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Let’s Start Composting: A Guide on What to Compost

Updated on November 5, 2017

Why Compost?

Is your soil too sandy or does it have too much clay? Compost fixes that. Are your plants always sick? Compost can help with that. Looking for a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers? Yep, compost again. Looking to save money? Well, by composting, you can reduce the amount of kitchen trash by 30%, meaning a smaller trash bill. Lastly, looking for a way to help with global warming? Composting helps trap carbon from organic material in the soil and feeds plants that help scrub greenhouse gasses out of the air.

What Can We Compost?

Everything that we can compost falls into one of three categories. It is either green/nitrogen, brown/carbon, or neither.

Green/Nitrogen

Material
Note
Table Scraps
Nothing with fats, oils, or meats in it.
Fruit and Vegetable Scraps
 
Grass clippings
 
Lawn and Garden Weeds
None that have gone to seed.
Green Leaves
 
Flowers
 
Seaweed and Kelp
Add lots of micronutrients to the compost
Chicken Manure
 
Coffee Grounds
If you are using paper filters they can go in also
Tea leaves
The bag and all can go in

Brown/Carbon

Material
Note
Dry leaves
 
Sawdust
Spread out in thin layers to keep it from clumping
Wood chips
 
Shrub prunings
 
Straw and Hay
 
Pine and Redwood needles
These are very acidic so don’t add to much
Wood ash
Spread thin and only use ash that does not have chemicals in it
Newspaper
Nothing that is high gloss
Shredded Paper
Nothing that is high gloss
Cardboard
Nothing high glossed or waxed
Corn cobs, stalks and husks
 
Dryer lint
Only from all natural fiber cloths

Other

Material
Note
Egg Shells
 
Garden Soil
 
 
 

Why Do We Care If It Is Green Or Brown?

So the ideal ratio of carbon to nitrogen for composition is 30:1. Here is the problem everything that you put into the compost has some of both carbon and nitrogen. So it is next to impossible to get a perfect ratio at home, but a 2 parts brown to 1 part green gets us darn close. So what I do is for every container of green I add I put in 2 of brown.

What Should We Not Put In The Compost?

Avoid putting in: meat, bones, fish, perennial weeds, diseased plants, pet manures, walnuts and walnut leaves, dairy, oils, grease, oleander leaves, and glossy paper.

Things You Did Not Know Could Go In The Compost

Stale and/or moldy bread, crackers, and cereal, wine, beer, liquor, jam, jelly, fruit preserves, latex (balloons, gloves, condoms), hair/nail clippings, feathers and fur from pets, natural fiber ropes and cloth, 100% cotton balls and swabs, natural cork from wine bottles, matches, toothpicks, bamboo skewers, paper plates, dry pet food, hamster bedding, white glue (Elmer’s), sea sponges, and urine.

We Have All This Stuff To Compost. What Now?

There are a couple of options what to do with your compost materials. The first option is to buy a composter, the second option is to make one. There are tons of different options online, way too many to list here. The important thing is to get something to put this all in. Failing that you can always just throw it in a pile.

I Got A Composter. Now What?

OK we have a composter now for the easy part. I recommend layering brown then green and back and forth tell it is full. Most of us can’t do this in one shot. So what I do is keep a bag of shredded paper and a pile of leaves next to my composter. Everyday when I put my kitchen waste in the composter I add about twice as much paper or leaves. This keeps my ratio good and makes life easy for me. Now keep turning your compost and it will turn from a bunch of food and plant scraps to a dark earthy smelling soil. Yes it is that easy to start composting.’

© 2017 Quincey Castle

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