department of public works
You can reduce the amount of waste that goes in a landfill by 30% by composting yard waste and food scraps!
Composting is the biological decomposition of organic matter such as leaves, food scraps and twigs. The end result is a dark, crumbly matter that can enrich your lawn or garden. When mixed with soil, compost improves the physical properties of the soil, reduces erosion and supports plant life.
Download the GROW (Gardening and Recycling Organics Wisely) handbook.
Download a brochure on how to garden with compost.
What goes in a compost bin or pile?
A combination of materials containing nitrogen (vegetable scraps) and carbon (sawdust and leaves) or “green” and “brown” materials. For premium compost for those of you who are more particular about your soil amendments, keep your carbon to nitrogen ingredients ratio 30:1.
In other words, you need 30 parts carbon to one part nitrogen. For the rest of you, combine equal parts of browns and greens.
What factors affect the composting process?
- Keep your browns and greens balanced. Too many greens can make a pile soggy while excessive browns take a long time to decompose.
- Materials should be moist, but not very wet.
- Be sure turn your piles with a stick, pitch fork or aerator so air can flow through occasionally
- If you want quick compost, chop your ingredients up into smaller pieces.
What items should be included?
GREENS: Fruit and vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds, egg shells, garden trimmings, plant leaves, flower petals, barnyard manure (from non-meat eating animals), weed leaves or stems, house plants and potting mix.
BROWNS: Autumn leaves, twigs, stalks, sawdust or shavings from non-treated wood, cardboard, napkins or paper towels.
What should not be included?
Diseased plants, clippings with herbicides on them, disease or insect-infected plants, pet feces, meat, bones or dairy products, weed seed heads or roots, needles, cones or coated paper.
Here are some ways you can keep your lawn healthy and productive:
- FREE FERTILIZER: Leaving your grass clippings on your lawn after mowing will help your yard become healthier and saves you the time of raking them up. When grass clippings decompose on the lawn, organic matter is added to the soil.
- Aerate your lawn if water won't permeate.
- Overwatering can promote lawn diseases and can leach nutrients from the soil.
- Water about one inch/week during warm seasons. Watering slowly, but deeply moisturizes the root zone. Using compost and mulch helps retain the moisture.
- Don't water during the heat of the day!
- Remove weeds by hand—think twice about using herbicides and pesticides.
- For every 8 cubic feet of clay soil, use a one inch layer of compost to improve the soil. Mend the entire area, not just small portions.
- Use cardboard or newspapers under mulch so it can decompose and “feed the soil”
- Most lawns only need 1 inch of water/week to stay green during the summer.
- Toads, lady bugs, praying mantises and other insect-eating creatures can aid in controlling unwanted pests. For instance, centipedes feed on slugs and other insect pests.
Xeriscaping Your Lawn
XERISCAPE is the practice of designing your lawn and garden to adhere to the natural
landscape of the region, and to conserve natural resources.
- Leave a buffer of vegetation along water bodies to filter pollutants
- plant shrubs on areas with high water runoff-prevent erosion
- use compost to prevent erosion and add nutrients to the area
- group plants according to their water needs
- using drip and soaker hoses apply water directly to the soil which minimizes evaporation and runoff
Always cover your compost pile with leaves. Add red wiggler worms to speed up
How To Fix
Smells like garbage
Too wet, wrong food items included or not covered with browns
Mix in dry leaves or sawdust
Pile is dry
Not enough water or too much woody material
Mix and moisten; chop materials into smaller pieces
Pile is damp, but not composting
Lack of greens
Mix in greens or remove excess woody material
Pile is smaller, but doesn't look like compost
Outside of the pile is dry, but inside is most likely composted
Use non-decomposed material in a new pile