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What Compost Materials to Use

It is important to spend a few minutes learning how to compost, and what compost materials you can put into your compost bin. Sure, nature will compost for you....over time. But, it's pretty easy to use the proper technique, for fast and efficient composting. There are two keys:

1. Knowing what to compost , and in what mixture.

2. Turning and mixing the pile regularly.

The Right Mix

To turn kitchen scraps and other materials into compost, you need the proper mixture of "Browns" (also called Carbons), and "Greens" (items containing Nitrogen). Greens containing nitrogen, get the composition process started, and keeps it going.

As a rule of thumb 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 no less than 60% green materials. A higher amount of green materials can result in a gooey, 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 that will be in the finished product. 

Now that you know 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

  • Dead flowers

  • Dead leaves

  • Newspaper (black and white, no colored paper or inks)

  • Sawdust

  • Shells from clams, oysters, etc. Rinse and finely crush first, has lots of calcium.

  • Straw or hay

  • Wood/fireplace ash - lots of potash, alkaline pH

  • Wood shavings

Tip: Shredding materials first, creates more surface area and increase the rate of decomposition.

Green Materials (Nitrogen):
  • Coffee grounds (it's okay to toss in the paper filter)

  • Egg shells, it has plenty of calcium

  • Grass clippings, very high in nitrogen

  • Kitchen fruit scraps

  • Kitchen vegetable scraps

  • Manures (not pet or human)

  • Seaweed(wash off salt, if taken from the ocean)

  • Weeds, recently pulled and still green

What Else to Compost:
  • Brown cardboard

  • Hair trimmings, yes human hair

  • Paper Towels, but not if used to wipe chemicals,oil, grease, etc..

  • Paper towel and toilet paper cardboard holders.

What Not to Compost:

Perhaps knowing what "not to compost" as as important as knowing what to compost.  

  • Avoid weeds with lots of seeds

  • Bones, unless finely crushed first.

  • Dairy products

  • Dead animals

  • Fish

  • Meats

  • 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.

More Information:

More on Composting

What to Compost

Buy Composters - compost tumblers and compost bins

Buy Garden Seeds Hundreds of varieties of top quality, brand name seeds for less.

For more on composting, see Composting and Mulch at The Gardener's Network.

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