9 Composting Dos & Don’ts

Composting is an eco-savvy gardener’s best friend. Food scraps and yard waste make up a whopping 30% of the stuff we throw away. Repurposing organic leftovers helps free up space in landfills, curb the greenhouse-gas emissions coming from those landfills and reduce your need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. What’s more, compost is a nutrient-rich, vibrant material that enriches the soil, holds on to more water and encourages your plants to thrive—a gardener’s dream.

 Ready to turn your trash to treasure? Here are 9 easy ways to get started and make the most of your compost pile:

 1. Do gather the right ingredients for your compost pile.

• Browns—dead leaves, branches, twigs, dried tomato vines and pine needles

• Greens—fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, tea leaves, eggshells, grass clippings, dead houseplants and weeds

• Water—you’ll need this to break it all down

 2. Don’t add meat, fats, oils, dairy products or pet waste to your pile. These can create odors that attract pests or give rise to bacteria that’s harmful to your family and pets.

 3. Do pick the right spot. Whether you’re making an old-fashioned pile next to the vegetable garden or using a backyard composting bin, select a dry, shady spot close to a water source.

 4. Do layer. Start your compost pile with 3 inches of brown materials and top with 3 inches of green material. Continue alternating brown and green, watering each layer, until the pile is 4 feet tall or fills the bin.

 5. Don’t neglect your compost pile. Turn it every few weeks with the help of a shovel or pitchfork or give the tumbler a crank. This step speeds up decomposition by giving those browns and greens the oxygen they need to break down fast.

 6. Do ward off fruit flies and prevent foul odors by frequently adding grass clippings to your compost pile.

 7. Don’t let your pile go dry. Moisture’s essential to the decomposition process, so make sure your compost stays damp by adding water regularly. This is a great use for any rainwater you’ve collected. Just be careful to avoid overwatering—you’re looking for damp, not sopping wet—since too much moisture can attract flies and trigger mold.

 8. Do use it freely. Your compost is ready when it’s dark brown or black, soft and mostly smooth (you shouldn’t see any carrot tops or dried leaves). Mix the compost into your garden soil or use as a supplement to container plants.

 9. Do learn and save. The Bureau of Sanitation holds workshops throughout the year that will turn you into a composting pro. While you’re there, you can pick up a low-priced composting bin to get you started.

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Comments (2)

  1. Avatar for LA Stormwater
    Janet Spiegel
    May 9th, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Hi — I’m interested in learning about dog waste composting.

    • Avatar for LA Stormwater
      LA Stormwater
      May 9th, 2017 at 1:11 pm

      Dog waste can not be composted due to the bacteria. See #2 in the blog. Dog waste should either be placed in the trash or in your toilet. Thank you!

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