Composting 101

Looking for information on California's new state law, SB 1383? Read our Frequently Asked Questions.

Why Should I Compost?

Yard debris and food scraps can easily be broken down and converted into a valuable soil amendment for your garden. This natural process is called “composting.”
occurs in nature as vegetation falls to the ground and slowly decays. This process provides minerals and nutrients needed by plants. Setting up a composting system in your backyard speeds up this natural process. Organic materials like fruits, vegetables, and yard debris are collected and then decomposed with the help of oxygen, water, and microorganisms.

The resulting material is called “finished compost” or “humus,” an important component of healthy soil. Humus that results from composting adds nutrients to the soil that can increase the health of your plants and help save money ordinarily spent on fertilizers.

Vermicomposting is simply using worms to compost food scraps. The best kind of worms to use is Eisenia Fetida (aka “Red Wigglers”). These worms are incredible eaters of food scraps! They eat half their own weight every day, so even a small bin of red worms will produce several pounds of all-natural, chemical-free fertilizer to mix into potting soil or garden mulch. These worms can be easily obtained by purchasing from local suppliers such as Armstrong Garden Center or McCrawls.

To learn more information about composting, attend a free compost workshop hosted by the City of Long Beach. Classes are available in English and Spanish and discounted composting bins are available for purchase.

Download our guides to vermicomposting and backyard composting at home:

Backyard Composting


Do you want to start composting? Join us at one of our free Learn to Compost workshops, offered both in person and online, or watch one of our previous virtual workshop recordings in English or Spanish

What can I add to my backyard compost bin?

Stirring and lightly watering the content of your compost bin speeds up the compost process. It’s not necessary, but it will yield results sooner if you do. 

DO Backyard Compost:

  • Grass and plant trimmings
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Eggshells
  • Wood chips, sawdust and ashes
  • Straw and hay
  • Shredded paper
  • Manure from herbivores that only eat plants (e.g. horse, rabbit, chickens)

DO NOT Backyard Compost:

  • Meat scraps and bones
  • Dairy products
  • Oily products
  • Plastics or synthetic fibers
  • Diseased vegetation
  • Plants that have been treated with herbicides
  • Palm fronds
  • Charcoal or ashes from treated wood
  • Manure from carnivores (meat-eating animals)

What can I add to my vermicompost (worm) bin?

Keep your vermicompost bin indoors or in a shady spot in your yard. If outdoors, keep it close to a back door to make access more convenient. Check your worms to make sure their home is not too wet or dry. You can add shredded newspaper to help soak up excess moisture. Worms will eventually eat the newspaper too.

DO Vermicompost:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Paper tea bags (remove staples)

DO NOT Vermicompost:

  • Onions, garlic, or acidic fruits
  • Dairy products
  • Oily products
  • Meat or poultry
  • Nutshells
  • Grass and plant trimmings

Composting | Myth vs. Fact

Myth: Compost creates odors and attracts pests.
Fact: Properly building and maintaining compost using organic waste, almost never attracts pests and will smell like a humus-rich forest.
Myth: Compost is unsightly.
Fact: Attractive, low-cost compost enclosures can be built or purchased.
Myth: Composting requires a lot of work.
Fact: Compost is a natural process. Basically, the elements of nature do the work. You can turn the material once a week or once a month. Compost just happens!