How to Compost in Your Backyard

DIY compost bins and easy to follow composting instructions.


(N.Savranska /

Composting is not just for tree-huggers or organic farmers anymore. It’s relatively easy to do and takes up less time and much less space than commonly thought.

But what is composting anyway? In a nutshell, composting is the process by which left over organic matter, like food, is turned into humus, an organic matter that can be added to soil to help plants to grow.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) food scraps and yard waste make up 28 percent of what we throw away. Composting will keep those organic materials out of landfills, reduce methane emissions, and the need for chemical fertilizers,

So, what do you need to get started? All you need is a small bin in your kitchen to collect food waste, and a larger bin or compost pile in your backyard. Bins are more effective according to EcoCycle and they should be one cubic yard (3'x3'x3') to work effectively.

All composting requires just three basic ingredients according to the EPA: browns like dead leaves and twigs; greens like food waste, and coffee grounds; and water. Your compost bin should have an equal amount of browns and greens and enough water to break down the organic material.

What types of household waste can go in your greens? According to Mind Body Green, you can compost fruits, vegetables, eggshells, nuts and seeds, moldy food, coffee grounds, tea bags, unbleached paper coffee filters, and unbleached natural paper towels. While dairy and grains decompose, they do so slowly so they can attract insects and rodents.

Brown materials, said TreeHugger, include fall  leaves, straw, hay, untreated woodchips, dried grass clippings, and shredded paper. But do not compost meat, fish, oily foods, bones, pet waste, and anything treated with pesticides.

Make sure you cover your green waste with a layer of brown material and this will cut down on pests. While decomposition occurs naturally, the process will be aided if you keep turning it to allow more air in and if you keep it moist.

Does composting smell bad? The quick answer is not if you are doing it right. According to EcoCycle healthy compost smells like soil. If your bin or pile smells bad then it needs to be turned or you can add worms to speed up the process.  

If you live in a city, you can still collect scraps and put them in composting bins supplied by some cities, or bring them to a communal garden. It is even possible to invest in a food recycler for your kitchen like Zera. There is a way for everyone to cut down on waste through composting.

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