Deep dive on how to compost in the backyard

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What is backyard composting?

To start, there really isn’t one specific way to compost in your backyard.  There are so many creative options that vary in cost and benefits but will be successful with proper maintenance.  Usually, these are open piles, compost pits or trenches, or even compost bins.  And the best part about it is that each of these methods can fit your busy life, income, and available yard space.

While backyard composting is considered aerobic or “hot” composting, you’re definitely going to want your pile to be roughly one cubic yard in size.  If it’s not big enough, it may not heat up properly. 

backyard composting

What can you put in your backyard compost?

When thinking about what you want to put in your backyard compost, you need to input a healthy amount of your “greens” and “browns” (see below for browns/greens examples).  This will ensure you have a proper nitrogen and carbon balance for a successful compost pile. 

Great for backyard compost:

Fruits and vegetables
Garden scraps & yard waste
Coffee / tea with paper filters
Straw / hay / wood chips
Shredded paper

Not great for backyard compost:

Meat & fish
Fats / grease
Pet feces
Garden scraps treated with pesticides

Who would backyard composting work best for?

If you’re an avid gardener, interested in slashing your personal carbon footprint or just simply want to give it a try.  The bummer is that you will need some sort of backyard space in order to use this method. Fortunately, I lay out some other techniques that work well for people without access to a backyard space. 

What will you need to start your backyard composting system?

All you will need to begin your backyard composter are:

  • A convenient location for you
  • Have access to water
  • Some good drain points
  • A pitchfork or shovel to mix compost
  • And a little bit of time to tend to it

Depending on your backyard aesthetic, you can use a bin or not! Check secondhand marketplaces before purchasing new, or make one yourself.

Tips, tricks, and upkeep

  1. When starting your compost, make sure you put about 6 inches of “brown” or carbon material down
  2. Your compost pile should be at least 3’X3’X3’ because it will keep warm and compost quicker
  3. You can keep your compost pile in direct sunlight to decompose quicker
  4. Make sure your pile is damp, but not wet
  5. If your pile starts to stink, try to turn it or aerate it more often
  6. Keep all materials you put into your pile around one inch or smaller
  7. And if possible, try to avoid adding plants that have already begun to seed as they may grow inside your pile.

Keep on composting folks! And keep reading if you are interested in other forms of composting like vermicomposting, tumbler composting, or even pick-up and drop-off services.

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