Are you tired of throwing away your kitchen scraps and yard waste? Don’t toss them out just yet! Did you know that you can compost them to create nutrient-rich soil for your garden? That’s right, it’s time to start your own compost pile and turn your trash into treasure. But what exactly can be composted? In short, any organic material can be composted, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Keep reading to learn more about what can and can’t be composted and how to create a healthy compost pile that will have your garden thriving in no time.
After you read about composting head over and look at our reviews of the Top 5 Compost Bins.
What is Composting?
Composting is the process of breaking down organic matter into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. This process occurs naturally in forests and other ecosystems, but it can also be done intentionally in a home garden or compost bin.
There are many benefits to composting, both for the environment and for gardeners. One of the primary benefits is that it reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills. Organic waste makes up a significant portion of the waste stream, and when it decomposes in landfills, it releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Composting organic waste instead of sending it to a landfill can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help mitigate climate change.
Composting also helps to improve soil health. The composted material is rich in nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are essential for plant growth. When added to soil, compost can help to improve soil structure, water-holding capacity, and drainage. It can also help to suppress plant diseases and pests and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers.
Composting can also save gardeners money. By creating their own compost, gardeners can reduce their reliance on expensive synthetic fertilizers and soil amendments. Compost can also help to reduce water usage by improving soil structure and water-holding capacity, which means less watering is required.
To start composting, gardeners should collect organic waste materials such as fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and eggshells. Brown materials, such as dry leaves, straw, and shredded paper, should also be added to the compost pile to provide carbon. Green materials, such as grass clippings and fresh leaves, provide nitrogen. It is important to maintain a balance of both brown and green materials to ensure that the compost pile breaks down properly.
The compost pile should be turned regularly to allow air to circulate and to ensure that the materials break down evenly. The compost pile should also be kept moist, but not too wet, to encourage decomposition.
What Can Be Composted?
We are all aware that you can add kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and leaves to the compost heap to create compost to add back into your garden. But did you know there are a lot of other things that are organic that you might not have thought of that can be composted?
Types of Organic Matter
When it comes to composting, there are two main types of organic matter: brown materials and green materials.
Brown materials are high in carbon and are typically dry and woody. They include items such as dry leaves, straw, shredded newspaper, sawdust, and wood chips. Brown materials help to provide structure and balance to the compost pile, as well as adding carbon, which is essential for healthy decomposition.
Green materials are high in nitrogen and are typically moist and fresh. They include items such as grass clippings, vegetable scraps, fruit peels, coffee grounds, and fresh leaves. Green materials help to add moisture and nutrients to the compost pile, as well as provide nitrogen, which is essential for healthy plant growth.
To create a healthy compost pile, it is important to maintain a balance of both brown and green materials. A good rule of thumb is to use a 3:1 ratio of brown to green materials. This will help to create a compost pile that is well-balanced and breaks down evenly.
List of What Can Be Composted
Below is a sample of other things you can add to your list of what can be composted:
- Coffee grounds and coffee filters– Instead of throwing away your coffee grounds, put them in the compost pile. Coffee grounds are great for attracting earthworms, which help in the composting process. Natural coffee filters also will break down and can be added to the compost pile. Place them in a bowl or bucket and toss them in with the other compost scraps.
- Tea bags– You can do the same thing with your used tea bags. You can just throw them on the compost heap with the paper tag attached. The paper breaks down too.
- Paper Bags– Speaking of paper, did you know that the paper bags some grocery stores still use make great compost? You need to tear them into shreds before placing them on the pile. You can also use them as mulch during the growing season, and then shred them after the season is over. You can do the same thing with old newspapers.
- Other Paper Goods– While we are on the subject of
paper, you should know that paper napkins, paper towels, and non-waxed paper plates can all be composted. Just tear them into small pieces and mix them into the pile.
- Shredded Paper– Many people shred their sensitive documents to prevent personal information from getting into the wrong hands. If you have a shredder at home you can simply put the paper in the compost pile instead of in the trash. This also helps to keep this type of waste out of our landfills.
- Plain Cooked Pasta– If you cook too much pasta, and you haven’t added sauce to it, you can add it to the compost heap too. The pasta will break down in the compost heap.
- Stale Bread– If your bread gets stale or moldy, instead of throwing it out just break it up into smaller pieces and compost it too.
- Other Stale Items– Just like bread, crackers, cereal, pretzels, and even pizza crust can be composted.
- Shells From Nuts– If you are shelling peanuts, pecans, or other nuts crush the shells and add them to the compost heap. They provide additional nutrients your plants will love. Avoid placing walnut shells though, as they are toxic to plants.
- Cotton Items– Since cotton is a natural organic substance cotton
itemswill break down and compost as well. Think cotton balls, cotton clothing, and dryer lint. Just make sure the items are 100% cotton. Buttons and other items should be removed from clothing and the items cut up into small pieces before you place them in the pile.
- Natural loofah sponges– are organic material and can be composted.
Make sure and consider these things when you are looking at what can be composted to improve your soil. You will be helping your soil and vegetable garden, and you’ll be rewarded with a bountiful harvest.
Materials that should NOT be Composted
While composting is a great way to reduce waste and improve soil health, not all materials are suitable for composting. Certain materials should be avoided, as they can attract pests, create odors, and introduce harmful pathogens to the compost pile.
Here are some materials that should not be composted:
- Meat and dairy products – These items can attract pests and create unpleasant odors. They also take longer to break down and can slow the composting process.
- Oils and fats – Oils and fats can also attract pests and create unpleasant odors. They can also make the compost pile too wet and slow down the decomposition process.
- Pet waste – Pet waste can contain harmful pathogens that can be harmful to humans and animals. It is best to avoid composting pet waste, especially if you plan to use the compost in a vegetable garden.
- Diseased plants – Plants that are diseased or infested with pests should not be composted, as they can introduce harmful pathogens to the compost pile.
- Inorganic materials – Inorganic materials, such as plastics, metals, and glass, should never be composted. These materials will not break down and can contaminate the compost pile.
By avoiding these materials and only composting organic matter that is suitable for composting, you can create a healthy and thriving compost pile that will provide your garden with the nutrients it needs to flourish.
Tips For Successful Composting
Use a balance of brown and green materials
As mentioned earlier, it is important to use a balance of brown and green materials in your compost pile. A good rule of thumb is to use a 3:1 ratio of brown to green materials.
Using a balance of brown and green materials in composting is essential for creating healthy and nutrient-rich soil. Here’s why:
Brown materials, such as dried leaves, straw, and twigs, are high in carbon and provide the energy source for the microorganisms that break down the organic matter in the compost pile. Brown materials also help to create air pockets in the compost pile, which allows for proper aeration and drainage.
Green materials, such as grass clippings, food scraps, and fresh garden waste, are high in nitrogen and provide a protein source for the microorganisms. Green materials also add moisture to the compost pile, which helps to keep it from drying out.
Using a balance of brown and green materials ensures that the compost pile has the proper ratio of carbon to nitrogen, which is essential for efficient decomposition. A 3:1 ratio of brown to green materials is a good rule of thumb, but the exact ratio may vary depending on the materials used.
If you use too many brown materials, the compost pile will break down slowly and may not generate enough heat to kill off weed seeds and pathogens. If you use too many green materials, the compost pile may become too wet and produce unpleasant odors.
By using a balance of brown and green materials in your compost pile, you can create a healthy and nutrient-rich soil amendment that will provide your garden with the essential nutrients it needs to thrive.
Chop or shred materials
Chopping or shredding materials before adding them to your compost pile can greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the composting process. Here’s why:
Firstly, chopping or shredding materials into smaller pieces increases their surface area, which allows for more efficient decomposition. The microorganisms responsible for breaking down organic matter in the compost pile have easier access to smaller pieces of material, which means they can break them down faster.
Secondly, smaller pieces of material will break down more evenly, which helps to prevent the compost pile from becoming compacted and creating anaerobic (oxygen-deprived) conditions. Anaerobic conditions can lead to unpleasant odors, slow decomposition, and the production of harmful byproducts.
Thirdly, chopping or shredding materials can help to balance the ratio of brown to green materials in the compost pile. Brown materials such as leaves and branches are typically added in larger pieces, whereas green materials such as vegetable scraps and grass clippings are smaller. By chopping or shredding the brown materials, you can create smaller pieces that will better balance the ratio of carbon to nitrogen in the compost pile.
Finally, chopping or shredding materials can help to save space in your compost pile. Smaller pieces of material will take up less space than larger pieces, which means you can fit more material into your compost pile and create more compost overall.
Keep the compost pile moist
Keeping your compost pile moist is essential for creating a healthy and productive compost pile. Here’s why:
Firstly, moisture is required for the microorganisms responsible for breaking down organic matter in the compost pile to survive and thrive. Without adequate moisture, the microorganisms will become dormant and the decomposition process will slow down or stop altogether.
Secondly, moisture helps to regulate the temperature of the compost pile. The microorganisms generate heat as they break down organic matter, and moisture helps to distribute that heat evenly throughout the compost pile. Without enough moisture, the compost pile may become too hot or too cold, which can slow down the decomposition process or even kill off the microorganisms.
Thirdly, moisture helps to prevent the compost pile from drying out and becoming too compacted. A dry compost pile will not break down as quickly and may create anaerobic conditions, which can lead to unpleasant odors and harmful byproducts. Compacted compost can also limit the amount of oxygen that reaches the microorganisms, which can slow down the decomposition process.
Finally, keeping your compost pile moist can help to attract earthworms and other beneficial organisms that help to break down organic matter and create nutrient-rich soil.
Turn the pile regularly
Turning your compost pile regularly is an important step in creating a healthy and productive compost pile. Here’s why:
Firstly, turning your compost pile helps to aerate the pile and provide oxygen to the microorganisms responsible for breaking down the organic matter. Without enough oxygen, the microorganisms will become anaerobic and produce unpleasant odors and harmful byproducts.
Secondly, turning your compost pile helps to distribute moisture and temperature evenly throughout the pile. As the microorganisms break down the organic matter, they generate heat, which can cause some areas of the compost pile to become too hot while other areas remain cool. Turning the pile helps to distribute the heat evenly and prevent overheating or cooling.
Thirdly, turning your compost pile helps to speed up the decomposition process by mixing the different types of organic matter together and creating a more uniform mixture. This allows the microorganisms to break down the organic matter more efficiently and produce compost faster.
Fourthly, turning your compost pile helps to reduce the risk of pests and disease by exposing all parts of the pile to sunlight and air. Pests and diseases thrive in dark, moist environments, so turning your compost pile can help discourage their growth.
Finally, turning your compost pile is an excellent form of exercise! It’s a great way to get outside, get some fresh air, and work your muscles.
Avoid adding meat, dairy, and oils
When it comes to composting, certain organic materials are better left out of the pile. Meat, dairy, and oils are among the items that should be avoided, and here’s why:
Firstly, these materials are rich in fats and proteins that can attract pests and create unpleasant odors. Meat and dairy products, in particular, can attract rodents, flies, and other animals that may damage your compost pile or spread disease.
Secondly, meat, dairy, and oils can take a long time to break down and may contribute to the development of anaerobic conditions in your compost pile. This can slow down the decomposition process and produce harmful byproducts such as methane gas.
Thirdly, these materials can upset the balance of your compost pile. A healthy compost pile requires a balance of carbon-rich “brown” materials and nitrogen-rich “green” materials, such as grass clippings, leaves, and vegetable scraps. Meat, dairy, and oils are not good sources of either carbon or nitrogen and can throw off the balance of your pile.
Finally, adding meat, dairy, and oils to your compost pile can attract unwanted attention from animals such as raccoons, bears, and other wildlife that may be attracted to the strong smells of decomposing organic matter.
Use a compost bin or enclosure
Composting is an excellent way to create nutrient-rich soil for your garden, but it’s important to do it right. One way to ensure that your composting process is efficient and effective is to use a compost bin or enclosure. Here’s why:
Firstly, a compost bin or enclosure helps to contain the compost pile and prevent it from spreading too far. This is particularly important if you have limited space or live in an urban area.
Secondly, a compost bin or enclosure helps to regulate the temperature of your compost pile. Composting requires a certain amount of heat to break down organic materials properly, and a bin or enclosure can help to maintain the necessary temperature. This is particularly important during the colder months, when the temperature outside may be too low for efficient composting.
Thirdly, a compost bin or enclosure can help to prevent pests from accessing your compost pile. Without a bin or enclosure, pests such as rodents, raccoons, and other animals may be attracted to the decomposing organic matter and create a mess in your yard.
Fourthly, using a compost bin or enclosure can help to speed up the composting process. By keeping your compost pile contained, you can help to create the ideal conditions for decomposition, including adequate heat, moisture, and airflow.
Finally, using a compost bin or enclosure can help to create a more visually appealing composting area. A bin or enclosure can help to contain any odors and prevent your compost pile from looking messy or unsightly.
One of the most important things to remember when composting is to be patient.
Composting is not a fast process, and it can take several weeks or even months to produce usable compost. The key to success is to keep the pile moist, turn it regularly, and wait for the composting process to do its job.
Many people become frustrated with their compost pile because they don’t see immediate results. They may even give up and discard the pile, thinking it was a waste of time and effort. But the truth is, that composting takes time, and the rewards are worth the wait.
If you’re patient and give your compost pile time to do its job, you’ll be rewarded with nutrient-rich soil that can improve your garden’s health and productivity. This soil will help your plants grow bigger and stronger, and it will reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers.
Remember, composting is a natural process, and it takes time for the microbes and other organisms to break down the organic matter. The key is to be patient, keep your compost pile healthy, and let nature do its job.
Composting is a valuable tool for gardeners and environmentally conscious individuals alike. By composting your organic waste, you can create nutrient-rich soil that can improve your garden’s health and productivity, reduce waste in landfills, and contribute to a healthier environment.
Now that you know what can be composted and how to do it successfully, it’s time to get started. Remember to balance your brown and green materials, keep the pile moist, turn it regularly, avoid adding meat, dairy, and oils, and be patient.
Composting is not only a practical way to reduce waste, but it’s also a way to connect with nature and learn about the cycles of life. As you create your compost pile, you’ll see the transformation of food scraps, yard waste, and other organic matter into nutrient-rich soil that can support the growth of new life.
In addition to composting, there are other ways to connect with nature and use it to support your health and wellness. For example, many wild plants have medicinal and edible properties that can support your health and nutrition. By learning about these plants and incorporating them into your diet or wellness routine, you can tap into the power of nature to support your well-being.
Be sure and check out all the informative articles on our Natural Living Blog.
Q: How do I start composting?
A: Starting composting can be as easy as finding a suitable container, collecting organic matter such as food scraps and yard waste, and layering them properly.
Q: What are the 4 types of composting?
A: The four types of composting are aerobic composting, anaerobic composting, vermicomposting, and sheet composting. Each method has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to choose the right method for your needs.
Q: When should I use compost?
A: Compost can be used throughout the year, but the best time to use it is in the spring before planting season. Compost can also be used as a top dressing for lawns, to amend the soil in garden beds, or as a potting mix for container plants.
Q: Does compost turn into soil?
A: Compost is not technically soil, but it can be used to enrich the soil and improve its structure. Compost is a mixture of decomposed organic matter, while soil is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, and other substances.
Q: What is compost and how is it used?
A: Compost is a mixture of decomposed organic matter such as food scraps, leaves, and yard waste. It is used to enrich soil, improve soil structure, and provide nutrients for plants.
Q: Is compost just food waste?
A: No, compost can be made from a variety of organic materials, including food waste, yard waste, and even animal manure. It’s important to have a balance of different types of organic matter to create a healthy compost pile.
Q: What should you not compost?
A: You should not compost meat, dairy products, fats, oils, pet waste, and diseased plants. These materials can attract pests and pathogens that can harm the compost pile.
Q: What is the best way to compost?
A: The best way to compost depends on your specific needs and circumstances. However, some general tips include using a balance of brown and green materials, keeping the compost pile moist, turning it regularly, and avoiding adding certain materials such as meat and dairy products.
Q: What items can and cannot be composted?
A: Generally, any organic matter can be composted, but some materials should be avoided such as meat, dairy, oils, and diseased plants. Refer to our guide on what can be composted for a comprehensive list.
Q: What food waste can be composted?
A: Fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea leaves, and eggshells are some common food wastes that can be composted. Avoid adding meat, dairy, and oily foods to your compost pile.
Q: What is a list of everything I can compost?
A: The list of compostable items includes fruit and vegetable scraps, yard waste, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea leaves, shredded paper and cardboard, and clean wood chips. Refer to our guide on what can be composted for a more detailed list.