What Can You Compost

What Can You Compost
What Can You Compost

Composting  is good for the environment and results in wonderful nutrient laden humus, which is an excellent soil amendment.  This compost or humus greatly improves soil texture and better enables the soil to retain nutrients, moisture and air for the support of healthy flowers and vegetables. 

So you’re ready to start composting, but you are left asking the question “What can you compost:” this article will help you to better know what materials can be composted.  Approximately 75 percent of household garbage is composed of organic matter, so theoretically a great deal of the garbage you normally put out to be picked up and carried to the garbage dump can be composted. 

Let’s answer the question “What can you compost?”       

The Composting “In” List:

  • Animal ( cow or horse) manure (see later in article)
  • Cardboard rolls
  • Clean paper
  • Shredded paper and newspaper
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Cotton rags
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Eggshells
  • Feathers
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Grass clippings
  • Yard trimmings
  • Leaves
  • Garden residue
  • Hair and fur
  • Hay and straw
  • Houseplants
  • Leaves
  • Peanut hulls (these compost quickly)
  • Sawdust
  • Tea bags
  • Wood chips
  • Wool rags
  • Tea bags
  • Bonemeal
  • Buckwheat hulls
  • Corncobs
  • Aquarium waste water (moisten compost pile)
  • Pine needles (best shredded before adding to compost)

 The Composting “Out” List:

  • Yard trimming and grass treated with pesticides and chemicals
  • Coal or charcoal ash
  • Walnut, pecan, and almond shells (these compost very slowly)
  • Rose bush and raspberry canes (a thorny problem!) 
  • Dairy products such as butter, egg yolks, milk, sour cream
  • Diseased or insect laden plants
  • Colored paper (magazines are usually printed with toxic inks)
  • Oils, grease, lard or fats
  • Pet wastes (see later in article)
  • Pet litter
  • Meat, fish bones or scraps
  • Large amounts of highly acidic materials such as oak leaves or pine needles
  • Don’t use pesticides or insecticides on your compost pile
  • Also, avoid things that will not decompose easily such as wood, clam shells, large amounts of brush, cornstalks and heavy cardboard (unless it shredded first)

Animal Manures

Animal manures are an essential element to a good compost heap or compost pile.  Good sources of manures are cattle, horses, rabbits, goats, pigs, and poultry.  Manure contains nitrogen, potash, and phosphoric acid voided by the animals.  These nutrients add to the compost, but the bacteria content of the manure is the most valuable component.  These bacteria will assist in quickly breaking down the other organic materials found in the compost pile or compost heap.  Animal manure can be found in a variety of places such as riding stables, dairy farms, poultry farms, and feedlots.  Some people contact zoos or visit local fairgrounds after circuses leave town.

Dog and cat manures should be avoided as these carry diseases that can be especially dangerous to young children.  Cat manure is even more hazardous and is extremely dangerous to pregnant women and children.  The waste may contain Toxoplasma gandii, a one-cell organism that can infect a mother’s unborn child causing brain and eye diseases.  Toxocara cati is a roundworm present in cat feces that causes similar problems in children.  Also, bird droppings should not be used in your compost pile because they are a potential disease source.  Furthermore, the bird droppings are usually mixed with bedding materials and dropped birdseed, which can introduce unwanted weeds in your compost pile.

Note:  There are special composters like the Pet Poo Composter, which are made to safely handle and compost dog manure.

There you have it.  Hopefully this article has shed some light on the question, “What can you compost?”  You may want to also check out the article on “How to Compost” for further information on the topic of composting.  Happy composting!

Be sure to get a free copy of our eBook the “Easy Composting Guide.”