Backyard Composting: Getting Started

Back to Green Sources
« Previous | Next »

Backyard Composting: Getting Started

Compost is an organic material that, when added to soil, can help your plants grow. Making compost can keep food scraps and yard waste out of your garbage and put them back into the earth where they came from. This cycle of reusing waste products to create and grow new sources of food is the next evolution in reduction, recycling and reusing products instead of sending them to the landfill.

Composting is simple and only requires a balance of nitrogen and carbon products to begin, generally grouped into “Browns” and “Greens.” Below is a chart of the items that can and can not be composted and where they fall. In general you should use 2 to 3 times as many browns as greens and always cover the greens with a generous layer of browns to prevent odors and avoid attracting pests.

5 Steps to Starting Your Backyard Compost

Step 1 – Start With a Generous Layer of Browns

Begin your compost by placing a generous layer of browns at the bottom of your composter or large trash can.

Step 2 – Layering is Key

Layer your greens and browns, alternating colors and always covering your greens with generous browns.

Step 3 – Accelerate With Soil

Adding soil at any stage during the layering process introduces soil organisms into your pile and acts as an accelerator as well as helps to discourage pests and unpleasant odors.

Step 4 – Just Add Water

In Las Vegas especially our dry heat doesn’t provide enough moisture to help assist the composting process. This is why so many people opt for indoor composting units or tightly cover and seal their composts to keep the process moving. Adding water may be the single most important part of the process in Southern Nevada. Ideally your compost pile should have a moisture content of approximately 50%. This can be easily checked by grabbing a handful of your compost and squeezing it tightly. No more than a few drops of water should squeeze out and your hand should be left feeling moist. Adjust accordingly.

Step 5 – Enjoy Fresh Soil

After enough time, between a few weeks and few years, you will have fresh soil to place on plants, spread in the yard, or start a garden, even in Las Vegas.

Greens & Browns Breakdown

Greens – Vegetable and fruit scraps (fresh, cooked, or canned), coffee grounds and filters, tea leaves and bags, garden waste, fresh weeds without seeds, fresh grass clippings.

Browns – Dry leaves, straw, dry hay, sawdust, woodchips from untreated wood, twigs, dried grass clippings, dried weeds without seeds, shredded paper napkins, tissue paper, shredded newspapers

Others – Eggshells, wood ash, plain rice, plain pasta, bread, hair, wool, cotton

Do NOT Compost – Meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, oily foods, bones, pet waste, weeds with seeds, plants infected with disease, plastic or petroleum products, metals, synthetic materials.