Backyard composting

Composting is the breakdown of organic materials by bacteria, fungi, worms and small insects. The end product is a dark, earthy, soil-like substance called compost that you can use to improve the fertility, aeration, and moisture-holding capacity of your soil, giving your flowers and vegetables the nutrients they need to grow.

Backyard composting can be done in either purchased or home-made bins or simple open piles.

Compost "ingredients"

Use the following in your compost:

  • "Browns" are dry, carbon-rich organic materials like: 
    • dry leaves
    • straw or hay
    • wood chips
    • sawdust
    • napkins
    • newspaper
    • vacuum cleanings
  • "Greens" are moist, nitrogen-rich materials like:
    • grass cuttings
    • fruit and vegetable peelings or scraps
    • tea bags
    • pasta
    • coffee grounds
    • stale bread 
    • eggshells

Do not place the following in your backyard composter:

  • meat, fish, bones, fats and oils
  • dairy products
  • weeds that have gone to seed
  • pet waste and kitty litter

Tips for starting your own backyard composting

  • Backyard composting containers are available at many garden centres around the Halifax region.
  • Your composter should be in a shady or partially shaded site, conveniently close to your house.
  • Place a layer (15 cm) of brown material and a handful of soil in your composter to get started. 
  • Alternate layers of green and brown material in your composter. Always cover kitchen waste with brown material. It's a good idea to stockpile bags of leaves or other brown material in the fall, for this purpose.
  • Add water as needed—the pile should stay moist, but not wet. If your pile is too wet, adding brown material will solve the problem.
  • Turn the pile every two weeks (for faster composting), or simply poke a few holes into the centre of the pile (for slower composting) to keep oxygen flow up.
  • Keep adding to the pile, always covering your green material with a layer of brown material.
  • Vermicomposting is another way you can compost at home.

What to do with finished compost

Once your compost has “cooked” and becomes usable, add it to your garden by mixing it into the top 6” of soil.

Mix one part compost to two parts soil in potting and transplant mixes. Spread screened compost can over your lawn (for best results, spread after your lawn is aerated).