Compost Materials - What to Compost
And, What Not to Compost
More and more gardeners and homeowners are composting. The resurgence of
composting, is the result of four things:
The growing "go green" effort. More people are environmentally conscious.
Composting keeps valuable resources, like compostable kitchen scraps, out
of the waste stream.
Save, and even to make $$$. Composting reduces or eliminates the need
to buy fertilizers. Some people are even selling the compost they produce!
Are you concerned about the quality and safety of the food you eat? Composting
is great for organic gardening. Gardeners know the healthy value of clean,
And, so you ask......... "What can I compost?" Listed below, are items you
can put into your composter or garden compost pile. You just might be surprised
at what qualifies for organic composting.
The Right Mix
To turn kitchen scraps and other materials into compost, your composting
project needs the proper mixture of "Browns" (also called Carbons), and
"Greens" (items containing Nitrogen). Greens containing nitrogen, get the
decomposition process started, and keeps it going.
Use a Nitrogen to Carbon ratio of 4 to 1. In other words, use 4 parts of
green materials to every one part of brown materials. In order for the compost
to decompose at a reasonable rate, there should be between 60% to 80% green
materials. A higher amount of green materials can result in a gooey,
messy, ammonia smelling pile. Too little nitrogen, and the compost
will not decompose, or will do so ever so slowly.
Tip: The more types of materials that you put into your compost mix,
the wider the range of essential plant micro-nutrients in the finished
Now that you understand the importance of the right mix, lets see what items
are "Greens", and what are "Browns".
Brown Materials (Carbon):
Branches and twigs, chop finely for quicker decomposition
Dead, dried up weeds
Newspaper (black and white, no colored paper or colored inks)
Shells from clams, lobsters, oysters, etc. Rinse and finely crush first,
it's rich in calcium.
Straw or hay
Wood/fireplace ash - lots of potash, alkaline pH
Wood chips and wood shavings
Old mulch - wood, cocoa shells, pine bark
Pine cones and needles - in small amounts, as they are acidic
Peanut shells - they break down slowly.
Tip: Shred materials before putting them into your composter. This
creates more surface area for bacteria to do its job, and increases the rate
Green Materials (Nitrogen):
Coffee grounds (it's okay to toss in the paper filter)
Egg shells, they have plenty of calcium
Grass clippings, very high in nitrogen
Kitchen fruit scraps
Banana peels, orange peels
Pasta and sauce (not the meatballs)
Kitchen vegetable scraps
Leftover pizza - remove the pepperoni and sausage
Manures (not pet or human) in small amounts
Seaweed(wash off salt, if taken from the ocean)
Weeds, recently pulled and still green
What Else to Compost:
Hair trimming, yes human hair
Paper plates and napkins - white
Brown paper bags
Paper Towels, but not if used to wipe chemicals,oil, grease, etc..
Paper towel and toilet paper cardboard inner spools.
Cardboard core of rolls of wrapping paper
Vegetable oil- in small amounts
White, 100% cotton t-shirts (no colors, no synthetic materials)
Wax paper- if the wax
Stale bread, or feed the birds with it
Corks from wine bottles - will decompose very, very slowly.
Note: Fireplace ash does not need to be composted. It is already broken
down. However, many people mix a little fireplace ash into raw or finished
compost. The emphasis is on "a little".
What Not to Compost:
Knowing what "not to compost" is as important as knowing what to compost.
Avoid weeds with lots of seeds
Bones, unless finely crushed first.
Dairy products, except in very limited quantity
Poisonous plants like Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, or Poison Sumac.
Treated wood, contains toxins you do not want in you vegetable garden.
Walnut trees, any parts of this tree. It contains "jugoline", toxic to plants.
Colored print material/inks - They can contain toxic chemicals.
Plastics - Do not toss in plastic bags, saran wrap etc. into the
Cooking fats, except small amounts of vegetable oil.
Did You Know? Depending upon what you put into your composter, finished
compost may not be pH neutral. Test the soil from time to time. See:
Compost pH and More
on pH levels
on Composting - more about the composting process.
Mushroom Compost - guess what it is made
Compost Honey Hole
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