Backyard composting — an easy way to turn food waste into a natural resource

Green2GreenWe hear about composting a lot but often it seems like a complex task only for experienced gardeners. What really is composting and how can it be more accessible?

Michael Chaney, founder of Project Sweetie Pie, can often be found on the organization’s urban farms throughout North Minneapolis among the youth engaging in community agriculture. Chaney, who understands the role of composting within urban farming, says Project Sweetie Pie is exploring and learning more about increasing composting within their urban farms. Composting can close the gardening loop by creating usable, nutrient-rich soil to grow food. Once you get started, composting is easy, economical and great for the environment!

Organic waste — like food scraps and yard trimmings — make up about 16 to 30 percent of waste produced by the average household in Minnesota. Our state has huge potential for reducing organic waste and enhancing urban farms through composting.

Composting converts kitchen or yard waste into a nutrient-rich mulch or soil amendment with many benefits. The process decomposes organic matter, like food, into usable soil amendments that can reduce waste and help improve soil. Compost can help improve plant growth, increase moisture capacity, improve drainage, reduce erosion and much more.


Backyard composting tips:

Organic material such as fruit and vegetable peelings, grass clippings and leaves can be composted in your backyard, but certain materials, like meat and dairy can’t be. A more detailed list of items for backyard composting can be found at

Four basic ingredients create good compost: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and moisture. It is best to aim for a 3-to-1 ratio between carbon, or “brown” materials (leaves and twigs) and nitrogen, or “green” materials (fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grounds and grass clippings).

Where do you put all your compost? Hennepin County sells backyard compost bins at the Brooklyn Park Drop-off Facility for $45. You can also pre-order online and pick up a compost bin at a distribution event, such as Metro Bloom’s event on September 12. You can put the compost bin in your backyard, or you can go in with a neighbor or friend to compost together!

Each city has different backyard composting ordinances so make sure to check with your city recycling coordinator about specific regulations.

You can learn more about composting from experts at upcoming events in the Twin Cities:

• Open Streets: Franklin Ave. E. (hosted by Hope Community), Sunday, August 17, compost bin pick up: 10 am – noon, E. Franklin Avenue and Park Avenue South, Minneapolis

• Cedar Isles Dean Plant Distribution (hosted by Metro Blooms), Friday, September 12, 4-6 pm, Chowen Triangle, W 28th and Chowen Avenue, Minneapolis

• Como Cookout (hosted by Southeast Como Improvement Association), Sunday, September 21, 2-4 pm, Van Cleve Park, 901 15th Avenue SE, Minneapolis


Once you have a compost bin, follow these easy steps:

1. Build or buy a compost bin and put it in either a sunny or shady location.

2. Add appropriate food scraps and/or yard waste.

3. Add a little water.

4. Use a shovel or garden fork to mix the pile about once a week.

It should take about 2-4 months for a compost pile to be ready to use. The finished compost pile will be half of its original size and look dark and crumbly.

Composting is fun, environmentally-friendly and easy once you get started. Take a step in reducing your waste with backyard composting. Learn more about composting tips and Hennepin County’s composting resources at


This information was provided by Hennepin County Environmental Services.