Prince Edward County Municipal Services


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Backyard Composting Resources

Why Should You Compost in Your Backyard?

Compost Reduces Waste and Helps the Environment

Composting your kitchen and yard waste helps reduce the amount of waste going into our landfills which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Homemade compost reduces the need for purchased fertilizer that rely on fossil fuels for creating and shipping.

Compost is Good for Soil and Plant Health

Compost has many benefits for your garden. Compost helps attract and support beneficial micro-organisms. Compost can also improve the quality of your soil no matter the type and provide a boost to plant growth.

Composting Helps Manage Your Waste

Almost all the organic waste you accumulate can be added to your composter. This process is a sustainable way to manage and repurpose your waste. Backyard Composting reduces the amount of waste handled by the municipal collection which keeps the cost of the program and impact on taxes low.

How to Set Up and Manage Your Backyard Composter

This information handout describes everything you need to do when setting up your composter and how to manage it afterwards. Seasonal instructions and other operations considerations are included. Listed below are more steps you can do to contribute to the success of your backyard compost bin.

  • Choose a container to place in your kitchen. Having a tight seal helps to discourage bad odours, fruit flies, and other pests. The County currently sells countertop kitchen catchers ($10) that can be purchased at Shire Hall, 332 Picton Main Street. 
  • Large scraps (e.g., corn cobs, pumpkins, celery stalks, etc.) should be chopped into smaller pieces. This allows more surface area for micro-organisms to feed on and speeds up the process.
  • To keep material from sticking to the bottom and sides, line the pail with a sheet of newspaper, paper towel, or non-plastic liners. When you empty the pail into your compost bin every couple of days, it will all slide cleanly out. Then give it a quick rinse and re-line it. Newspaper, paper towels, or paper liners can be composted.
  • Keep bags of yard browns (i.e., leaves, wood chips, dry grass) to use as brown material in your compost. Make sure they are dried out entirely. Plan ahead so you will always have enough yard browns for all seasons. The more browns you use the slower composting will occur. Slower composting can help with better fungal growth which produces a better compost for trees.
  • A scoop of manure can be added occasionally for extra nutrients. 
  • Add a few scoops of soil into the compost every so often. Soil contains lots of microbial organisms that can help speed up the composting process. Any beneficial insects like worms or grubs are great to add too. 
  • Adding a thin layer of dry soil on top of freshly added kitchen greens can also prevent bad odours and stop any pesky insects from gaining access to the rotting scraps. 
  • Aerate your compost with a pitchfork or shovel. To aerate your compost pile, you just have to mix the inner and outer layers of the pile. 
  • Alternate between greens and browns

The process of composting requires a balance of moisture, air, and organic material. Below are some recommended actions to properly balance these elements and achieve a successful compost pile.

  1. Alternating ‘Green’ (nitrogen-rich) and ‘Brown’ (carbon-rich) Organic Material
  2. Chop Up Any Larger Scraps
    Large scraps (e.g., corn cobs, pumpkins, etc.) should be chopped into smaller pieces. This allows more surface area for micro-organisms to feed on and speeds up the process.
  3. Stir the Material
    Mix the new material into the existing pile using a compost turner, pitchfork or another garden tool. This also adds oxygen, a key component to successful composting.
  4. Cover with a Handful of Old Leaves, Other Dried Yard Waste, or Soil
    This will add carbon and reduce the chance of odours and fruit flies. Then put the lid back on and let it “cook”.
  5. Make Sure it is Not Too Wet or Dry
    When adding new material, check how wet the pile is. If too wet, mix and add more browns. If too dry, add water and mix. Make sure it stays about as wet as a damp sponge.

What You Can Put in Your Compost

When starting to compost, it is important to know what can and cannot go into your compost bin and what is considered green and brown materials. The balance of green (nitrogen-rich), and brown (carbon-rich) organic waste, makes for the ideal compost pile. An imbalance can lead to wet mushy compost with too strong an odour or very slow composting.

  • Corn stalks
  • Eggshells
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps (peels, cuttings, cores, rinds) 
  • Coffee grounds and tea bags
  • Rice and pasta
  • Pumpkins (remove any candles or decorations first)
  • Shredded newspaper, shredded cardboard
  • Coffee filters
  • Stale bread
  • Paper napkins & towels
  • Dryer lint and hair
  • Plant trimmings, pine needles
  • Flowers
  • Veggies
  • Grass trimmings (small amounts)
  • Hedge trimmings
  • Grass trimmings (dry)
  • Hay, straw
  • Leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Small twigs or chips

No meats, fish and bones, fatty foods (cheese, butter, oils, sauces), and no dog and cat feces. This can go in your green bin.

No diseased or insect-infected plants and no weeds with mature seeds. Most landfill sites in Prince Edward County will accept leaf and yard waste. Invasive species can be bagged in black plastic garbage bags, left in the sun for several days, and taken to the landfill afterwards.  Details on what is accepted at our landfills are presented here

No coloured paper. This can go in the recycling.

No grass treated with herbicides or pesticides. No charcoal or coal ashes. No treated wood.

Common Compost Problems and Solutions

Here is a list of common problems people encounter when composting and some tips on how to fix them.

Mix to aerate; add dry materials to the pile if it is too wet.

Make sure to add equal portions of green and brown materials and keep the compost as moist as a damp sponge; continue to aerate often.

The compost may be lacking nutrients due to a poor balance of greens and browns. Add equal portions of green and brown materials to compost.

Move the composter to a location with proper drainage; add dry leaves or other browns; mix to aerate. Make sure it is only as wet as a damp sponge.

Add more materials and mix all ingredients.

Decomposition will begin again in the spring.

Moisten with water and turn the pile. Make sure it is only as wet as a damp sponge.

Do not add meat, fish, or fatty foods to composter; cover all food scraps with soil or mix in immediately. Keep the lid closed tightly; consider installing chicken wire around the base to deter animals.

When is Compost Ready

When the compost is ready for use it will have no resemblance to its original identity, be crumbly in texture, and be dark brownish-black in colour. Examining the finished compost and removing any materials that have not decomposed completely is important. These can be added back to your compost pile for further composting. Once your compost is ready, some great uses include:

  • Vegetable gardens and flower beds
  • Topdressing lawns
  • Fertilize trees and shrubs
  • Make “compost tea”
  • Planting trees

How to Maintain Your Backyard Composter

Composting Each Season

Spring: Stir well and add some soil to kick-start your compost. Dig out any finished compost from the bottom to use in your lawn or garden.

Summer: Keep your compost bin humming by stirring it frequently and covering fresh material with leaves. If the compost looks dry, add some water.

Autumn: Clean out your compost and empty the finished material into your garden. If possible, save some leaves to add to the compost bin during the rest of the year.

Winter: With the colder temperatures, your compost will decompose more slowly. Continue to add your kitchen waste and let it fill up. Once spring comes it will all decompose rapidly.


With proper care and maintenance, your compost should smell earthy and almost sweet. If you do notice any bad odours, mix your compost well. If it is wet, add some more browns.

The composting process can take as little as two weeks to as much as two years. Much depends on the ratio of greens to browns used, moisture levels, and ambient temperature. 

Generally, composting should take 6 to 7 weeks if you have been adding a proper mix of browns and greens, aerating it often, and keeping it from getting too wet or dry.

The County also sells countertop kitchen catchers ($10) that can be purchased at Edward Building, Suite 103, 280 Picton Main Street. These containers are specially designed to tightly seal and be easy to use. Alternatively, any container that can tightly seal will work.

To keep fruit flies away in the kitchen, have a food scrap container that can be tightly sealed and empty your food scrap container very often. The best way to keep your compost bin fruit fly-free is to add a thin layer of browns or soil after adding any greens to the compost.

On average, you should aerate your compost bin every 1-2 weeks. In rainy/wet weather, you should aerate 1-2 times a week to make sure it stays the same wetness as a damp sponge.

Do not add any meat, bones, animal feces, or fatty foods to your compost. Always close the compost lid when finished adding material. When adding new kitchen waste, dig it into the pile or place a thin layer of soil overtop. You may also dig out the base and add chicken wire if animals are coming through the bottom.

Consider getting a second bin, or utilizing the County’s Green bin program.

You should keep your compost the same wetness as a damp sponge. If there is dry weather, you will have to periodically add water to your compost bin. If it is rainy or wet weather, you may have to add dry leaves, aerate the pile more often, or leave the lid off on sunny days.

The county provides organic pick-up (green bin services) to most residents. Many commercially available indoor composters can used in situations where outdoor composting isn’t possible. 

You may contact our customer service department with any questions or concerns you may have. They will be able to provide answers or refer you to someone who can.