Composting is a microbial process that converts waste from your kitchen and yard into a nutrient-rich soil amendment or mulch. Gardeners have used compost for centuries to improve their soil and to supply essential nutrients for plant growth. Take the following steps to start a successfully compost in your backyard.
Get a compost bin
Hennepin County sells compost bins at distribution events and at the drop-off facility in Brooklyn Park. Many lawn and garden stores also sell compost bins, or you can search for options online to make a compost bin.
Find a place for your compost bin
Place your bin in a convenient location for easy access. An ideal spot gets some sun, has good drainage and is easily accessible.
Each city has its own ordinances about composting, so check with your city recycling coordinator for details concerning your local laws.
Many people understand what can be compost in backyard bins but can get confused about what not to compost.
Home composting systems typically don’t reach high enough temperatures to break down meat, dairy, grease and oil. These materials can also attract critters to your compost bin and cause foul odors. Feces from pets may carry pathogens that could cause health problems. Large pieces of wood do not compost quickly and require a lot of energy to decompose, so wood should be chipped or shredded and used minimally. Organic materials that can be added to enhance the nutritive value of compost include blood and bone meal, cotton seed meal and aquatic plants.
- Yard waste, including grass clippings, plant trimmings and leaves
- Kitchen waste, including fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags and egg shells
- Small amounts of sawdust, wood chips, wood ash, and small sticks
- Meat and dairy
- Fats and oils
- Pet waste
- Weeds with seeds
- Large pieces of wood
As a general rule, add three parts of dry, brown materials to one part of wet, green materials. Brown materials include dried grass, leaves, straw, sawdust and twigs; green materials include coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, green leaves and plant trimmings.
Maintain your compost pile
Follow these tips to maintain a successful compost pile:
- Keep your compost pile at the right moisture level. If your compost pile has a bad odor, it lacks air circulation or it may be too wet. Try turning the pile and/or adding dry, brown materials to the pile.
- If your compost pile is not heating up, it may need more nitrogen or "green" material. Add grass clippings or a nitrogen fertilizer to the pile.
- Bury kitchen scraps at least 8 inches deep in the compost pile to discourage critters.
- You can keep adding to your compost pile as it is composting. However, you may want to start a second pile if you have enough materials.
- Add a layer of straw or hay to the top of your compost pile in the winter to keep it warm.
- The best pile is made up of a variety of materials.
- The smaller the bits of compost material, the faster the pile will decompose.
For more detailed instructions on composting in your backyard, see the how to compost in your backyard (PDF) flyer.
If you purchased a Hennepin County compost bin, see the following resources for assembly instructions: