Composting Made Easy

Learn how to make compost quickly and correctly


What can be composted?
You can compost almost any organic matter. The key is to keep the carbon / nitrogen ratio in check. You may have also heard this referred to as browns to greens. Ideally it should be 4 parts carbon (browns) to 1 part nitrogen (greens). This will help your pile reach optimum temperature and speed up decomposition.

Following is a chart of what is considered carbon and what is considered nitrogen.

Carbon (Browns)

Branches, shredded
Cardboard, shredded
Corn Cobs or Stalks
Leaves
Newspaper, shredded
Paper Napkins
Peanut shells
Peat Moss
Pine needles
Plant Stems, small twigs
Sawdust (no treated/painted/stained wood)
Straw
Tree Bark
Wood Ashes (do not burn treated wood)
Wood chips

Nitrogen (Green)

Alfalfa
Algae
Clover
Coffee Grounds
Egg Shells, crushed
Fruit Scraps
Garden Waste
Grass Clippings
Hay
Hedge Clippings, shredded
Manure, chicken, horse, cow, or rabbit
Seaweed
Tea Bags
Vegetable Scraps
Weeds, that have not gone to seed

Here are a few more items (some a little unusual) that can also be composted: pet hair, human hair, old spices and herbs that have lost their flavor, moldy bread, used potting soil, tissues, wilted flowers, hamster, rabbit and chicken droppings, fingernail and toenail clippings, crab and shrimp shells (uncooked or cooked without oil), paper bags, vacuum cleaner bag contents (minus the occasional army man or marble), dryer lint (from cotton fabrics only), stale beer, and urine.

What to avoid in your compost.
You should avoid things like meat and dairy since it will make your compost stink and attract wild animals, not to mention it could harbor harmful bacteria. You should also avoid animal waste from cats and dogs and any waste from meat eating animals. Avoid coal ash, plastics, metals, and yard waste that have been treated with synthetic chemicals. You should also avoid colored paper as the inks can be toxic. Check with your local newspaper to see if they have switched to soy based inks. If not, then just stick to the black and white sections, avoiding the slick ads as well.

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