Backyard composting makes good sense – and good dollars and cents.  Rather than having your yard waste collected for processing or disposal, you can recycle this material into a rich, dark humus material for use as a soil amendment.  All you need to get started is a compost technique and a bin or a pile!  First some composting questions and answers:

QWhat is composting?  A.  Composting is a natural process by which organic materials decompose.  Making compost as a controlled or managed version of the natural process.  By concentrating the activity in one place and balancing yard, food and paper waste with air and water, compost happens faster.

Q.  What is compost?  A.  Compost is an organic soil conditioner created by decomposing organic matter under proper composting conditions.  The end product of the compost process is a soil or humus-like material that will increase the health of the soil.

Q.  How does compost benefit the soil?  A.  Compost is like a multivitamin for your soil.  It will aid in erosion control, promote soil fertility, and stimulate healthy root development.  Compost improves soil structure by adding organic content and also increases the water-holding capacity of soil so that you will not need to water as much.  Additionally, compost helps keep heavy-clay-content soil from compacting, meaning that the soil is easier to work and root systems will develop better.  It also gives sandy soil needed structure.

Q.  Is composting recycling?  A.  Yes.  Just like plastic beverage containers or aluminum cans, yard clippings and fruit and vegetable scraps are a valuable resource that can be recycled.  Organic materials can be recycled into a soil amendment that will improve and maintain the health of your soil.

Q.  How long does it take to produce compost?  A.  Composting happens, but your level of labor dictates how quickly.  Generally, it should take from one to six months to make a single batch of compost, depending upon the blend of materials, how often the pile is turned , and the moisture content.

Q.  Why should I compost?  A.  Backyard composting allows you to recycle your yard clippings and fruit and vegetable scraps into a valuable soil amendment right in tour own yard.  It is a great way to save money, reduce the amount of waste that is disposed or processed, and improve the quality of your urban environment.  Another reason composting is beneficial is that it helps to keep grass clipping and other green waste from entering our storm drains and potentially polluting our waterways.


For additional composting information on:

  • The Essentials of Composting                                                                     •  Choosing What to Compost                                                                            •  Composting Techniques
  • Compost Troubleshooting                                                                           •   How to Use Compost                                                                                        •  The Compost Bin
  • Vermicomposting                                                                                          •  Compost Definitions

Please visit our Stanislaus County’s Backyard Composting Guide



Compost can be mixed into soil as a soil amendment in preparation for planting. It can also be spread on soil at the end of the gardening season and allowed to leach into the soil. If only a small amount of compost is available, it can be incorporated in the seed furrow, or a handful can be added to each transplant hole of annuals, perennials, or vegetables. Large amounts of compost can be used to plant trees, shrubs, and vegetable gardens, or to repair or replace lawn areas. Compost can also be used as mulch, or combined with equal parts of sand and soil to create an excellent potting mix.


  • Barnyard manure
  • Coffee grounds/filters
  • Flowers
  • Fruit and vegetable trimmings
  • Paper with no ink, small amounts
  • Green/Dry leaves
  • Ash – small amounts
  • Tea leaves with bags
  • Bread
  • Eggshells
  • Grass clippings
  • Hair
  • Lint
  • Sawdust
  • Straw


  • Bones
  • Pet litter/feces
  • Dairy
  • Meat
  • Diapers
  • Diseased plants
  • Fish
  • Greasy foods
  • Invasive weeds
  • Oil/Lard
  • Peanut butter
  • Salad dressing
  • Unchopped woody waste
  • Wood shavings