Organic material makes up about 58 percent of what Denver residents send to the landfill every year. These items can be composted, which is the controlled decomposition of organic materials by microorganisms. This process results in compost, a crumbly, earthy-smelling, nutrient-rich, soil-like material.
If your neighborhood isn't part of Denver Composts, or if you'd like to be able to use your own compost in garden and landscape projects, consider backyard composting! Home composting can be as simple as buying a bin and tending it weekly. See the resource guides below to find the method that works best for you.
Compost contains both carbon and nitrogen sources, which can be simplified as browns for carbon (e.g., leaves, straw, woody materials) and greens for nitrogen (e.g., grass and food scraps). Adequate sources of carbon and nitrogen are important for microorganism growth and energy.
Organic materials are broken down through the activities and appetites of various invertebrates that will naturally appear in compost, such as mites, millipedes, beetles, sowbugs, earwigs, earthworms, slugs, and snails. These microorganisms need adequate moisture and oxygen to degrade the organic materials in the most efficient manner.
Microbes in the pile create considerable heat and essentially "cook" the compost. Temperatures between 90 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit are common in properly maintained compost piles, but may not reach these levels in backyard compost piles. These high temperatures are necessary for rapid composting as well as for destroying weed seeds, insect larvae, and potentially harmful bacteria. When the compost is finished, it has a crumbly texture throughout the pile.
Vermicomposting is a method of composting that uses a container of food scraps and a special kind of earthworm known as a red wiggler. Over time, the food is replaced with worm droppings, a rich brown matter that serves as an excellent natural plant food. See the Worm Composting information below for more about what to feed worms and a list of worm vendors.
If you supply the proper conditions (volume, surface area, moisture, air and variety of materials), you should have little difficulty maintaining your compost system. Occasionally, though, problems occur in any biological system. They usually can be dealt with fairly easily by following these tips:
Compost is ready to use when it is dark and crumbly. You should not be able to recognize most of the materials, and it should smell like a damp forest floor.
Worm composting (or Vermicomposting) recruits red wiggler worms to convert our non-meat food scraps into nutrient-rich compost that can be used to improve the health of our yards, gardens and houseplants. See detailed information on How to start composting with worms (PDF).
The information below is provided as a service to our residents. This listing of vendors does not imply an endorsement or approval by Denver Recycles or the City and County of Denver. All businesses listed are responsible for complying with all applicable local, state and federal laws.
In general, Red Wiggler Worms will consume fruits and vegetable scraps as well as the items in the list below.
The greater the variety of material used, the better the casting (compost) will be.
A composting bin is a great way to control and accelerate your backyard composting efforts. You can build your own or buy a pre-made composting bin.
There are many resources online to help you build several different types of backyard composting bins.
The information above is provided as a service to our residents. This listing of vendors does not imply an endorsement or approval by Denver Recycles or the City and County of Denver. All businesses listed are responsible for complying with all applicable local, state and federal laws