The University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension Home Horticulture:
Environmentally Responsible
Gardening & Landscaping in the Low Desert

Back Yard Composting in the Home Garden
in the Low Desert

Vine Rule

Backyard composting can be as simple as a worm bin on your patio or as complex as an eight bin turning system with myriads of different bins and piles in between. Composting only works when you choose the system that will work for you. The first and foremost thing to consider is the time that you have and the materials that you have on hand or or willing to go out in search of and bring back to utilize in your composting system. Lets face it most of us do not have much time these days to devote to new endeavors. Once you get a system for composting in place though it will not take much to keep it going and the benefits will simply amaze you.

One of the least expensive composting bins are recycled trash containers that you can get through the Solid Waste Division of most local cities. Gardening catalogs will have at least one and often times several types of composting bins for sale. You can also choose to make one out of wooden pallets or of chicken wire and stakes, or simply have a free standing pile.

Once you choose the bin for your composting system it is a simple matter of adding one part green material (nitrogen) such as kitchen waste, cut winter rye grass, manure (not dog or cat), or fresh garden weeds or other fresh garden residue to three parts brown material (carbon) such as leaves, straw, chipped or shredded branches, wood shavings. Both types of material should be as small pieces as possible and mixed thoroughly. You need to add enough water so that when you take a handful of this mixed material you will get a few drops of water when you squeeze. The smaller the pieces and the more often you turn the pile (not more than 3 times a week) the faster you will have finished compost.

Some benefits of compost are

  • water holding capacity of the soil is improved
  • disease resistance of plants is improved
  • insect resistance of plants is improved
  • neutralizes toxins in the soil
  • builds soil structure
  • helps to build a living soil
In our desire to have neat looking lawns and gardens we have taken the breakdown cycle out of the cycle of life. This is how forests and prairie lands became so rich. All the plant material produced by these systems was returned back to that system. We can start to build fantastic soils full of life by completing the cycle of life in our backyards by composting all the organic material from our yards and our kitchens and our gardens.

If you wish to learn more about the Art of Composting the Maricopa County Cooperative Extension and the Organic Product Committee of the Arizona Recycling Association hold an annual Master Composter Class. Please call the Extension Office (602) 470-8086 for details.

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Back Yard Composting in the Home Garden in the Low Desert University of Arizona Logo

visitors since March 6, 1999
Last Updated March 6, 1999
© 1998 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension, in Maricopa County
Author: Annette Weaver, Master Gardener Maricopa County Cooperative Extension
Comments to Lucy Bradley, 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040, (602) 470-8086 ext. 323