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Home Backyard Composting Techniques

The following techniques and tips will help avoid problems and
speed up the composting process.

Chop materials: If you want them to breakdown more quickly. The more you chop, the faster the decomposition process will be.

Mix, turn or layer: Brown and green materials to avoid compaction and provide oxygen to the pile.  A good rule of thumb for a healthy carbon to       nitrogen balance is 50% to 70% green material to 50% to 30%  brown materials, per volume. 

Activate: Your pile by alternating layers of finished compost, soil, or manure, between  brown and green layers to inoculate your pile with beneficial microbes.   

Maintain: The air & water balance by keeping compost as moist as a wrung-out sponge, and aerate pile by turning or creating air shafts.  As pile composts, it will shrink to half its original size or less.

Food Wastes: Should be covered up with dry materials, such as leaves, dirt, or sawdust to avoid attracting rodents and fruit flies. Worm bins  and Home-made Food Scrap Composters are ideal for composting food waste only.

Harvesting: Your compost can be done a couple ways:

1) Move your bin structure next to where it lies now.  Move uncomposted materials back into bin and harvest finished compost.  Sift or pick out any bigger unfinished pieces and put back in pile. 

2) If your bin has a harvesting door, scoop out from the bottom.  Sift if desired.

Underground: This type of composting is another form of composting that requires burying kitchen and yard wastes in a 6 inch layer, a foot underground.  Allow a season for decomposition then plant, no harvesting necessary! Download publication Burying Food Scraps to learn more about underground composting.

Hot Composting Add-As-You-Go Composting

For finished compost in 1-3 months

Hot composting works well when you have enough brown and green materials ready to build a pile that is at least 3’tall x 3’wide x 3’deep

Hot composting requires turning of the pile every 7-10 days, or when temperature drops below
100 F. To kill most weed seeds and pathogens, the compost must remain at 131 degrees F for 15 days.

For finished compost in 3-8 months

Slow composting works for people who:

1) Lack the ingredients to make a full pile. 

2) Lack the time or ability to turn the compost pile frequently

Simply build the pile by alternating green and brown materials as they become available!

Remember, the more work you put into your pile the faster you will get finished compost.  Don't worry, no matter how much or how little effort you put in, nature will do its work - Compost Happens!


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Buena Vista Location

1231 Buena Vista Drive
Watsonville, CA

(831) 454-2430 or
(831) 454-5154

Santa Cruz County Landfill
Open Monday - Saturday
7:30 am to 3:30 pm

BV Household
Hazardous Waste
Open every Wednesday,
Friday and Saturday
7:30 am to 3:30 pm

Ben Lomond Location 

(1 Mile North of Glen Arbor Rd)
9835 Newell Creek Road
Ben Lomond, CA

(831) 454-2430 or
(831) 336-3951

Santa Cruz County
Transfer Station
Open Monday - Saturday
7:30 am to 3:30 pm

BL HHW Facility
Open every Thursday
7:30 am to 3:30 pm

Other Household Hazardous Waste 

City of Santa Cruz Resource Recovery Facility
Open every Saturday
7:30 am to 3:30 pm.

(3 miles north of Santa Cruz city limits off Hwy 1)
605 Dimeo Lane
Santa Cruz, CA

(831) 420-6270

Santa Cruz County
Solid Waste & Recycling
Main Office

701 Ocean Street, Room 410
Santa Cruz, California 95060
(831) 454-2160

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