What Can Be Composted (A Quick Guide)

For any gardener, composting can be the holy grail of fertilizer. It isn’t the mere fact that it is free, it also ensures we are doing our part and recycling as much as possible from the home to help the environment.

Composting though can be daunting for beginners as it isn’t only putting things in a large pile and waiting for them to decay, it can be more in-depth.

This being said, with some guidance composting is straightforward and can be done almost anywhere once you know what not to put in compost.

composting guide

What is Composting?

Composting is waste disposal but in a natural way. Organic waste decomposes using oxygen-rich conditions.

Once all this decay has occurred, you are left with what is called humus and is packed full of nutrients. When growing a veg garden, this is a fantastic way of improving the plant and harvest quality.

How to Start My Compost

One of the easiest ways is to get a large bin and place it in the garden, and as an addition, you should have a smaller one inside where you can put things from your list of compostable items.

Your compost should be created on bare earth. Once you have this area set-up, you lay down some straw and begin adding your compost materials.

These should alternate between moist items like grass, cuttings or vegetable leaves with dry items like hay and paper (not printed magazine paper). You can also add manure which helps increase composting times and bacteria production.

Every now and again your compost will require watering, and this should be done carefully. Too much water and it can become waterlogged and slimy (smelly), or too little and it will become dry, and bacteria will perish.

As this is governed by what you add, water needs to be added depending on the contents. The more green (grass or veggie leaves), the less water, and dry items, you can soak in water before adding them. With this, you need to cover your compost because if it rains, it will become too wet.

Once you are on your way, you can turn the compost with a garden fork to let oxygen to flow around the inside.

What Can I compost?

When you ask what can I compost? There is a list as long as your arm. To make things easier items can be broken items to compostdown into 3 sections

  • What to compost – green items
  • What to compost – brown items
  • What you should never compost – red items

As well as this your compost should be built up of 1/3 nitrogen based items and then 2/3 of carbon-based items.

This works because there is typically air around the brown items and oxygen can flow. If your compost heap contains too much nitrogen, this is what makes it smell.

If you have the right quantities, you won’t notice any smell as the carbon items is masking the smell.

How to Stop Smells

On occasion, a compost heap can smell, but the remedy is simple.

Smell TypeSolution
Smells like rotten eggs and is slimyAdd dry brown materials
Smells like Ammonia or sewageAdd carbon items
Sell like rotten eggsMix your compost pile

Most of the time compost should smell any different to the surrounding earth (unless it contains manure). Too many nitrogen-based materials are the reason for this, the compost becomes too wet, and it hasn’t had enough mixing.

What to Compost

Here are a vast number of things you can compost which are safe and will provide plenty of nutrients for your veggies and flowers.

Green Items

These are Nitrogen based and can heat a compost pile due to microorganisms which multiply quickly.Green Items to compost

  • Feathers
  • Seaweeds
  • Coffee grounds
  • Leaves and plants
  • Animal hair
  • Cut grass clippings
  • Herbivore manure
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps

Are Coffee filters compostable? Both coffee filters and paper towels might have been treated with synthetic chemicals and also bleached.

On the other hand, when they are damp, they compost quickly. If you don’t have too many and bury them well, there shouldn’t be a problem as worms like them for some reason.

Brown Items

These items are carbon or carbohydrate materials what to put in compost. They are generally food sources, but there are a couple of exceptions which will be mentioned later.

Brown Items to compost

  • Small wood chippings and wood ash
  • Dry leaves
  • Straw and Dried grass
  • 100% cotton fabric
  • Corn Cobs
  • Nutshells and Eggshells
  • Potting soil
  • Dryer Lint
  • Cardboard, toilet tissue rolls, paper grocery bags, and newspapers

Items to Avoid in Compost

There are many items around the home, but some are better left out. There are a couple which you might find surprising in this section.

  • Plastics and plastic lined cartons
  • Dairy products
  • Sawdust
  • Printed paper (shiny magazine type)
  • Coal or charcoal
  • Plants which are diseased
  • Walnuts
  • Meat products
  • Diapers
  • Toxic items

There are many more items on all of these lists, but you should have a general idea, and it is easy to find the answer to any item you are unsure of.

Here are the tricky ones previously mentioned.

Can you compost bread? No is the simple answer. This is the same for cakes, pasta, and all baked goods, and is for one reason. They attract pests. Leave these in the trash.

Another one which catches people out is very similar. Can you compost rice? There are two reasons to leave rice out of your compost bin.

Cooked rice can breed bacteria which is dangerous and will harm your compost heap. Uncooked rice attracts insects and rodents as above.

Fruit compost items are the final tricky one. Generally speaking, fruit scraps are fine, but many have been treated with pesticides which could harm your compost heap.

As well as this, they also attract insects, rodents, and other pests. This doesn’t mean you can’t add fruit to your compost, you just need to be wary. Any fruits should be washed before consumption, and large items should be cut into smaller pieces.

One last thing to remember is, lots of fruit can contain lots of water, check moisture levels of your compost heap if you add fruit, and also make sure you bury those scraps well.

What Can Be Composted - A Quick Guide

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