Compost Heaven

What Can I Compost?

Because composting is managing decay, "What can I compost?" is an easy question to answer.

Just ask yourself, "Does this decay?"

If you have the space and the suitable environment, composting can be as easy a throwing virtually anything that decays into a pile and waiting.  Eventually you will have compost.

Cotton clothing, all-leather purses, old wooden chairs--all this could be composted.

But let's be real.

Good, practical compost material can be divided into 3 categories:  yes, no and maybe.

What Can I Compost Definitely?

Anything that decays quickly, easily and which doesn't have any harmful chemical or toxins.

  • Garden clippings
  • Food scraps
  • Leaves
  • Lawn clippings
  • Newspapers (most use soy-based dyes now)
  • Shredded office documents
  • Egg cartons
  • Used paper towels
  • Hair (brush that dog!)
  • Grass (if mixed so that it doesn't clump into a slimy mess)
  • Leaves (if mixed so that they don't clump into a slimy mess)
  • Animal manure
  • Seaweed (but don't use seaweed exclusively because it may make salty compost)
  • Straw
  • Wood chips
  • Wood ash (small amounts)
  • Dryer lint
  • Vacuum cleaner contents (if you're sure you didn't vacuum non-organic bits)

What Can I Compost Under the Right Circumstances?

Some composting depends on your particular compost circumstances.  Do you have enough room for piles that take a long time to decompose?  Is your pile needing more green matter or more brown?  What will you do with the compost when it is done?  Will your compost be used for an ornamental garden or a food-producing garden?  How hot will you make sure your pile gets?

  • Junk Mail (if the paper is not treated and no plastic window from the envelopes)
  • Feces (Most sources will tell you to never, ever compost human feces, and yet if you are very careful to create the environment that will definitely kill pathogens, human feces can be composted.  If you want to practice managing your pile carefully, try starting with composting dog or cat feces, or try the Bokashi Dog Feces composter.)
  • Branches from your garden (branches will take a long time to decompose).  You may need to use a chipper to speed the process, but this is not a "green" as just setting them in a pile)
  • Weeds from garden (best if you have a hot pile to kill the seeds)
  • Meat, bones, diary, animal products (You will find it stated everywhere that it is not advised to put animal products in a compost pile, and yet I have done it when I lived in the country.  Much of the meat products were scavenged by other animals, which was fine with me; the rest composted nicely.  I would not put animal products in my city compost pile because I don't want the stink or the rodents (especially rats or dogs digging in my pile), but if you have a country pile away from your house, go ahead and experiment.)
  • Acidic garden materials such as pine needles and oak leaves (use these in small amounts unless you want an acidic compost for acid loving plants)

What Should I Never Compost?

Anything that doesn't decay or products with harmful chemicals that you don't want added to your garden.

  • Anything plastic
  • Anything metal
  • Anything ceramic
  • Household chemicals
  • Treated wood (for example, scrap wood from home remodeling projects
  • Laminated cardboard (like milk or juice containers)
  • Diseased garden clippings (especially with pests or mold)

With the very broad guideline of kitchen or garden waste, and the useful question "what decays quickly and easily?", what can I compost becomes an easy question to answer.

The next step to learning to compost is to get the guidelines to building you compost pile.

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