What can you compost and How to Start Your Composting Journey?

What can you compost and How to Start Your Composting Journey?

What can you compost and How to Start Your Composting Journey?

What can you compost and how do you start? 

Composting enriches garden soil and reduces waste effectively. 

Read on to learn the essentials of building a compost pile, including which items are compostable and which to avoid for a successful setup.

So what exactly can you compost? Let’s take a look!

Why Should You Have a Compost Pile?

Composting is one of the best things that you can do for your garden. 

By composting, you are putting a lot of vital nutrients into your soil, that would have otherwise left the property. 

A compost pile is a great way to keep valuable nutrients which you can use on your lawn and in your garden beds! Although a compost pile may not cover all of your fertilizer needs, it can help cut down on fertilizer applications. 

It can also provide complementary needs that may not be provided by your granular lawn fertilizer.  

Two Types of Compostable Materials

Generally, compost is separated into two different types. 

Green Compost and Brown Compost:

Green compost is anything like:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps, 

  • Egg shells, 

  • Tea bags, 

  • Fresh grass clippings a

  • Table scraps that do not include meat or bones. 

Brown compost is brown made of materials such as:

  • Dry leaves, 

  • Wood shavings, 

  • Nuts and shells, 

  • Coffee and coffee filters. 

  • Shredded newspaper

  • Hay and peanut shells.

You can also compost plates, cups, utensils or partyware, but only if they are the compostable variety.

Fun fact!  You can put your own hair clippings into your compost too. It will put a huge amount of nitrogen into the soil. Just make sure that you don't put too much hair into the soil, as too much nitrogen can be harmful to the compost. 

Things You Should Not Compost

It’s true, you can't compost everything. 

Here are 3 things you should not compost:

1. Don’t Compost Meat or Bones

You should not compost any sort of meat. Including fish or bones. 

The problem is that these types of matter decay slowly and they will attract animals to your compost, including rats. 

2. Don’t Compost Diseased Plants

Her'es why, having diseased plants in your compost can lead spreading the disease to the rest of the plants in your garden.

3. Don’t Compost Animal Waste

You should never compost pet feces. They may contain parasites that are harmful to humans. Additionally, dog waste can collectively be bad for local waterways and can lead to several types of environmental issues. 

Always Add A Compost Starter!

Look, the best way to compost your material quickly is to use a compost starter.

What is a Compost Starter?

Composting relies on microorganisms to assist in breaking down the material. A compost starter is essentially made of microbes which will assist in speeding up the composting process

A compost starter may be purchased at the local department store. But there is a better option...

Most people don’t know this, but you can simply use completely broken down compost as a compost starter! The broken down compost will include all of the essential microbes necessary to start the process over again. 

What Can I Include in My Compost Pile?

Your compost pile can consist of green and brown materials. Green compost includes fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, tea bags, and fresh grass clippings. 

Brown compost comprises dry leaves, wood shavings, nuts, coffee filters, shredded newspaper, hay, and peanut shells. Compostable plates and utensils can also be added, along with hair clippings for a nitrogen boost.

FAQ: What to Compost vs. What Not to Compost

What is composting?

Composting is the process of recycling organic waste, like food scraps and yard debris, into nutrient-rich soil additive.

What is the ideal ratio of brown to green materials in compost?

Recommended Ratio: Aim for about 2 parts brown matter to 1 part green matter.


  • Brown Matter: Sources like dried leaves, twigs, and cardboard that provide carbon.
  • Green Matter: Includes kitchen scraps and lawn clippings, which are rich in nitrogen.


Monitor Moisture and Odor: Increase brown matter if compost becomes too wet or starts to smell.

What to Compost vs. What Not to Compost

Can I compost cooked food scraps?

Yes, but avoid composting cooked food containing meat, dairy, oils, or fats.

Is it safe to compost pet waste?

No, it can contain harmful bacteria and parasites that are hazardous to human health.

Why is coal ash harmful to compost?

Coal ash can contain heavy metals that are toxic to plants and detrimental to soil health.

What should I do if my compost starts to smell?

1. Add Brown Material: Balance out moisture by adding dry, carbon-rich materials such as leaves, straw, or shredded paper.

2. Turn the Pile: Regularly turn the compost to introduce oxygen and distribute decomposing materials evenly.

3. Check Moisture Levels: If the pile is too wet, add more dry materials and, if necessary, cover the pile to reduce excess moisture.

4. Remove Non-compostables: Ensure no inappropriate items like meats or dairy products are in the pile, as these can cause odors.

How often should I turn or mix my compost pile?

Ideally, every few weeks to maintain air circulation and speed up decomposition.

Can I Compost Grass Clippings?

Yes, grass clippings are excellent for composting. They contain nutrients that the grass needs for growth. After composting for about a year, these clippings can be used as a top dressing for your lawn, potentially reducing the need for additional fertilizers.

If you Bag Your Grass, Compost the Clippings

If you are one of the folks that likes to bag your grass clippings. You should compost your clippings!

Here’s the deal, nearly everything your grass needs to grow is contained in those clippings. 

After letting your grass clippings compost for a year or so, you can add them back to the lawn as a top dressing. This practice of composting can even help eliminate an application or two of fertilizer on your lawn. 

What’s The Bottom Line On What You Can Compost?

Composting is a fantastic way to enrich your garden and reduce waste. It adds vital nutrients to your soil, reducing the need for fertilizers. You can compost green materials like fruit scraps and brown materials like dry leaves. Avoid composting meat, bones, and diseased plants. 

Use a compost starter to accelerate the process, and even grass clippings can be composted. Composting benefits your garden, the environment, and your wallet

And, if you need help with your lawn, garden, landscape or compost pile...

Be sure to hit up the pros at GreenPal!

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