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Composting (the "pile" or "batch" method)


Did you know that about 25% of your trash is compostable? Lawn clippings, shrub and tree trimming, leaves, and food (except for dairy products, meats, and grease) are organic health food just waiting to be returned to the soil. So instead of sending your green waste and food to the landfill and end its usefulness, recycle the natural way, by COMPOSTING!

There are several ways to begin. You may purchase a composting bin, make your own, or designate an open area in your yard for a compost pile. A food scrap container located in the kitchen should be small enough to empty often to avoid unnecessary odors. Now the fun begins!

Compost needs four essential ingredients:

  • Nitrogen (greens)
  • Carbon (browns)
  • Oxygen (air)
  • Water (moisture)

Nitrogen: Any green organics such as houseplant or flower trimmings, lawn clippings (if you aren't grasscycling), contain nitrogren. All vegetable and fruit scraps are also in the nitrogen group.

Carbon: Brown (dry) grass and leaves, paper and cardboard (shredded or in small pieces), plus bread and grains.

Oxygen: The bin or pile must be turned occasionally to allow air to circulate through the mixture.

Water: Keep your compost mixture moist but not dripping wet.

Mix: Apply equal amounts of browns and greens, water to keep moist, and turn occasionally. Make sure to avoid food items that contain grease and oils, any meat or dairy products, and fish to avoid odors and rodents. Throw in a few red worms to hasten the composting process along! Those red wigglers love the warm environment, multiply quickly, make wonderful compost, and provide great bait for fishing!

After about 2-4 months, a rich, dark soil will replace the garden and food scraps. Congratulations! With a little effort and lots of organics, you have made your own compost AND reduced your trash by approximately 25 percent!

For more information on composting, check out these Web sites:


Composting is Good for Your Garden and the Environment - California Master Gardener tip sheet ANR publication 8367

Compost in a Hurry UC ANR publication 8037 explains the essential factors for creating finished compost in as little as 2 to 3 weeks.

Backyard composting booklet (pdf version) A great resource from the Regional Recycling Group

Click here to watch a short video with our very own Master Gardener Lee Miller on learning how to compost!

UC Master Gardener Lee Miller was interviewed by the Record on composting. Click here to read that article

Home composting - CalRecycle - More information on home composting

Compost Tea: Organic Materials Management - CalRecycle - Covers information on using and Making Compost Tea

US Environmental Protection Agency - Composting at Home

Cornell Composting provides access to a variety of composting educational materials including fact sheets developed by Cornell University.