How To Compost (And 55 Things You Can Compost!)

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December 19, 2011

How to compost? What can you compost? Good question! While composting can be an effective, environmentally friendly way of dealing with some waste products, it’s important to know what you can and cannot put in your compost pile. Put in the wrong items and you could end up with a useless pile of infested, decaying matter — and we definitely don’t want that, do we?

Compost is decomposed organic matter which is rich in vital nutrients for growing food or for use in landscaping. It is “made” by combining piles of the compostable materials and waiting for the matter to break down and return back into its organic state, whereupon it can be used as fertilizer or soil conditioner. In order for the create a useful product, your compost pile should be an even mixture of “green” and “brown” materials (think grass and shredded paper), along with water and oxygen, all of which is regularly turned into itself to ensure proper decomposition.

Let’s take a look at a few methods of composting, along with 55 common items you can safely put in your compost pile in preparation of starting next season’s plantings and gardens.

Methods of Composting

There are several ways you can compost at home. For starters, and if you don’t want to run out to your bin after every meal, you are going to need somewhere to keep your kitchen scraps (larger items can go out anytime.) You can buy a countertop compost keeper, which is the route most people go, but I recommend something different – an empty yogurt container in the freezer. It costs nothing more than the original cost of the yogurt while simultaneously keeping any odors away. Just keep adding food scraps to the yogurt container until it is full, and then take it out to your compost bin or pile. Saves money, has no smell, and reuses a container you probably already have in your home. It’s a win-win-win. But this is for inside your home; what do you need outside to compost?

If you live in an apartment or a condo, you probably don’t have access to a yard so you would need to buy one of these indoor composting kits or you could even make your own indoor composting bin. If you have access to outdoor space, you have two choices – you can either just keep a compost pile in a wooden box or some fencing, or you can purchase a compost tumbler like the one I used to have. For my new place I am moving to, I will build a compost bin like this. Either way is fine and is up to you, as some people prefer the ease of the tumblers while some like the ones made of solid wood. Both work just fine.

55 Things You Can Compost

Coffee grounds
Coffee filters
Receipts (paper only, not thermal paper)
Vacuum contents
Dead plants
Used matches
Wood chips
Cut grass (dried is better)
Paper napkins
Fruit peels
Pine cones
Egg shells
Cotton clothing (rip into shreds first)
Veggie scraps
Paper bags
Subscription cards from magazines
Bread & cereal
Paper towel and toilet rolls
Toe & finger nail clippings
Potato peelings
Egg cartons (paper, not plastic or styrofoam)
Cereal and pizza boxes
Wine corks
Kitchen rinse water
Cotton balls
Q-Tips not made from plastic
Lint from a clothes dryer
Paper mail
Christmas tree
Pet fur
Apple cores
Nut shells
Tea leaves
Cotton or wool socks

Things You Cannot Compost

Charcoal ashes
Cat droppings/litter
Toxic materials
Dog droppings
Non-biodegradable materials

Tips For Better Compost

  • Turn your compost often
  • Keep the green matter to brown matter mix even
  • Tear up or shred larger pieces of material like cardboard
  • Keep the compost in direct sunlight if possible
  • Do not let your compost dry out
  • Laying leaves on as a top layer when adding scraps helps keep flies away

If done properly, your compost pile will provide you with a steady stream of healthy nourishment for your plants, garden, and landscaping while reducing the amount of trash you throw away. There is no need to go to the home store to buy fertilizer when you can make your own at home from everyday scraps. So what are you waiting for – start a new compost pile today!

Photo from BigStockPhoto

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