Backyard Composting

Reducing Waste & Saving Money

Backyard composting benefits by improving soil heath and fertility, proving a hands-on method of science education, increasing exercise and relaxation, and increasing a sense of personal and community pride.

Composting is Easy!

Compost happens no matter what you do! Soil organisms do most of the work for you by decomposing what you put in your compost pile and recycling it into usable soil amendment. You can purchase a compost bin or build your own.

Here are just a few materials that can be added to your compost pile:

  • Nut shells
  • Wheat or straw
  • Banana skins
  • Grass clippings
  • Hair
  • Lint

Easy 1-2-3 Composting

  • Begin your pile with grass and yard trimmings and kitchen food scraps.
  • Add enough water so that your pile is as damp as a wrung-out sponge.
  • Mix dry brown materials with moist green materials to balance nutrients, air, and water. Turn materials once a week.

Building Your Own Compost Bin

You can compost in an open pile, or build your own bin out of scrap lumber, old pallets, or concrete blocks! Check out this site, it gives some great information of building all different types of compost bins.

Residents of apartments and condominiums can compost too! Covered bucket systems and worm bins work best for small spaces.

Starting Your Compost Pile

Place your pile or bin in a semi-shady location. Mix layers of dry grass, leaves, hay, pine needles, or sawdust; these are materials rich in brown carbon, then add with green nitrogen-rich materials such as vegetable kitchen scraps, grass clippings and horse manure, of brown carbon rich materials Use about 50 percent greens and 50 percent browns in your mix. Water when necessary to keep the mix damp, but not soggy. After a few days, the center of the pile should be hot (up to 140 degrees) and steamy — that’s the compost process at work! Water and turn the pile with a shovel or pitchfork each week to expose all material to high heat of the center of the pile.


A guide to composting in your home can be found here:

When is the compost ready?

Ideal conditions of the proper bin system, good layering of greens and browns, the correct amount of moisture, adequate mixing, and high temperatures can produce compost in less than one month. However, it usually requires several months for good compost to be produced. Your compost is ready to use when it is brown, uniform in consistency, crumbly, and has a sweet earthy smell. You may want to sift your compost through a screen before use.

How do I use my compost?

Mix finished compost with garden soil and use it as mulch on top of the soil, dig it into the soil, or use as a potting mix for plants in containers.

Using compost in the Vegetable Garden

To enjoy delicious, healthful vegetables, apply compost. Dig it in the fall, bury it in the trenches, put it in the furrows where planting and in the holes when transplanting. After plants start shooting up, mix it with equal amounts of soil and use it as a top-dressing.


Doing this will give you a rich, loamy, friable soil that will grow big yields of all kinds of vegetables. They’ll be higher in vitamins and minerals, too.

For sowing seeds indoors or in a cold frame, put your compost through a ½ inch sieve, then shred it with a hoe or even roll it with a rolling pin to make it very fine. Then mix it with equal amounts of sand and soil. The ideal seeding mixture is very mellow and tends to fall apart after being squeezed in your hand.

Using compost in the Flower Garden

Finely screened compost is excellent to put around all growing flowers. Apply it as mulch, about 1- inch thick to help control weeds, and conserve moisture, or top-dress it mixed with the soil.

What can be composted?

Compost grass clippings, leaves, weeds, flowers, twigs, horse manure, vegetable and fruit food scraps (bury in your pile to discourage animal problems).

What cannot be composted?

Do not compost cat or dog wastes, meat, bones, dairy products, greasy food, poisonous plants, or diseased, pesticide-sprayed, or woody plants.

Compost watering is an excellent way to give your flowers supplementary feeding during their growing season. Fill a watering can half full of compost, add water and sprinkle liberally around the plants. The can may be refilled with water several times before the compost losses it potency.

For questions or concerns you can call Robin Gollehon at 252-726-6071 or email at

Carteret County Cooperative Extension

County Cooperative Extension Office, at (252) 222-6352