Composting transforms your yard and garden trimmings—grass clippings, leaves, and pruning material—into a dark, crumbly, sweet-smelling material that naturally enriches the earth.
When you compost, you create an environment for microscopic organisms to break down dry, carbon-rich “brown” material, such as fallen leaves and wood chips; and wet, nitrogen-rich “green” material, including grass clippings and flowers.
Along with air and water, the carbon and nitrogen materials decompose and create a high-nutrient compost to use for your lawn and garden.
Compost improves soil structure, texture, and fertility so your plants and lawn thrive. It also improves water retention by holding almost twice its weight in water.
Protect the environment
Compost protects our waterways by slowing runoff from rain and melting snow, preventing soil erosion, and trapping sediments and chemicals. And unlike many commercial fertilizers, it won’t leach chemicals into the ground.
Composting reduces the need to buy commercial fertilizers, and lawn care service providers may charge less if you ask them to stop collecting your yard trim and pass the savings on to you.
Use a level, well-drained space in your yard in either sun or shade. If you place your compost pile in full sun, you’ll need to monitor the moisture content of your compost pile more closely. Avoid setting up your compost bin over shallow tree roots, near wooden structures, and at your neighbor’s property line.
Add “brown” and “green” material
Mix carbon-rich “brown” materials such as dry leaves, straw, and wood chips, with nitrogen-rich “green” materials including flowers, pruning material, and grass clippings. Brown material can be
composted alone, but the nitrogen in green material speeds the decomposition process. (Don’t use nitrogen sources alone.)
When in doubt, leave it out!
Do not add diseased plants, pet waste, meat, bones, fat, oils, dairy products, processed foods, fruit or vegetable scraps, and weeds that are in bloom or have seed heads.
Build your pile
Most compost bins are 3 feet high—the optimum height to ensure the most efficient rate of composting. Each compost pile must be large enough to prevent the rapid loss of heat and moisture, but small enough for proper air circulation.
Moisten the materials as you add them and then leave a concave
depression at the top of the pile to collect rainwater. Keep it moist—but not wet—to promote bacterial growth. Too much moisture can kill microorganisms and slow decomposition. If your pile gets too wet, add some brown material such as dry leaves.
Mix it up
Turn your compost pile every week or two, moving the dry materials from the edges into the middle of the pile. When adding new materials—especially green material like grass—be sure to thoroughly mix them in.
Use your compost
After the materials break down, you will have dark brown-black, crumbly, sweet-smelling compost. Use it as a top-dressing for your lawn or mulch for trees and shrubs—or mix it in the soil for growing annuals, herbs, and vegetables.
Fact: A well-maintained compost pile smells as sweet as the forest floor. Odors happen because of mistakes such as poor drainage, a lack of aeration, or the need for more dry “brown” materials in the pile.
We conduct composting workshops throughout the year. Learn more about the do’s and don’t’s of composting and share ideas with others. For information about upcoming workshops,
check our events calendar. Or, call 311 (out-of-County: 240-777-0311, TTY: 301-251-4850).