Home & Garden

The DOs and DON’Ts of Backyard Composting

DO: Line your kitchen pail with a paper towel or newsprint before you fill it with food scraps. This will help maintain a clean pail and keep odors down.

DON’T: Throw your food scraps in a pile and expect to get compost. This is a quick way to produce bad odors and attract animals. The microbes that support the composting process need a balanced diet of nitrogen (food scraps) and carbon (leaves, wood shavings, newsprint).

DO: Keep some leaves handy! When you empty a pail of food scraps into your compost pile, cover them with 1-3 pailfuls of leaves. Using enough leaves will control odors and avoid attracting animals. If you don’t have a lot of trees where you live, don’t worry! You can use newsprint, shredded cardboard, wood shavings, or other carbon-rich materials to balance out the high nitrogen content of food scraps.

DON’T: Add meat, bones, or dairy products to a backyard pile. They take a long time to break down, and will often attract unwanted attention from animals or pests.

DO: Store your food scrap pail in the freezer, especially if it takes more than a week for you to fill it.

DON’T: Add pet waste to your compost pile if you plan to use the compost. Pet waste may contain pathogens that aren’t killed off in a backyard compost system.

DO: Test the moisture level in your compost pile. Make a ball of compost – it should stick together, but it shouldn’t drip. If it’s too wet, you probably need to add more leaves. If it’s too dry, you may need to reduce the amount of leaves, or give it some water.

DON’T: Worry! There is no problem with a compost pile that can’t be solved. If you’re having trouble with your compost pile, there’s probably an easy solution that you just haven’t found yet. Contact your local solid waste district or call a master composter for advice.

This article was contributed by By Jonny Finity, Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD). For more tips on composting, including information about upcoming workshops, contact CSWD at 872-8100 or visit Cswd.net/composting.

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