Composting Materials - What Materials Are Best?
What materials can I use in compost? This is a question we get all the time when teaching people how to compost. Whether it’s for growing tomatoes or a rose garden, compost is one of the best organic fertilizers you can use.
We cover list of organic materials that you can use in your compost pile, and those you should avoid.
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What Materials Should I Use to Make Compost?
Below is 42 easy composting materials you can use in your compost pile! This list is definitely not comprehensive. Depending upon your circumstance, some of these compost materials should not be used, such as if you are in an area prone to wildlife.
Mostly what materials to use will depend upon what you have on hand. Some materials will be easier to gather and stockpile than others. If you have a lawn and a few trees, then grass clippings and leaves will be your go-to compost materials. The greater the diversity of compost materials you add to your compost pile, the better the final compost quality.
What Can Go in a Compost Pile - Compost Materials
Green Composting Materials
Green materials are what heats up a compost pile and keep the pile hot for decomposition via hot composting method. It’s the best method to use if you want compost fast and for your compost to be weed and disease free.
High Nitrogen Material
The green composting materials is further divided into two subcategories, with different purposes: High Nitrogen & Green.
Those materials with a narrow carbon to nitrogen ratio really get the compost pile heated up quickly. It’s used to “get the party started”. We call them High Nitrogen materials, since they are compost materials that have a higher concentration of nitrogen.
Green Compost Material
Green compost materials have a slightly less concentration of nitrogen, but still are used to keep the compost pile hot. It’s our composting bacteria that are responsible for composting (the decomposition of the organic material).
If you are not willing or able to actively monitor and turn the compost pile then use the high nitrogen materials sparingly (<10% of all the material). These get the composting operations started fast!
High Nitrogen Materials
- Blood Meal (C:N of 8:1)
- Alfalfa (C:N of 10:1)
- Horse Manure (C:N of 20:1)
- Chicken Manure (C:N of 10:1)
- Goat/Sheep/Llama Manure (C:N of 20:1)
- Grain Seeds (C:N of 8:1)
- Soybeans or other Nitrogen Fixing Plant (C:N 10:1)
- Meat: (C:N 5:1-8:1)
- Fish/crab/lobster waste (C:N of 4:1)
- Spent brewery waste (C:N of 10:1)
These heat up the pile.
Green Compost Materials
- Fresh cut grass
- Green weeds (pulled while still alive)
- Vegetable stems, leaves and roots post-harvest, pulled but still alive
- House plant trimmings
- Hedge trimmings
- Cranberry wastes
- Corn silage
- Cooked rice
- Cooked pasta
These keep the compost pile hot.
Brown Composting Materials
The brown composting materials area often called “Carbon” materials, since they have a wide carbon to nitrogen ratio.
It’s our composting fungi that work to break down these materials and compost made with
leaves or other brown materials are great for trees and shrubs.
Use more brown materials in your bin if you are going to use the compost for trees and shrubs.
Best Brown Materials
- Sawmill waste
- Rice hulls
- Pine needles (fallen, but must grind them first)
- Spent coffee grounds
- Coffee filters
- Nut shells, ground or broken
- Pressed paper egg cartons
- Used napkins
What Compost Materials to Avoid?
If you live in an area with a lot of critters such as raccoons and bears that you are concerned with getting into your compost pile, then avoid food scraps and meats. Save the food scraps for a worm bin that you can secure inside a garage.
- Avoid all meats (attract critters)
- Avoid bones (slow to decompose)
- Avoid fats (attract critters)
- Avoid oranges and other tough rinds
- Avoid corn cobs (slow to decompose)
- Avoid eucalyptus leaves
- Avoid black walnuts & leaves
- Avoid whole pine needles & pine cones
- Avoid cedar and redwood
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