Backyard composting is for the “DIYer” within us. This method allows you to transform organic waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer at home. A backyard compost pile can be as easy or involved as you want to make it. Maintain a super low maintenance pile just to keep food scraps out of the landfill or get acquainted with the intricate details and scientific techniques of composting.
- An outdoor space
- A CompoKeeper (a kitchen compost bin for collecting food waste in the kitchen)
- An enclosure (e.g. chicken wire, a tumbler or an outdoor bin with a lid) to retain heat and keep your pile neat.
- A shovel, pitchfork or compost turner to mix you pile.
- A tarp to keep moisture in and protect the pile from excessive rain.
- Choose a location for your pile that’s far enough from your kitchen so faint odors won’t be noticeable but close enough for easy access.
- Decide whether you’re going to use an enclosure or outdoor tumbler/bin.
- Start your pile by layering 50% brown material (dead leaves paper, cardboard, wood and straw) over 50% green material (kitchen scraps and fresh grass clippings).
- Sprinkle the pile with water.
- Continue adding compostable waste from your kitchen compost bin in this layering fashion.
- Finished compost will be usable within 6-12 months (depending on the climate and your maintenance methods) and should be harvested form the bottom of the pile.
- Always remember to bury food scraps 6-12 inches below the surface or add a layer of leaves on top to keep away rodents and pesky bugs.
Trash to Treasure:
- Check out our list of universally accepted compostables to learn what you can be composted.
Tips & Tricks:
- Tumbler bins are less physically demanding, whereas open-bottomed bins give worms direct access to the pile.
- For better heat retention, build your pile taller than it is wide.
How to make compost, easy:
- If you’re not in a hurry to harvest your compost, just keep the bin full. Continue to layer your green and brown material, sprinkle with water on occasion, and relax. You’ll have compost within 6 months to a year.
How to make compost, quick:
- Before starting your pile, loosen up the soil underneath to help earthworms work their way into the pile faster.
- Chop all ingredients into smaller pieces.
- Turn the pile more often for improved aeration.
- Monitor and maintain moisture levels (aim for the dampness of a wrung-out sponge).
- Add red wiggler worms to your pile for fast, better compost.
- Got Pests? Bury food scraps 6-12 inches below the surface of your pile or add a layer of leaves or garden soil over your kitchen scraps to keep rodents and pesky flies away.
- It stinks? If your outdoor compost is smelly, there’s too much moisture. Add more browns and turn the pile to increase aeration.
- Ice cold? In freezing winter temperatures, the composting process slows or stops. You can continue adding your compostables, but don’t expect compost to happen. In the spring, add 3 shovelfuls of earth from your garden and mix the materials together to reignite the life in your pile.