To reap a harvest of rich compost for your gardens, make sure you add the right ingredients to your compost bin—and keep the wrong ingredients out.
Good ingredients for your compost bin:
- Peels from potatoes, carrots, onions, bananas, oranges and other fruits and vegetables.
- Apple cores, stems, inedible leaves and other parts of fruits and vegetables.
- Corn cobs and pumpkin shells. Because of their size and thickness, these take longer to break down than vegetable peels or apple cores do. Snapping the corn cobs in half and cutting up the pumpkin shell speeds up the process.
- Egg shells.
- Coffee grounds and filters. Yes, you can throw the filter into your compost, too.
- Tea bags. Whether you can compost tea bags depends on the brand. With some brands, the bag break down nicely. You will never see the bag, cardboard tag or string again. However, bags from other brands don’t break down as easily. You shouldn’t be able to find the tea bags six months or a year after you have added them to your compost.
- Garden waste, such as wilted flowers, grass clippings and houseplants. However, don’t add any plant that may be diseased.
- Autumn leaves. Shred the leaves or run over them with your lawn mower. If you’re using a lawn mower, spread the leaves on a driveway. If you mow the leaves on your lawn, it will be difficult to rake up the chopped bits of leaves.
- Kitchen paper, such as used cupcake holders, used wax paper, used paper napkins and paper sacks from sugar and flour.
- Copy paper, bills and mail. It’s best if these are shredded.
- Non-glossy wrapping paper and tissue paper. (See the list of no-no’s to understand why you shouldn’t use other wrapping paper.)
- Manure from cows, chickens or rabbits, but not cats or dogs. (See why you shouldn’t use cat and dog waste in the list of no-no’s below.)
- Worms. They aren’t actually an “ingredient” of your compost; they are helpers. As worms ingest the food scraps and other items, they speed up the composting process.
Bad ingredients for your compost:
- Meat. It can harbor disease-causing pathogens and attract pests such as rats.
- Diseased plants. Most home composting doesn’t get hot enough to kill pathogens that cause disease, so the pathogens from an infected plant might linger in your compost. If you usecompost that contains disease-causing pathogens, you may spread the plant disease around your gardens.
- Dog and cat waste. Pet waste can contain harmful pathogens that would contaminate the compo
- Glossy paper, such as glossy wrapping paper or magazine pages. Most of the printing inks used today in newspapers and on copy paper are soy based. However, the colored ink used on glossy paper in magazines or on fliers can contain heavy metals. You don’t want heavy metals
- st from a regular composter. However, you can use a special composter for pet waste.
- in your garden, especially around food plants.