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This is my first year making real compost. I’ve played around with it in the past, but didn’t get serious about starting a compost pile until a few weeks ago. Why the change? Well, this year I’m actually trying to grow most of the vegetables and some fruits we eat. My garden is bigger this year than in years past so learning how to start a compost pile was a must. When I was researching, I came across things I wasn’t aware could be composted. In fact, I was downright shocked at all the things you can compost that help to have a rich, fertile compost pile!
Having a rich compost pile allows you to feed the soil you are planting your garden in. It’s also a great way to have a garden on a budget no matter which type of garden you plant. Using compost is as simple as mixing finished soil into regular soil and planting. If you don’t continue to compost the things you can compost though; you will quickly find that you have run out of soil before you were ready to do so. Not only can composting help you have a great garden, but it is also a fantastic way to reduce food waste if you’re trying to have a zero waste home.
106 Things You Can Compost for a Rich, Fertile Compost Pile
When you first begin composting, it is easy to find yourself confused on what is able to be composted and what isn’t. Here’s what I’ve learned; with a few exceptions, chances are good you can compost what you’re wondering about. Synthetic fabrics, glossy papers, papers with colored dyes and things of that nature should never be composted. Chemicals should never be composted. Meat and fish can be composted, however, they should be done in moderation since rotting meat will often attract pests and quite the odor. I do not compost meat or fish due to the fact that my compost pile sites around 300 feet from my neighbors home and less than 200 feet from my own back door. I’d rather not smell Nemo after I’m done cooking him. 😉
How Much Space Do you Need to Compost?
It’s a pretty common misconception that you need a huge amount of space to have a compost pile. Sure, the amount of space you have available will determine how big of a pile you can grow, but composting can be done in a space as small as an apartment balcony if needed. If you have the room, a compost tumbler can be a great addition or you can just do what I do; use an open laundry hampers. Believe it or not, my compost breaks down very quickly due to the fact that there is so much air moving through it. Texas heat does not hurt either and helps to break things down much quicker too. I have two of these hampers that sit outside and give me enough usable compost for a planting cycle.
Recommended Items for Composting
Once you have your location picked out and your container chosen, you will also need a place to put scraps and things until you can take them to the compost pile. For some families, a compost bucket works best. We simply use an extra large mixing bowl with a tight fitting lid and it works perfectly. Finally, if you plan to turn your compost, you may want to consider a small shovel. As I said, air moves through mine really quickly so I am lucky enough to not need to turn very often.
Finally, you will save yourself a lot of time if you pick up a paper shredder. Shredded paper tubes and paper can get pretty tedious if you do not have one. It isn’t 100% necessary to have, but it does make things nice.
What can I compost?
One thing to be mindful of is that when you first begin composting, it can be very easy to get stuck thinking you can only compost vegetable scraps. After all, that is what we hear most people talk about. The truth is that you can compost things you would likely never consider.
Here’s where I have a warning for you; everyone has a list of things they would never be comfortable adding to a compost pile. Even if you aren’t aware of your list, you have it. Trust me. As you read through the list of things you can compost below, keep in mind that what won’t work for you, may work for someone else.
Things to Compost from Your Kitchen
- Used paper towels provided they have no chemical cleaners or other synthetic residues on them.
- Stale or Flat Beer and Wine – Did you know there are several ways you can use beer for garden growth?
- Orange, Lemon, Lime and Grapefruit – Citrus fruits can be composted. Just do so in moderation since they are so acidic. If you’re adding the seeds to your compost pile, chop them so they do not grow.
- Orange, Lemon, Lime and Grapefruit Peels
- Potatoes and Potato Peels
- Green Beans
- Carrots – Be sure to chop up any tops so they do not sprout.
- Avocado Peels and pits – Be sure to chop any pits so they do not sprout.
- Apple Peels
- Apple Cores and seeds – Chop for easier breakdown and to be sure seeds don’t sprout.
- Egg Shells – Crush to make these breakdown easier.
- Grape Stems
- Old Kitchen Spices including the peel from garlic cloves
- Onion Skins – Onion Skins can be composted in moderation.
- Asparagus Tips
- Spoiled Soy Milk
- Spoiled Rice Milk
- Spoiled Almond Milk
- Coffee Grounds
- Stale Coffee
- Coffee Filters
- Tea Bags – Compost only those bags made from natural ingredients.
- Loose Tea
- Cooked Pasta
- Cooked Rice
- Spoiled Pasta Sauce
- Stale Crackers
- Stale Bread
- Stale Cereal
- Nut Shells – Do not compost walnut shells. They produce a chemical that can be toxic to plants.
- Stale Oatmeal
- Stale Fruit & Nut Bars
- Moldy Cheese – in moderation
- Jelly and Jam
- Stale tortillas
- Spoiled Coconut Milk
- Cardboard Paper Towel Tubes – Rip or shred to make these easier to break down.
- Brown Paper Bags
- Paperboard such as cereal boxes
- Unwaxed Pizza Boxes
- Unwaxed Paper Plates
Things You Can Compost from the Bathroom
- Cardboard Toilet Paper Tubes – Rip or shread
- Facial Hair Cuttings
- Nail Clippings
- Cotton Balls made from 100% cotton
- Cotton Swabs with 100% cotton and wooden sticks
- 100% cotton sanitary pads – Remember that limit or line I mentioned? This one qualifies as “over the line” for me. It may not be for you and either way; that’s okay.
- Period Blood – Oop! There’s that pesky limit again!
- Urine – Annnnd there’s that pesky over the limit thing again! 😉
- Hair from your hair brush
Things to Compost from the Office
- Printer Paper Scraps – Never compost paper with colored ink. Only paper with black and white ink should be used.
- Newspapers and magazines – Shred newspapers to be sure they break down easier and don’t compost any paper that is glossy.
- Junk Mail
- Pencil Shavings
- Old Tax Records – 8 years or older
- Cancelled checks
- Bank Statements
- Paper packing slips
- School Letters
Things You Can Compost from the Holidays
- Live Christmas Wreaths and Garland – Chop into smaller pieces
- Live Christmas Trees – Chop into small pieces
- Paper table cloths – Tear into smaller pieces
- Wrapping paper rolls – Tear into Smaller Pieces
- Crepe Paper Streamers
- Halloween Jack O Lanterns
Misc. Things You Can Compost
Keep in mind when you’re composting these items that any larger items need to be cut up or chopped. The smaller the pieces are, the quicker they will break down.
- Cardboard Boxes
- Rabbit Bedding
- Rabbit Poo
- Fallen Leaves
- Cut Grass
- Dried Flowers
- Fireplace Ash
- Grill Ash
- Dead Plants
- Dead branches
- Cardboard egg cartons
- Seeds from other plants – chop so they don’t sprout
- Dryer Lint – from natural fabrics only
- Old cotton clothing
- Old Denim clothing
- Old Wool Clothing
- Old cotton towels
- Old cotton sheets
- Dust bunnies
- Dustpan contents – pick out any inorganic content
- Old Rope
- Old Thread
- Old Twine
- Used Matches
- Soil from old container gardens
- Soil from old houseplants
- Sawdust – untreated wood only
- Pet hair
- Feathers from pet birds
- Horse manure
- Cow Manure
- Dry Dog Food
- Dry Cat Food
- Dry Rabbit Food
- Old Flower Arrangements
- Books that are no longer readable
- Used tissues