If you’re curious about backyard composting, but you’re worried the setup and process are daunting—I can tell you firsthand it’s not. 

This post is for those who’d like to learn more about backyard composting and what it’s like before getting a bin. You’ll also find some information on how to get started if you’ve purchased one already.

Keep in mind, I touch on some of the other types of bins, but mainly discuss stationary which is the most common.

Before we get started, I’ll take you through the benefits of keeping a backyard compost. 

Benefits of Composting

First and foremost I want to point out that my husband and I have noticed a significant reduction in the amount of garbage we take to the curb weekly since we added composting to our routine. This means in a two-person (and two-cat) household, we typically only need to deal with one garbage bag a week.

Dealing with the compost itself doesn’t take much effort either. It’s not as convenient in the winter, but really the ice and snow only add an extra five minutes to the process if you maintain a path. Just remember to keep it sanded and wear proper boots to avoid slipping.

As a result of this simple process, the finished compost you take from the bin adds nutrients and other qualities to soil, helping your plants thrive. You can even use it to replace chemical products and fertilizers. Additionally, it keeps organic waste out of the landfill where it contributes to greenhouse gasses. 

While it’s common to think your food waste, lawn clippings, and even paper products will break down naturally in landfills, they will, but because it receives no oxygen under all that trash, it produces methane as it does.

How to Get Started

Decide on the type of bin

The first thing you’ll need to do is decide whether you want to purchase a bin or if you’d prefer to DIY. Personally, I purchased one as it sits close to my house. If that’s the way you want to go I recommend looking into the FreeGarden Earth by Enviro World (I’m not affiliated with it, I just like it).

Compost bin on asphalt
Not an award winning photo, but this is what it looks like minus the harvest door in front.

This compost bin is stationary meaning it stays in one spot and it’s placed on soil. Stationary bins are the most common and the least amount of work. 

You can also get batch or tumbler receptacles that sit on a stand. You spin these daily for faster composting. Additionally, if you dare, worm composts offer a quicker turn-around thanks to the bitty creatures inside.

I’ve also seen folks make some pretty nifty compost bins out of storage totes, that I can only imagine are a happy medium between a stationary and tumbler if you’re looking for something like that.

Choose a location

You’ll likely want your bin in a convenient location to avoid a long trek each time you need access. You also want to ensure you have space to work when adding, stirring, or emptying the bin.

Considering it’s not a glamorous item, keep it away from a neighbour’s fence and avoid putting it too close to your entrance. While maintaining your compost should prevent the bin from stinking, there are times when things may get off balance and the smell does linger a bit after correcting.

Stationary bins are best placed where there’s loose soil underneath.

Create a base

Once you have your bin installed, you can create a base by rounding up some twigs and sticks and filling the bottom of your compost about five inches. This is what worked for me, however, there are many ways people recommend building up the bottom layer of your bin, or not. 

The manufacturer of your bin may have a different method in its manual.

Adding to Your Bin

Putting items in

When you add to your bin, you want to layer green and brown materials. First, the greens go in and then you cover them with a layer of browns. Ideally, you want to ensure the pile is slightly moist, but not soaking. If it’s dry, add a bit of water or even some old coffee or tea. If it’s too wet, add more browns.

Every couple of weeks, stir the contents with a shovel. It may take a couple of months before the compost is ready to use in your garden.

Collecting items inside

Part of composting is collecting your food waste and dumping it into the bin rather than your garbage can. This means you’ll want to keep a pail handy indoors. While you can buy specific indoor containers, I use a cheap pail from the hardware store and it does the trick.

It’s also worth noting you can skip using compost bags as these break down quickly and may end up making a mess if you don’t take them out frequently. If you want to line your pail, use recycled paper and give it a rinse after emptying.

Collecting items from the yard

It’s helpful to collect a bag or two of dry yard waste like leaves, plant clippings, or weeds (if they’re not seeding). That way you have browns when you need them. Keeping extra browns may also come in handy if you find your compost pile smelling ripe. Add more in to see if it does the trick.

What Are Greens and Browns?

Greens from your kitchen are things like peels and other fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, and rice. You can also find them outside as fresh flowers and plant clippings.

Browns from your home come from paper waste like napkins and coffee filters or bread, and can also be found in your yard as dries leaves, straw, and plant clippings.

An easy way to remember is that greens are slightly fresh and moist, while browns are typically dry and absorbent materials.

Should I Put Meat in My Compost?

The manual for my bin indicates you shouldn’t put any types of meat, including bones and fat into your pile. It also has another reminder right on the lid of the receptacle itself. Even if it didn’t, I personally wouldn’t as I’d be worried about the smells it would introduce and the potential for bears and racoons to try and rip my bin open.

Additionally, I avoid putting dairy products or oils in. Others may say something different, but I thought I would share my take on it. Eggshells are an exception.

Get Composting

Although it may seem intimidating at first, your backyard compost bin is surprisingly easy to maintain once you have it set up. Plus, it offers many benefits to your household, garden, and the environment.

If you have the space in your backyard, why not set one up? You can also check if your municipality offers a composting program if you do your research and decide a backyard bin just isn’t for you.