Backyard Composting

Backyard Compost Bin
Large cedar wood compost boxes with composted soil and yard waste for backyard composting July 12, 2020

Did you know that composting transforms your yard and garden trimmings, such as grass clippings, leaves, and garden prunings, into a dark, crumbly, sweet-smelling material that naturally enriches the soil?

When you compost, you create an environment for organisms to break down carbon-rich “brown” material, such as dried leaves and wood chips; and nitrogen-rich “green” material, including grass clippings and flowers. The carbon and nitrogen materials decompose and become a high-nutrient soil amendment that you can mix into soil and use in your garden.

All it takes is a compost bin (preferably), a mixture of organic materials, water, a pitchfork or shovel, and some time.


How do you get started?

  • leavesStart with yard trim (grass, leaves and garden prunings). It’s simple and has little risk of attracting pests, such as rodents and insects. And, it saves time from having to place yard trim in a reusable container or in a paper lawn bag and putting it at the curb for yard trim recycling collection.
  • Pick a spot. Find a level, well-drained space in your yard. Avoid setting up your compost bin over shallow tree roots, near wooden structures, and at your neighbor’s property line.
  • Add a mixture of “brown” and “green” material. Mix carbon-rich “brown” materials such as dry leaves, straw, and wood chips, with nitrogen-rich “green” materials including flowers, pruning material, and grass clippings. Brown material can be composted alone, but the nitrogen in green material speeds the decomposition process. (Don’t use nitrogen sources alone as they can create odor problems.)
  • Leave it out! Do not add diseased plants, pet waste, meats, bones, fat, oils, dairy products, processed foods, and weeds that are in bloom or have seed heads. Also, keep out food and kitchen scraps as these can attract pests such as insects and rodents. Note, to compost kitchen scraps, it’s important to use a rodent-proof compost bin with a tight-fitting lid.

compost bin

  • Build your compost bin or pile. Most compost bins are three feet high—the optimum height to ensure the most efficient rate of composting. Compost piles must be large enough to prevent the rapid loss of heat and moisture, but small enough to allow for proper air circulation.
  • Water lightly. Moisten the materials as you add them. Keep materials moist—but not wet—to promote bacterial growth. Too much moisture can slow the decomposition process. If your compost bin is in a sunny location, you’ll need to check the moisture content more frequently.
  • Turn the materials. Mix the materials in your compost bin or pile every few weeks, moving the dry materials from the edges into the middle of the pile. When adding new materials, especially green material such as grass clippings—be sure to thoroughly mix them in. Turning the materials in the pile will speed up the decomposition process.

wheel barrow

  • Use your compost. After the materials break down, you will have a dark brown-black, crumbly, sweet-smelling soil amendment. Use it as a top-dressing for your lawn or mix it in the soil for growing annuals, herbs, and vegetables.

To learn more about composting yard trim, including locations where County residents can pick-up a backyard compost bin at no additional charge, visit



What about food scraps?

Composting food scraps, such as vegetable peelings, requires more steps and monitoring, to reduce odors and the risk of pests.

Montgomery County, Maryland requires the use of a rodent-proof compost bin, with a tight-fitting lid, to compost food scraps. Adding food scraps in an open compost pile or in a compost bin with no lid, is problematic because this attracts rodents and other pests. The compost bins currently provided by the County are designed for composting yard trim, because they are completely open on the top and the bottom and have aerating holes all around the sides. Please keep food scraps out of these bins. During FY21, we will evaluate and test a variety of compost bins that successfully deter rodents and demonstrate their effectiveness and use.

For more information on food scraps recycling, visit our website.


Still want to recycle food scraps at home?

Try worm bin composting. Check out our next series of blog posts on worm bin composting.


An Option for Residents to Recycle Food Scraps

Residents may also consider separating their food scraps for recycling and hiring a collector who will collect and deliver the food scraps to a composting facility in the region. Your food scraps will be used to create a great compost material.

If you’re interested, here is a list of food scraps recycling collectors serving Montgomery County customers. (Please note that Montgomery County has compiled this listing through various sources and does not present it as a complete directory of all vendors that provide service in Montgomery County, nor offer it as an endorsement of any of the companies listed.)


Dedicated Food Scraps Recycling Collectors:

Compost Cab

Compost Crew


Key Compost

Organic Agriculture Recycling, LLC

Organic Waste Haulers

Veteran Compost


Waste Management Companies (providing food scraps recycling collections):

Apple Valley Waste

Bates Trucking

Waste Management
301- 340-0774

6 comments on "Backyard Composting"

  1. MaryJo Cosgrove says:

    I am very interested in the food scrap composting bin when it becomes available.

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Terrific, we will keep everyone updated!

    1. Ian says:

      I made a big big compost

  2. Olimpia L Duenas says:

    I would like you to please send me information on how to get a compost bin for food scraps because I’m interested in composting.also I would like a truck loaded with wood chips to be delivered to my house if you can get me information I would appreciate it so much thank you

  3. Diane Kupelian says:

    I am interested in advice concernimg food scrap composting. What kind of containers are best for excluding animals? I see so many available for sale, and I have no idea how to evaluate them. Information would be greatly appreciated!

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