Backyard Composting

This page will give you the dirt on composting: why should I compost, what can I compost, what shouldn’t I compost, vermicomposting, composting pet waste, and frequently asked questions. 

Composting, when done correctly, reduces household waste and is a great fertilizer or top-dressing for your garden. Between 30-40% of household garbage is compostable material. By composting, you may be able to reduce your garbage disposal costs and create useful fertilizer for your garden.

Organic matter can be completely decomposed in as early as two months or take as long as two years after starting your compost program. The time it takes to create compost is dependent on:

  • environmental conditions
  • type of organic material added
  • size of organic material added

In addition to the above, microorganisms, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, centipedes, millipedes, beetles and earthworms also play an active role in the decomposition of organic waste into what we call compost. Organic waste can be collected for composting year round. During the winter, when compost freezes, the decomposition process stops. But, in the spring when the temperatures increase, the compost pile will become active again.

Why Should I Compost?

When you compost you are choosing the environmentally sound way to reduce your impact on the environment. Why send usable organic material to the landfill when you can compost? Composting enriches your soil with micronutrients. Composting improves soil structure and texture. Composting increases moisture retention. Composting is the right choice.

Have you ever wanted that huge sunflower that the neighbours bragged about? Properly maintained and produced compost can help you to achieve the garden of your dreams. Compost will add to your soil what commercial fertilizers do, but with out the chemicals! You control the amounts of Nitrogen and Carbon in your compost. You will see the results - it’s as easy as 1-2-3!

What does compost do for my soil?

  • Improves soil texture and structure
  • Improves soil nutrients
  • Retains moisture
  • Stimulates plant growth
  • Compost is free if you do it yourself

What Can I Compost?

From the Kitchen

From the Garden

Add Just a Little

Vegetables & Fruits (Nitrogen)

Leaves (Carbon) & Dry Grass (Nitrogen)

Pine Cones or Pine Needles (Carbon)

Coffee Filters with Grounds & Tea Bags (Nitrogen)

Garden Plants & Weeds (Nitrogen)

Wood Chips (Carbon)


Egg Shells (Nitrogen)


Soft Plant Stems (Nitrogen)


Shredded Paper & Shredded Cardboard (Carbon)


Old Potting Soils (adds microorganisms)


What is NOT Compostable?

  • Meat or meat scraps including bones
  • Fish
  • Dairy products
  • Plastics, metals, glass and stone
  • Pet waste

Only add material to your compost that you know is safe or unhealthy diseased compost may result.

What is Vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting is using special worms to assist in breaking down organic material into a usable nutrient rich soil. Worms not only funnel through the waste, increasing air circulation, they also eat away at the organic material, increasing decomposition.

Vermicomposting requires a specially designed composting container, with wood construction and a tight fitting lid (or your worms will escape)!

For building plans and a helpful information on Vermicomposting or worm composting contact the Recycling Council of British Columbia at 1-800-667-4321.

Once your bin has been made, you need to add your Red Wigglers or Manure Worms to a moistened layer of 2” stripped material. This can be newspaper, cardboard, leaves, etc. Then start adding your organic waste. To prevent flies and odor always remember to cover your fresh organic waste with a small layer of soil.

Composting Pet Waste

NEVER add pet waste to your compost bin. It will make your compost unhealthy, odorous and attract pests. The best solution to environmentally rid your yard of pet wastes is to bury it.

Consider this:

  • Do not bury your pet waste near a vegetable garden
  • Do not bury your pet waste near plants or trees that bear edible food
  • You can bury some pet waste under ornamental trees
  • Pet waste can be flushed down the toilet, where it can be treated properly by your local Liquid Waste Management Facility

 To properly "compost" pet waste:

  • Dig a  hole about 12” deep away from a vegetable garden or food-bearing trees
  • Place 3-4” of pet waste at the bottom, with a small layer of soil between each new addition of pet waste
  • Using a shovel, chop and mix the waste into the underlying soil
  • When waste is mixed add no less than 8” of soil

My Compost Stinks!

Properly maintained compost bins with the addition of suitable organic material only should not have an odor. If you have followed the guidelines correctly and your compost stills smells and attracts flies it may be because of the following:

  • Not covering freshly added organic material with a small layer of soil
  • Bin seal should be tight
  • There may be too much moisture (try adding a drainage hole)
  • Cheese or animal products may have been added (avoid these products in composting)

For building plans and a helpful information on Vermicomposting or worm composting contact the Recycling Council of British Columbia at 1-800-667-4321. 

Composting FAQ

Q: How do I compost in the wintertime?
You can continue to add material to your compost bin or pile throughout the winter, even if the heap freezes. Cold weather will not destroy your compost, it will just slow down the decomposition process. In the spring, your material will thaw and decomposition will continue. You can insulate your compost pile by covering the heap with thick dark plastic sheeting and thick layers of leaves, hay or straw. Anaerobic decomposition (without oxygen) will take over this kind of insulated pile. It won’t prevent freezing, but it will delay it.

Q: How do I compost sod?
A backyard sod composting option is to turn the sod upside down in an out of the way place. Cover the sod with black plastic. The sod will break down over time (1-2 years).

Q: Where is the best place to locate a backyard composter?
Composters should be placed in a well-drained area where it is convenient to use. It should get as much sun as possible but you must ensure the material does not dry up. If the unit is placed in the shade, the decomposition activity will be reduced and the process will take longer.

Q: Can I compost pet waste?
Pet waste should not be composted with your household organics as pet waste can contain harmful bacteria. Pet waste can be composted separately but the end product should not be used on food gardens.

The content on this page was last updated April 1 2021 at 9:08 AM