What you can and cannot compost

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Things you can compost!

Materials Carbon or Nitrogen Details
Alfalfa meal and hay  Carbon Shredding or chopping it up will help it break down quicker
Algae, seaweed and lake moss
 Nitrogen
Good source of nutrients and minerals.
Apple pomace (cider press waste)  Nitrogen If dried use as a carbon
Ashes (wood, not coal)
 Neutral
Use only wood ashes since coal ashes can be toxic to plants. Use sparingly as a pest deterant.
Banana peels Nitrogen Shredding or chopping it up will help it break down quicker
Beverages, kitchen rinse water
 Neutral
Help keep the pile moist, but don’t over do it.
Buckwheat straw or hulls  Carbon Shredding or chopping it up will help it break down quicker
Cardboard
 Carbon
If you have lots of this, consider recycling it. Otherwise, shred into small pieces in pile.
Cat litter (unused!)  Carbon Ugh..make sure its unused
Clover  Nitrogen Add it for a bit of luck!
Cocoa hulls  Carbon Shredding or chopping it up will help it break down quicker
Coffee grounds (and filters)
 Nitrogen
Great source of nitrogen and worms love coffee grounds! The filter will break down so add it too!
Cornstalks, corn cobs  Carbon A little tricky, so shred and/or break down and mix well into pile.
Cotton Bur  Nitrogen Great to use to jump start your pile or warm it up
Cowpeas  Nitrogen Add them if you got them!
Dog food
 Nitrogen
Best if not a meat based dog food
Dryer lint
 Carbon
Yum, lint. Make sure you moisten it a little before you add it.
Eelgrass  Nitrogen If dry use as a carbon
Egg shells
 Neutral
These break down slowly, so make sure to crush these before adding.
Feathers
 Nitrogen
Slow to break down, shred if possible to speed up process
Flowers  Nitrogen Green use as Nitrogen, dried use as carbon
Fruit peels (not limes)  Nitrogen Best if you cut them up to small pieces
Grape pomace (winery waste)  Carbon When dried and shredded best used as a carbon
Green Grass clippings
 Nitrogen
When green can be used as a Nitrogen
Dried Grass clippings
 Carbon
Make sure they are not too wet and mix with dry leaves for best results.
Hair
 Nitrogen
Good source of nitrogen. Make sure you scatter, so it doesn’t clump.
Hay
 Nitrogen
The best kind is hay that is not suitable for livestock and is starting to decay on its own. Make sure it is dry and weathered.
Hedge Clippings  Carbon Shredding or chopping it up will help it break down quicker
Hops (brewery waste)  Carbon When dried and shredded best used as a carbon
Kelp (seaweed)  Carbon Good source of potassium (perfect for growing potatoes!). Use sparingly or sprinkle kelp meal in to get your pile cooking.
Leather (leather waste)
 Nitrogen
Shredding or chopping it up will help it break down quicker
Leaves
  Carbon
Shredding or chopping it up will help it break down quicker
Manure from herbivores (cow, horse, pig, sheep, chicken, rabbit)
 Nitrogen
Best if known to come from a herbivore
Newspaper
 Carbon
Shredding or chopping will help it break down quicker
Nut shells  Carbon Shredding or chopping will help it break down quicker
Oak leaves
 Carbon
Shredding or chopping will help it break down quicker
Oat straw  Carbon Shredding or chopping will help it break down quicker
Sawdust and wood shavings
 Carbon
Preferably not from kiln-dried wood
Paper  Carbon Shredding will help it break down quicker
Peanut hulls  Carbon Shredding or chopping will help it break down quicker
Peat moss  Carbon Also great to add to your garden soil
Pine needles and cones
 Carbon
Shredding or chopping will help it break down quicker
Tea leaves  Carbon Best if shredded to help it break down quicker
Vegetable peels and scraps  Nitrogen Kitchen scraps are a great source of nitrogen
Vetch  Carbon From the pea family, yup add it too
Weeds
 Carbon
Don’t add if your concerned about spreading the seeds
Wheat straw  Carbon Best if shredded to help it break down quicker

 

Things you should NOT compost!

Materials
Carbon or Nitrogen
Details
Ashes (coal or charcoal)
n/a
May contain materials that are toxic to plants.
Cat droppings/litter
n/a
These may contain disease organisms and should always be avoided for composting.
Colored paper
Dog droppings
n/a
Same as cats.
Lime
n/a
High alkaline pH can kill composting action.
Meat, fat, grease, oils, bones
n/a
Do not break down, can coat materials and “preserve” them, can attract pests.
Nonbiodegradable materials
Toxic materials

 

Things that MAY be composted, but only with caution and skill

Materials C/N Details
Bird droppings
Nitrogen
Some bird droppings may contain disease or weed seeds
Diseased Plants
Nitrogen
Make sure your pile gets to at least 135 degrees Fahrenheit for a few days to let it “therma kill” the disease
Milk, yogurt, cheese
Neutral
May attract pests, so put it in the middle to deep into the pile
Weeds
Nitrogen
For best results, dry them out until crunchy, then add them to your compost pile
Sod
Nitrogen
Like diseased plants, make sure your pile gets hot enough to make sure the grass doesn’t keep growing in your pile.