyard composting is to alternate layers of nitrogen-rich “green” materials with carbon-rich “brown” materials. Keep the pile as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Turn the pile occasionally to move materials to the middle. “Spike” a new pile with some old compost to supply bacteria. Compost is done when it has lost its heat and is dark and crumbly.

Materials to Compost

All organic (compostable) material contain a mixture of carbon and nitrogen. This is known as the carbon:nitrogen (C:N) ratio. For best results your compost pile requires a balance of carbon and nitrogen, with the optimum ratio being 30:1.

Items high in carbon are generally brown in color, such as autumn leaves or straw. Items high in nitrogen are generally green in color, such as kitchen scraps and green grass clippings. A rule of thumb is to have roughly equal amounts of browns (carbon) and greens (nitrogen). This is known as the 50/50 rule and will balance the carbon:nitrogen ratio at the proper level.

The following is a list of some of the different green and brown materials that can be composted. It is not a complete list. Other materials may be added.

Greens:  Nitrogen Rich

These materials are usually moist:

  • green leaves
  • weeds before they go to seed
  • vegetable/fruit peels and scraps
  • spoiled food
  • green grass clippings
  • coffee grinds, including the filter
  • tea bags
  • egg shells (crushed)
  • breads
  • cooked pasta and rice
  • flowers

Browns: Carbon Rich

These materials are usually dry:

  • leaves, dried brown grass clippings, bark chips, straw prunings and cuttings, dryer / vacuum lint,  hair, bird cage cleanings, cardboard / paper*
  • sawdust
  • evergreen needles; dry

* These items should be used in limited  quantities because they decompose slowly.

Not Recommended for composting

Stay away from these:

  • oil and fat
  • animal feces
  • plastics
  • meat and fish scraps
  • dairy products
  • bones
  • unchopped wood
  • painted or pressure treated wood
  • weeds that have gone to seed
  • weeds that spread by runners

Read about how the local Anderson Valley Elementary School won an award for composting organics.

Cool Composting Links: