Backyard Composting

Backyard Composting lets us recycle just like nature does. In nature, nothing is wasted or thrown away. Instead, insects, worms and microorganisms decompose dead plants and animals, returning valuable nutrients back to the earth and allowing other plants to grow.

Complete Composting How to Guide – PDF

Choose Your Bin

There are many types and sizes of compost bins. How much organic waste do you have? How much effort you are willing to put into maintaining the bin? How quickly do you want a finished product?

Find a Bin

Choose a Location

Indoors: You can store kitchen waste under the sink or on the counter in a small, covered container. Purchase a compost container at your local hardware store or reuse an empty salt beef bucket or ice cream container.

  • The amount of organics you add to your container will determine how often it needs to be emptied. Usually once or twice a week is sufficient.
  • Adding the proper materials and emptying your indoor container regularly will eliminate odors.
  • Rinse your indoor container each time it’s emptied or line it with newspapers to avoid rinsing. The newspaper lining can be thrown in the compost bin with the rest of your organic waste.

Outdoors: Place your bin in a sunny area where it will absorb and retain as much heat as possible. Don’t forget to choose a location that is both convenient and accessible all year round and has good drainage. This will be especially important in the spring when your compost pile produces excess moisture.

To promote good drainage, place small sticks and branches at the bottom of your bin.

Maintain Your Compost Bin

Your compost pile is a living ecosystem with decomposer organisms such as worms, insects, bacteria and fungi – hard at work. When you add organic waste to your compost bin, you are feeding these organisms, which require food, water, oxygen and space to survive.

The Recipe for successful compost: Organic Waste + Water + Oxygen + Volume

Add Organic Waste

When adding organic waste, it is important to maintain a proper carbon-to-nitrogen (or brown-to-green) ratio. A good mixture of material consists of 50% brown and 50% green material (by weight). Add organic waste by alternating layers of browns and greens – always finishing with a layer of browns.
Cutting up materials into smaller pieces before adding them to your bin will increase the surface area and allow for faster decomposition.

Greens = Nitrogen

Fruit & vegetable peels and scraps
Coffee grounds & filters
Tea bags & tea leaves
Fresh grass clippings
Crushed egg shells

Browns = Carbon

Dried leaves, twigs & small branches
Dried & untreated grass clippings
Non-diseased plants
Woodchips & sawdust (from untreated wood)
Paper (newspaper, paper towels, toilet paper rolls & cereal boxes)
Rice, oats & other grains
Dried corn stalks
Pasta (no sauces or oils)
Peanut shells
Bread & other baked goods


Meats, fish & shellfish (including bones)
Fat, grease, oils & sauces
All dairy products
Weeds (that have gone to seed)
Diseased plants
Plants treated with pesticides
Dog & cat waste
Toxic chemicals (pesticides, etc)
Charcoal or treated fire logs


Your compost pile should be moist. When you touch the pile, it should feel damp; but when you squeeze it, no liquid should run out. Your compost pile gets moisture from green material. If the pile gets too wet, add more brown material. If it gets too dry, add more green material or sprinkle with water.


For composting to take place, oxygen must get to the bottom and center of the pile. Turn your compost regularly to increase the circulation of oxygen. Keep a shovel or a pitchfork next to your compost bin to remind you to turn the pile each time you add organic waste.


Your compost pile should be large enough to hold the heat generated through the composting process, but small enough to let air into the centre. For home composting, your compost pile or bin should be no smaller than 3′ x 3′ x 3′ and no larger than 5′ x 5′ x 5′

Finished compost, or “humus,” is dark and crumbly with an earthy smell. You will know your compost is ready when it takes this form and there are no visible food scraps. A simple way to test if compost is finished is to seal a small sample in a plastic bag for 24 to 48 hours. If no strong odors are released when you open the bag, the compost is ready.

Using compost in the garden enriches the soil with organic matter – improving heat and moisture retention.  Plus, it promotes the growth of healthy, pest-resistant plants and lawns, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers, pesticides and watering.

Use as mulch around trees, shrubs and plants
Mix with potting soils for use in potted house plants
Dig compost into your garden soil before you start to plant
Use as a top dressing in flower beds and gardens
Use as a soil conditioner – compost helps aerate clay soils
Share with friends, family or the neighbourhood gardener!

Given the cool climate and short summer season, the composting process in Newfoundland and Labrador can take one to two years. The amount of time it takes your compost pile to produce finished compost, or humus, will depend on the material you add and the effort you put in.

Download our guide to Cold Weather Composting – PDF