line decor
Contact Us   


What is Compost?

Benefits of Composting

Using Finished Compost

Compost & Nutrition


Composting Systems

Siting Your Compost Area



What to Compost

Stages of Composting

The Carbon:Nitrogen Ratio

Compost Activators

Turning Your Compost


Quick Start Guide

The Add-as-you-go Pile

The Batch Pile

Grass Clippings

Food Scraps

Leaves, Weeds &
Garden Debris

Compost Tea

Worm Composting


Troubleshooting Guide

Ask Professor Rot


Home Composting:    WHAT TO COMPOST

Professor Rot says:

The first mistake in home composting is to compost the wrong types of organic materials.

This guide will ensure you continued ease and success.

Composting at home challenges us to take a little more responsibility as a planetary citizen. We can recycle as much as 35% or more of our generated home waste just by composting kitchen and food scraps and yard debris in our own backyard.

Many people are used to just throwing waste into a trash can, closing the lid and walking away from it: out of sight, out of mind! But you are not one of those people, right? Still, however, it is important to know what types of organic materials work best to break down in your compost bin. It is also important to know what not to compost.

compost ingredientsThis page offers some advice about some of the most common kinds of compostable yard and kitchen wastes. Especially note the comments in the chart below. There are some websites that list a gazillion compostable items. If you have material that you are unsure of composting, try researching it on the internet with a Google or Yahoo search! You may also contact your local County Extension Service or Master Composter (or Master Gardener) hotline.



Grass Clippings

Excellent GREEN source. During spring and summer this can amount to almost 50% of your materials. Turn the compost often in the first 2 weeks. You may also desire to dry out the clippings for a few days before adding them to the bin.

Never bag grass clippings.
See Grass Clippings

Weeds & Grasses:
Invasive Kinds
"Gone to Seed"

Pernicious weeds/grasses such as morningglory, buttercups, bermuda grass, quackgrass, crabgrass, oxalis, etc. will love a mellow compost pile. Same goes for weeds that have flowered and have seeds. The compost pile would have to be heated above 150°F/65°C to kill the roots and seeds. Best to forget composting any of these!


A superior BROWN source, abundant leaves in the fall are worthy of stockpiling and added to the pile over many months to come. Whole leaves (maples) break down more slowly. Shredded leaves are best for fastest decomposition into incredible leaf mulch.

See Weeds, Leaves & Garden Debris

Branches & Wood Chunks

Such material is best chipped up for paths or mulch. Even if shredded, they have a very high carbon content for a compost bin.

Weeds & Garden Debris

A good GREEN source, weeds, plant trimmings, dead flowers, stalks, etc. are excellent materials. When placed in bin, take a shovel and slice or chop them up into smaller sizes for faster decomposing.
Weeds, Leaves & Garden Debris

Large Amounts of Soggy Materials

Sloshy, matted, soggy, water-logged (you name it!), these materials (such as garden debris, fruit wastes, etc.) will turn your bin into a swamp. Best to let them air out and dry out, then you can put them in the bin.

Dead Plants

A good GREEN source, dead houseplants, vegetable plants, annuals, vines, etc. are excellent. If any are diseased or ridden with pests, keep out of bin unless you can guarantee hot compost above 150°F/65°C.

Wood ashes, Lime, BBQ Charcoal

Some people use wood ashes or add lime to their compost bin. We don't recommend this because they are too alkaline and would raise your pile's ideal pH level of 6.8-7.0. Many plants (blueberries, strawberries, azaleas, natives, etc.) wouldn't like the results either. Never compost BBQ ashes or coal: the sulfur dioxides and other chemicals will give the little worms and plants in your garden bad stomach aches.

Food Scraps

A good GREEN source. Smaller pieces decompose fast, so chop up in kitchen or with a shovel in bin. Don't put large quantities in bin at one time without balancing with BROWN materials. Always keep covered with BROWN material at top of bin.
See Food Scraps

Meat, Grease, Bones, Skin

Never put these in your bin unless you are determined to attract rodents, scavengers, maggots, flies, terrible odors, bill collectors or even a snooping health department official.

Fruit Wastes

A good GREEN source. Chop up rinds and peels into small pieces for faster break down. Never leave exposed at top of pile; cover with a layer of BROWN material.
See Food Scraps

Dairy Products & Fatty Foods

Like meat and grease, these fatty foods wreck havoc on the array of microorganisms, bugs, worms, etc. in your compost pile. They also attract rodents and scavengers.


A good GREEN source. Acts as an activator to heat up the pile. Some fresh manure (chicken) can be too hot for a pile. For detailed instructions, see Compost Activators

Solid wastes: Cat, Dog or Human

These may carry disease pathogens that cannot be fully guaranteed to be eliminated during the composting process. There are some advocates for composting human waste (called "humanure"), but the process demands very careful and hot composting.

Straw & Hay

A good BROWN source. Best to chop or shred it for faster decomposition, otherwise the particles break down slowly in colder piles.

Plastic, Metal, Glass

Sorry, these simply will not decompose in your compost pile. Check back in a few hundred years to see what state they are in at your local landfill!

Coffee Grounds & Tea Bags

A good GREEN source. The compost bin is the best place for these common items. The microbes love a java fix!

Contaminated Matter

Any organic material heavily laden with pesticides, herbicides, poisons, etc. should not be composted. Researchers have yet to agree if a very hot pile can break down the inert ingredients successfully and fully.

Hair, dryer lint

A neutral source. It just makes sense to compost these since they are considered to be organic material!

Heavy Cardboard

Eventually such material will break down, but over a few years time! Some people use cardboard as a mulch for paths or to snuff out weeds in the garden. The weather will ultimately age it for decomposition

Newspaper & corrugated cardboard

A neutral source. There is no nutrient content in such items that will increase the richness of your compost. However, the microbes or worms like them. Always shred and soak them first and layer in bin.

Your Old Fasioned Commonsense!

Your most valuable asset is your commonsense and intuition. If you have doubts about something, don't compost it until you do a little research and get answers from several sources that generally agree.




Our parent site - Cortesia Sanctuary is on Facebook


Solution Graphics

Home Composting
Made Easy

The world's most popular composting guide. Over 2,000,000 in print! And we wrote it!

Only $4.95 (+$2.00 shipping)

Get more info>




















Copyright 2008, Cortesia Sanctuary   Contact Us

For inspiration please visit our parent site:
For herbal healing & wellness visit our site: