Backyard Composting

Earth Machine ComposterBackyard composting is a great way to manage organic waste at home. You can build your own backyard compost bin or purchase one. The Town of Carrboro sells Earth Machine’s backyard compost bins to residents for $45 and kitchen pails for $5. Compost Bin/Kitchen Pail Order Form.  

Backyard composting requires four basic ingredients:

  1. Greens (Nitrogen) - Vegetable scraps, fruit scraps, and grass clippings.
  2. Browns (Carbon) - Dry leaves, twigs, or sawdust.
  3. Water 
  4. Oxygen  

Five Simple Steps to Start Backyard Composting

  1. Pick a Location - Place compost bin/pile in a convenient, partially sunny location with good drainage.  You also want to place your bin on bare soil so bacteria and worms have direct access to your compostable materials.
  2. Build or Purchase a Compost Bin - Compost bins can be purchased or built using wire, wood, wood pallets, or concrete blocks.
  3. Start your Compost - Start compost with a layer of coarse materials such as corn stalks to build air passages.   Add alternating layers of "brown" and "green" materials and mix them together (See "What to Compost").  The ideal ratio (Compost Recipe) for "brown" to "green" materials in a backyard bin is generally considered to be:   

    3 parts brown to 1 part green


      6 inches browns to 2 inches of greens

Disproportionate amounts of “green” can lead to strong odors, and too much “brown” will dry out  your pile and stop the composting process. If you don't have brown and green materials on hand at the same time, build your pile with browns, add water, and mix in the greens as they become available.  

4. Water - Add water as you build your compost if the materials are dry. Compost should be damp, not wet. It should feel like a wrung-out sponge. 

5. Oxygen - Mix or turn your compost. You can use a garden hoe or compost turning tool.  More frequent turning will shorten the composting time. 

Helpful Tips 

  1. Keep it small. Mowing, grinding, chopping, or shedding will shorten the compost time. 
  2. Always cover your newly added food scraps with brown materials or soil. This will help eliminate odors and control pests. 
  3. Line the bottom of your compost bin or pile with 1/4" hardware cloth to limit access to your compost from mice or rodents. 
  4. If your compost bin needs water, and the forecast calls for rain; remove the lid on your compost bin and let Mother Nature provide the water.