How To Start Composting In Your Backyard: 5 Valuable Tips

how to compost in your backyard

It’s not an exact science, but there are some impressive things occurring inside a composting site. By reducing the waste that you contribute to landfills, you’re helping the planet while also producing beneficial fertilizer (or compost), and improving soil health. Many people utilize compost for their gardens, in flower beds, or to add some essential nutrients to trees and bushes on their property. Once you learn how to start composting and maintaining natural waste, you’ll have enriching, valuable fertilizer in no time.

What is Composting?

kitchen compost bin being emptied into a backyard compost pile

Composting refers to the process of using organic materials like food scraps and leaves to form a beneficial fertilizer material. If it can decompose on its own, it can usually go into your composting pile. Composting speeds up the process of decomposition by creating an ideal environment for fungi, bacteria, worms, and bugs to live there and help things along. When it’s ready, you can use that nutrient-rich fertilizer for the plants and soil that’s on your property.

The Benefits of Composting

Rather than discarding your organic waste into a landfill where it will slowly decompose and offer no real benefit, you can make the most of your scraps by composting in your backyard. Depending on where you live, you may be dealing with nutrient-deficient soil that prevents you from being able to have a thriving garden or landscape. Instead of purchasing chemical fertilizers and other expensive products, making your own compost is a rewarding, cost-efficient, and beneficial process. It doesn’t take a lot of work, and the rewards are plentiful.

Essential Items to Begin Your Composting Journey

multiple images of various compost bins
This image illustrates the variety of composting bin options

If you’ve come across this article, then you’ve probably never focused on composting in your backyard. It’s not overly difficult to get started with this process, but you will need to have a few specific items on hand.

A Container or Bin

You need some sort of container to keep your compost contained. There are pre-manufactured bins that you can purchase, allowing you to quickly get started. You can also build your own out of untreated wood or plastic. There needs to be a lid on your unit, and there should be drainage holes drilled into the material to promote airflow and t prevent too much moisture from accumulating at one time.

Starter Material

In the bottom of your compost bin, you’ll need some sort of starter material. Create a base layer of things like twigs, mulch, or potting mix to promote drainage. You can add in your other materials and scraps after you have the initial layer in place.


worms are great for composting. they help to break organic matter down.

Some people add worms to their compost bin to get things started quickly. This isn’t a necessity, as worms and other critters will eventually make their way over to your compost pile to help with the process. If you do choose to add your own worms, don’t go looking for them in your own yard. You can source them from a local worm grower, or you may know someone that can share some of their worm population from their own compost pile.

How to Start Composting

Before you get started, you’ll want to choose a location for your compost pile. An important part of composting that you need to know is that your pile may start to smell a little bit as time goes on. You have organic materials decomposing, and that’s going to produce an odor. This is perfectly normal, but you may want to choose a location that’s away from your windows and doors. Also, take your neighbors into consideration. Try to locate your composting bin away from the property line that you share with other people close by. Otherwise, the smell might start to waft into their yard and home as well.

a sign designates this compost location

Try to keep your composting bin out of constant, direct sunlight. Sunlight can help the process of decomposition, but you don’t want the materials inside the bin to dry out too quickly. The perfect spot may experience a little bit of sun in the middle of the morning or afternoon, with shade available for the rest of the day.

Set up your bin on a flat surface, add in your base layer material, and then you can start to add in your leaves, food scraps, and other material. Whenever you have something to add, simply lift the lid and dump everything inside.

What Can Go in a Compost?

how to start composting

You can add any kind of organic, green materials into your pile when you’re composting in your backyard. This includes things like vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, loose tea, flowers, weeds, grass clippings, small twigs, and anything that you’ve trimmed off your bushes or plants. There are some other natural materials that can be accepted into a composting bin as well. This includes sawdust, cardboard, straw, and paper. Just make sure none of these items have been treated with chemicals.

What Not to Put in a Compost

do not put trash that can't breakdown into compost

The lesson isn’t just how to start composting, it’s when not to compost. Certain materials simply won’t break down quickly or at all, and this could prevent you from being successful with your compost pile. Keep items out of your compost bin such as items made from plastic, Styrofoam, oil, meat, dairy items, bones, pet waste, and other scraps of cooked food. Sticking with organic materials will ensure that your final product is nutrient-dense and high-quality.

How to Maintain a Compost Pile

So you know how to start composting but how do you maintain your pile? You don’t need a lot of time to manage your compost, but there are some key tips to consider.

Moisture Control

It’s important that you don’t allow your compost pile to dry out too much. It should be always kept slightly moist. If you check your bin and find that the material inside is drying out, add a little bit of water and mix everything up.

Keep it Closed

Keeping a lid on your composting unit helps with moisture retention and heat, which aids in the decomposition of your materials inside. Some people utilize open-air bins, but these bins can be difficult to maintain based on the weather, wildlife, and your experience. They’re often prone to drying out or the composting process will be slowed down.

composting is healthy

Mix it Up

On occasion, use a pitchfork or rake to stir up the contents of your compost pile. This process helps to promote aeration inside the pile and maintains optimal moisture levels.

Make the World a Better Place

Composting is a great way to protect our environment. Rather than throwing away the organic waste that we no longer need, it can be added to a compost unit which can reduce the burden that our waste puts on the environment. Landfills are expensive to maintain and not good for the planet. With a few simple steps, you can divert some waste away from landfills while improving the quality of the soil on your residential or commercial property, or even in some of your potted plants.

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