What To Compost

Compost | Starting Compost | Composting Tips

What to Compost

Table ScrapsNAdd with dry carbon items
Fruit & Vegetable ScrapsNAdd with dry carbon items; Let any soggy items dry out
EggshellsNeutralBest added when crushed
LeavesCBreaks down faster when shredded
Grass ClippingsNAdd in thin layers so they don't mat into clumps
Garden Plants-Use disease free plants
Lawn & Garden WeedsNOnly use weeds that haven't gone to seed
Shrub PrunningsCWoody prunnings are slow to break down
Straw or HayCStraw is best; Hay (with seeds) is less ideal
Green Comfrey LeavesNExcellent compost 'activator'
Pine NeedlesCAcidic; Use in moderate amounts
Flower CuttingsNChop up any long woody stems
Seaweed and KelpNApply in thin layers; Good source for trace minerals
Wood AshCOnly use ash from clean materials; Sprinkle lightly
Chicken ManureNExcellent compost 'activator'
Coffee GroundsNFilters may also be included
Tea LeavesNLoose or in bag
NewspaperCAvoid using glossy paper and colored inks
Shredded PaperCAvoid using glossy paper and colored inks
CardboardCShred material to avoid matting
Corn Cob / StalkCSlow to decompose; Best if chopped up
Dryer LintCBest if from natural fibers
Sawdust PelletsCHigh carbon levels; Add in layers to avoid clumping
SawdustCShould be mixed or scattered thinly to avoid clumping; Be sure sawdust is clean, with no machine oil or chain oil residues from cutting equipment
Wood Chips / PelletsCHigh carbon levels; Use sparingly

You can also add garden soil to your compost. A layer of soil will help to mask any odors, and micro-organisms in the soil will accelerate the composting process.

Different items used for composting decompose at different rates but they will all eventually break down. Speeding up the composting process is helped by chopping the larger material into smaller pieces.


What Not to Compost 

  • Meat, Bones or Fish Scraps (They will attract pests.)
  • Dairy or Fatty Foods (They wreck havoc on the array of microorganisms, bugs, worms, etc. in your compost pile. They also attract rodents and scavengers.)
  • Perennial Weeds (They can be spread with the compost and grow in your gardens.)
  • Diseased plants (Diseases can be spread to healthy plants.)
  • Pet Manures in compost that will be used on food crops
  • Banana Peels, Peach Peels and Orange Rinds (They may contain pesticide residue, and should be kept out of the compost.)
  • Black Walnut Leaves


Carbon/Nitrogen Ratio

All compostable materials are either carbon or nitrogen-based, to varying degrees. The secret to a healthy compost pile is to maintain a working balance between these two elements.

Carbon - carbon-rich matter gives compost its light, fluffy body. Examples would be; branches, dried leaves, corn stalks, coffee filters, egg shells, and wood ash. Check out the what to compost table above for more.


Nitrogen - nitrogen or protein-rich matter provides raw materials for making enzymes. Examples would be; manures, food scraps, green lawn clippings and green leaves. Check out the what to compost table above for more.

 A healthy compost pile should have a lot more carbon than nitrogen. A simple rule of thumb is to use one-third green and two-thirds brown materials. The bulkiness of the brown materials allows oxygen to penetrate and nourish the organisms that reside there. Having too much nitrogen makes for a dense, smelly, slowly decomposing anaerobic mass. Good composting hygiene means covering fresh nitrogen-rich material, since it can release odors if exposed to open air, with carbon-rich material. This often exudes a fresh, wonderful smell. If in doubt, add more carbon!