Good to Compost
The table below lists good compost ingredients with information on each.
Check here to find out what compost ingredients you can safely add to your pile or bin.
Carbon/Nitrogen Ratio – a brief explanation.
You are looking to add Carbon and Nitrogen to your compost in the ratio of approximately 30:1. That is, 30 parts of carbon to 1 part of nitrogen. There are small variations on these figures, as you will find if you read different books and articles. However, for our purposes, as composters just starting out, 30:1 seems about the average.[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”lifted-both” width=”375px” height=”” background_color=”#D8E2BC” border_width=”5″ border_color=”#718243″ rounded_corners=”false” ]Remember: Carbon-rich materials are known as ‘brown’, while Nitrogen-rich materials are known as ‘green'[/dropshadowbox]
You can evaluate whether these good compost ingredients are carbon or nitrogen-rich using the following guide:
High-in-Nitrogen ingredients are usually fresh and contain moisture, e.g. newly cut grass, vegetable and fruit peelings from the kitchen, newly trimmed green parts from a hedge. This list notwithstanding, high nitrogen materials are mainly of animal origin.
High-in-Carbon materials are dry, woody, usually old and are mainly of plant origin e.g. dried grass, cardboard, dry leaves, the woody part of a hedge, hay and straw.
In the list below, N indicates that a material is Nitrogen rich, C indicates that it is Carbon rich and Ne indicates that it has a neutral effect on your compost in this context. Be aware that some materials need special handling or should be avoided altogether.
|Good to Compost||Notes|
|cardboard particularly corrugated C||shred before using dampen and mix well into the other ingredients. I have read that this is a more valuable ingredient than paper as the biodegradable glue used in the cardboard contains an appreciable amount of nitrogen|
|coffee grounds N||Including the filters ( C ) if you use them. Coffee grounds make good compost ingredients – extra high in nitrogen and also excellent as a mulch for plants that like acidic soils e.g. rhododendrons and azaleas.|
|egg shells Ne||no impact on the C:N ratio of your compost. Always crush well to aid decomposition|
|feathers N||A good source of nitrogen. Slow composting|
|flowers N||If from a florist they may be sprayed with various chemicals. Probably a good idea to rinse off first.|
|fresh leaves and plant trimmings N||All plant matter listed on the good compost ingredients list must be disease and chemical free.|
|fruit and vegetable peelings N||Kitchen waste is good for your pile and can be used in any state of aerobic decay. Bury deep or cover with a little soil if it is a bit 'ripe' so as not to attract vermin and flies|
|grass clippings N||Do not dump huge piles on your heap as large quantities could form a smelly mat which will cut off necessary oxygen. Instead spread thinly and leave maybe two-thirds on your lawn as a very beneficial mulch. Less of the sore back syndrome too.|
|hair N||A good source of nitrogen and various trace elements. If you have large quantities make sure it is well-mixed in with the other ingredients. (Ask your local hairdresser if she/he is willing to donate)|
|hay C||You need to be careful about seeds being present depending on the time of year. One solution is to decompose thoroughly before adding to your bin|
|horse cow poultry or sheep manure N||Extremely good compost ingredients. Use fresh if possible so as to take advantage of valuable digestive enzymes before they break down|
|leaves (dried) C||A good source of carbon and other nutrients. Chop and shred for best results. Small pieces can be processed more easily and with greater speed|
|leaves (fresh) N||A good source of other nutrients as well as nitrogen. Some leaves do not make suitable compost ingredients|
|newspaper C||Shred before use to avoid matting|
|seaweed N||A nutrient-rich source of nitrogen so not too much at once. Consider washing it first to get rid of excess salt|
|straw C||Contains less nitrogen that hay but lots more carbon|
|tea leaves N||good whether loose or in bags. Bags are C of course.|
|weeds N||Do not use if the plants have already gone to seed. Not only will they be low in nutrients but you run the risk of the seeds germinating in the next growing season if your pile does not get hot enough to kill them|
|wood chips and sawdust C||These are very slow composting ingredients so use in small amounts. It is important to be sure that any materials like this have not been chemically treated.|
|woody garden waste C||Chop or grind into small pieces to shorten the time taken to decompose. Ingredients such as these are crucial for keeping your compost aerated and well-drained|
This list of good compost ingredients is not complete, of course and I will expand it when necessary. If you have any suggestions for new additions, or would like to see your favourite compost ingredients included, please leave a note.