Why compost? A lot of what goes into your trash can easily be turned into compost – that rich humus that is so good for your gardens and lawn – thus saving landfill space, costs to transport it to the landfill, and money spent on fertilizers and soil conditioners. Finished compost is dark, crumbly and earthy smelling, and is a great addition to your soil.

What to compost: Vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, pet and human hair, shredded newspaper, lint and floor sweepings, grass clippings, weeds, leaves, twigs and wood chips, and wood ashes.

The Santa Barbara Public Works Department has published an excellent booklet on backyard composting, available here as a PDF file:


Some tips and ideas from Alice Howenstine:

Let’s talk about kitchen food scrap composting, something that is with us each day. First, make a spot on your sink for the compost container. It doesn’t have to be very big, a large coffee can will work. Instead of the snap-on lid that comes with the can, use something like a salad plate to cover it, so that one doesn’t have to use 2 hands to remove the lid before depositing things inside. Scraps from meal preparation and  plate scrapings  go into the container. Meat, bones and fatty foods should be kept out. Once the compost container is full, it can head outside to one of many spots, depending on the time of year.

All year around you can toss the compostable material into your compost bin or pile.  But to save yourself some time, when the ground is able to be dug, you can bury the contents directly into the garden area.  In the late spring, summer and well into the fall. just dig a hole in between rows in the garden or under shrubs, pour in the can of food scraps, burying the contents 6 to 8 inches below the surface.  The composting process takes care of itself from here on.  The microbes and worms in the soil change your scraps into food for the plants and you don’t have to do another thing with it.  The composting process works more quickly when the weather is warm, but even in cool or cold weather, don’t despair, it does work!

You also can  just put all your compostables in a pile behind the garage. Vary the items that you put in.  We usually keep a bag of leaves nearby and toss on a few handfuls occasionally.  Weeds that are  pulled from the vegetable garden can go right onto the pile or into your bin, dirt and all.

People often ask how to deal with coffee grounds.  They are quite versatile.   Grounds can go onto your compost pile or directly onto your garden or under shrubs. Once you become an avid composter you will no longer be using your garbage disposal a great deal.  You can put an occasional batch of coffee grounds into your disposal to help clean out residue but using your garbage disposal adds an unnecessary strain on your septic system or the local sewage treatment plant.

When you locate your composting site, the ground should be your bottom surface.  Preferably put your bin on an area where you have spotted earthworms.  They are great assistants in the composting process .  When you find worms on the sidewalk after a heavy rain, pick them up and put them on the top of the compost.  They’ll say “thanks” and quickly work their way down to start processing the food scraps in their own way.  Many people have worm composting bins to keep in their homes year around.


Vermicomposting is similar to any other composting, except that it uses worms with the help of microbes and bacteria to turn organic waste into a nutrient-rich fertilizer. Composting with worms can be done almost anywhere – even under your kitchen sink. Whether you buy a worm composting kit or make your own, this is an easy way to deal with your kitchen scraps. Click on the links below for information:

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