Backyard Composting

What is Composting?

Composting is a natural process that breaks down organic materials into a biological soil amendment (sometimes referred to as humus).  You can place compost in the garden or around your homeís landscaping.

Why Compost?

The average single family home in Palm Beach County generates 1,700 pounds per year of yard waste, which amounts to over 40% of the total household generation of solid waste.The SWA receives more than 200,000 tons of yard waste per year, and the amount keeps growing.Backyard composting is important because:

  • It is an environmentally sound and cost effective way to reduce solid waste.

  • It extends the life of the existing landfills and delays the need to create new landfills.

  • It creates a useful soil amendment that really makes your garden and landscape grow.

Composting is Part of the 3 Rís

Composting reduces the amount of yard waste generated.  Compost can be reused in your yard or garden.  The nutrients in compost are recycled back into the soil and plant life.

Here's How to Get Started

  1. Select a compost bin.  Compost bins are available at most major home centers.

  2. Select an area in your yard to place the compost bin.  The area you select should receive equal amounts of sunshine and shade.

  3. Make up a recipe of 4 parts greens to 2 parts browns and place it inside your compost bin.  Keeping a balance of moist green materials and dry brown materials will help the compost pile break down faster.  To enhance the composting process of a new pile, sprinkle garden soil on the material or leave some finished compost underneath.


(high in nitrogen) 


(high in carbon)

Do Not Use

Grass clippings



Pruning clippings


Dog/cat feces

Fruits & Vegetables






Manure: ex., cow, horse, pig, chicken, rabbit



Kitchen scraps: ex. stale bread, egg shells, coffee grounds (filters too), tea bags, citrus rinds, fruit & vegetable peels

Newspaper (shredded)

Wood ash


Brush (chopped)

Meat/fish scraps


Corn stalks

Dairy products



Weed seeds



Diseased plants
  1. Periodically mix the materials with a shovel or pitchfork and let nature take its course.  On average, it takes six to eight weeks before you will see black organic matter developing at the bottom.  Once this has occurred, feel free to start using your compost for:

  • soil conditioning

  • lawn dressing

  • potting soil component

  • landscape mulch

Having Problems?

Consult the following Trouble Shooting Guide. 






Possible Cause



Foul Odor

Excessive moisture


Turn pile or add dry material, such as straw.

Turn pile or decrease its size.

Ammonia Odor

Too much nitrogen

Add high-carbon (brown) items.

Low Temperature

Pile too small

Low moisture

Poor aeration

Cold weather

Enlarge pile.

Add water & turn.

Turn pile.

Increase pile size or insulate pile with a layer of material, such as straw.

High Temperature

Pile too large

Too much nitrogen

Reduce pile size or turn more frequently.

Add high-carbon (brown) items.

Pests, such as rats, raccoons and insects

Presence of meat scraps or fatty food wastes

Remove meat and fatty foods from pile and cover with a layer of soil or sawdust; or, switch to an animal-proof compost bin.

Remember that composting is just one way to reduce the amount of yard waste you throw away.  For more information on composting, visit the Compost Facility or call 561.640.4000 x4890 or 1-866-SWA-INFO (1-866-792-4636) toll-free from southern and western Palm Beach County.