Backyard Composting

While the RDCK is working on the launch large-scale organics collection and composting, there are still many benefits for residents to compost organic waste at home.  This page will give you the dirt on backyard composting including: why it's a good idea, what can be composted, what should be left out when I compost, vermicomposting, composting pet waste, and frequently asked questions. 

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?

Composting, when done correctly, reduces household waste and is a great fertilizer for your garden.  Between 30-40% of household garbage is compostable material - why send usuable organic material to the landfill when you can compost?  By composting you can reduce your garbage disposal costs.  Composting enriches your soil with micronutrients, improves soil structure and texture, and increases moisture retention. Composting is the right choice.

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)

Maintaining a proper carbon to nitrogen ratio in compost is key to effective decomposition and creating a healthy soil ammendment. Too much carbon can slow down decomposition and too much nitrogen can create unpleasant odours. Often kitchen waste will provide enough nitrogen, while carbon from leaves, straw, woodchips, or shredded paper can be added when needed to balance the ratio and control excess moisture. Oxygen to feed helpful microorganisms is another key component. Backyard composters should be turned every 1-2 weeks to ensure adequate oxygen and prevent anaerobic decompostition. Anaerobic microbes take over when there is not enough oxygen and can produce smells and methane gas. 

What should NOT be composted at home?

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

*These items can be added to municipal and regional composting services, as RDCK Composting Facilities are able to break down these materials*

Only add material to your compost that you know is safe, or unhealthy 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 unpleasant odor. If you have followed the guidelines correctly and your compost stills smells and attracts flies it may be because of the following:

  • Too infrequent turning and aeration
  • Not covering freshly added organic material with a small layer of carbon or finished compost
  • Bin seal should be tight
  • There may be too much moisture (try adding a drainage hole)
  • Dairy or animal products may have been added (avoid these products in home 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 compost 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 layers of leaves, hay or straw. It won’t prevent freezing, but it will delay it and allow some microbes to continue working. 

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 some sunlight, but not be allowed to completly dry up. Composters should not be placed directly beside a home, and should be animal resistant.  

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 June 23 2023 at 2:16 AM