Composting Techniques

Backyard Composting Techniques

The following techniques and tips will help avoid problems and speed up the composting process.

Chop materials if you want them to breakdown more quickly. The more you chop, the faster the decomposition process will be.

Mix, turn or layer brown and green materials to avoid compaction and provide oxygen to the pile.  A good rule of thumb for a healthy carbon to nitrogen balance is 50% to 70% green material to 50% to 30%  brown materials, per volume. 

Activate your pile by alternating layers of finished compost, soil, or manure, between  brown and green layers to inoculate your pile with beneficial microbes.   

Maintain  the air & water balance by keeping compost as moist as a wrung-out sponge, and aerate pile by turning or creating air shafts.  As pile composts, it will shrink to half its original size or less.

Food Wastes should be covered up with dry materials, such as leaves, dirt, or sawdust to avoid attracting rodents and fruit flies. Worm bins and Home-made Food Scrap Composters are ideal for composting food waste only.

Harvesting your compost can be done a couple ways: 1) Move your bin structure next to where it lies now.  Move uncomposted materials back into bin and harvest finished compost.  Sift or pick out any bigger unfinished pieces and put back in pile.  2) If your bin has a harvesting door, scoop out from the bottom.  Sift if desired.

Underground Composting is another form of composting that requires burying kitchen and yard wastes in a 6 inch layer, a foot underground.  Allow a season for decomposition then plant, no harvesting necessary! 

Download publication Burying Food Scraps to learn more about underground composting.


 Hot Composting

For finished compost in 1-3 months

Add-As-You-Go Composting

For finished compost in 3-8 months

  • Hot composting works well when you have enough brown and green materials ready to build a pile that is at least 3’tall x 3’wide x 3’deep
  • Hot composting requires turning of the pile every 7-10 days, or when temperature drops below 100 F. To kill most weed seeds and pathogens, the compost must remain at 131 degrees F for 15 days.
  • Slow composting works for people who: 1) lack the ingredients to make a full pile.  2) lack the time or ability to turn the compost pile frequently
  • Simply build the pile by alternating green and brown materials as they become available!


Remember, the more work you put into your pile the faster you will get finished compost.  Don't worry, no matter how much or how little effort you put in, nature will do its work - Compost Happens!





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