How to Make a Backyard Compost


The Los Angeles County Smart Gardening Program describes backyard composting as "an attractive, simple method of managing organic wastes at home." Composting fits into any lifestyle, yard size and level of ambition. It can be as simple as tossing the grass clippings into a compost bin or as elaborate as setting up a worm composting arrangement. Check your local city or county recycling program for bin sales or purchase a bin from a garden center. Getting started with backyard composting is simple with a few steps to follow.

Step 1

Collect 50 percent brown materials and 50 percent green materials to start the bin. Browns are dry leaves, newspapers and other shredded paper, pine needles, straw and dry grass. Greens are grass clippings, kitchen vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and tea bags, and livestock manure.

Step 2

Spread a 4-inch-deep layer of brown materials on the bottom of the compost bin. Water this layer so it is slightly moist, not soggy.

Step 3

Add a 4-inch layer of green materials and repeat the watering process. The layers should be moist like a wrung-out sponge, not dripping wet or too dry.

Step 4

Continue creating alternate layers of brown and green materials as they become available. A compost pile is an ongoing process.

Step 5

Water the bin once a week to prevent dryness. A dry compost pile does not have the microbial activity that causes the pile to turn into compost.

Step 6

Add oxygen into the pile by occasionally lifting it up from the middle with a strong stick. Some gardeners use a pitchfork. You must allow some air in, not turn the pile over. Oxygen aids the decay process.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not put grease or animal products in the pile because it will attract unwanted pests such as squirrels or coyotes. If the pile develops too many flies add another layer of brown material. Check weekly to see that the compost pile is moist. It dries out more quickly in hot summer months. Green and brown does not refer to the actual color of the materials you are putting in the compost pile; green means "nitrogen rich" and brown means "carbon rich."

Things You'll Need

  • Compost bin
  • Garden gloves
  • Organic waste materials to compost


  • Los Angeles County Smart Gardening Program: Backyard Composting

Who Can Help

  • Composting Instructions: How to Compost at Home
  • Los Angeles County Smart Gardening Program: Composting
Keywords: backyard composting, make compost pile, compost tips

About this Author

Joan Norton, M.A., is a licensed psychotherapist and professional writer in the field of women's spirituality. She blogs and has two published books on the subject of Mary Magdalene; "14 Steps To Awaken The Sacred Feminine:Women in the Circle of Mary Magdalene," and "The Mary Magdalene Within."