A compost bin is a great way to get rid of unwanted food scraps from the kitchen, yard debris, waste, and grass clipping from outside. As composting grows popular in many homes, small businesses, and kitchens, it’s essential to know which items go in the compost bin and which items are discarded in the recycling bin or garbage.
When you regularly compost, you’ll not only reduce the amount of waste that goes in the landfill, you’ll also provide quality, nutrient-rich soil that improves the soil and plants in your garden. You can easily set up a small or moderate-sized compost bin in your kitchen to collect small scrap from cooking and food preparation. Yard waste is easy to collect during raking and gardening in an outside bin.
Make Compost With 4 Ingredients
When you add a small compost bin in your kitchen and set up an outdoor compost by your garden, you’ll find lots of scraps, yard waste, and yard trimming around your trees and lawn.
Some items are easy to spot and add to your compost piles, such as leaves, twigs, and organic waste. You may find other matter that appears organic, though it won’t break down in the compost.
Imagine having a recipe that required only four ingredients to make the most fabulous dish you’ve ever had. Even better, that recipe allowed for tons of substitutions. If you didn’t have one thing, you could substitute something else. It doesn’t require precise measurements or even a specific temperature or cooking time.
Making compost is that simple—a four-ingredient recipe for the most awesome amendment to make everything growing in your garden grow better.
INGREDIENTS: Air, Water, Carbon (browns), and Nitrogen (greens)
One of the first steps to understanding which items are considered organic waste is determining if they are “green” or “brown.” Organic waste that fits into a compost bin fits into one of these two types of organic materials. You’ll also need water to keep your organic waste moist so that it breaks down into compost.
What Can You Compost?
You can add many items to your organics bin, including a few that may seem unlikely. These items include fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, houseplants, leaves, nutshells, and vegetable-based items.
Eggshells, nutshells, and shredded newspaper, and paper towels are also permitted. Essentially, anything that’s organic, including manure, hair, and fur from herbivore animals, can also be added to your compost.
Yard waste, including dry and wet leaves, hay, pinecones, tea leaves, corn husks, and bread, is among a long list of food and plant-based items you can include as they quickly break down in your compost pile. The organic material should be free of any plastic, wrapping, or other items before adding them to the pile.
1. The Secret to a Healthy Compost Pile: Carbon/Nitrogen Ratio
The ratio of carbon to nitrogen is referred to as the C: N ratio. The relative amount of carbon to nitrogen, e.g., a 2:1 ratio, means twice as much carbon as nitrogen.
Microorganisms use carbon for both energy and growth, while nitrogen is essential for protein and reproduction. In general, biological organisms need about 25 times more carbon than nitrogen.
Achieving a carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of about 25:1 is an essential factor in creating favorable conditions for backyard composting. By providing them with materials that offer these elements properly, they thrive and increase the composting environment.
2. Carbon (Brown)
Brown organics are typically dry and provide carbon into the composting process. These items include branches, brown paper and cardboard, twigs, and any wood products.
Brown organics give the energy needed for microorganisms to make compost. Not all these items are brown, though organic, and provide the fuel required for the composting process.
The following items are considered brown organics:
- Corn stalks and husks
- Fall leaves, twigs, bark, and branches
- Pinecones and pine needles
- Dryer lint, cotton fabric
- Napkins, coffee filters, paper plates, printing, and writing paper
- Cardboard without wax or coating
- Hay, straw, and similar dried grasses
3. Nitrogen (Green)
Green organics refer to yard waste, trimmings, grass, fruit rinds, vegetable peels, and other fresh or moist items, including food scraps.
You can easily collect green organics in a compostable bag in your home or a small bin where coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable rinds, and similar items are placed. Green organics provide oxygen during the composting process.
The following are included in green matter:
- Kitchen scraps, including vegetable and fruit peelings, pits, and shells
- Grass clippings, plant trimmings, and discarded houseplants
- Eggshells and shells from nuts and seeds
- Teabags and coffee grounds
- Seaweed and other sea-based vegetation
- Manure from animals that are herbivores, such as rabbits, chickens, cows, sheep, etc.
What Not to Put in Compost
The objective of choosing green and brown compost items includes raw, organic things that break down in a compost bin. Some household items don’t belong in your compost because they may be harmful to consume or won’t break down properly and shouldn’t be added to your compost bin.
These items include certain organics that may contain pesticide treatments or harmful bacteria that spread parasites. For this reason, avoid any plants or food scraps that are heavily processed with oils, fat, and grease.
Choosing the right organic items is essential for ensuring that your compost heap processes organic matter until it is finished compost. To ensure your compost bin is healthy and productive, avoid the following items:
- Dog or cat feces and litter, and dirty diapers (may contain parasites and pathogens)
- Meat, bones, grease, fish, fats and lard, eggs, oils, or dairy products, including milk, cheese, sour cream, and butter (may create odors, attract rodents and flies)
- Yard trimmings that are sprayed or coated with chemical pesticides, as these items may contain the residue of chemicals that can kill organisms that produce compost
- Insect-infested or diseased plants (diseases and insects may survive and be transferred to other plants)
- Leaves or twigs from Black Walnut trees because they release harmful substances to plants
- Weeds that have gone to seed or with invasive roots- These include bermudagrass, dock weed, and alligator weed.
- Used facial or toilet tissue (may contain pathogens)
- Coal or charcoal ash because they are harmful to plants and do not decay.
- Processed or treated lumber, including pressure-treated products and plywood, as these contain toxic chemicals
- Heavily coated or laminated paper from magazines, greeting cards, catalogs, and similar items.
- Wood ash is generally harmful, though a small amount may not have a detrimental impact on microbes. Too much may interfere with the composting process and cause ammonia gas to release. This process reduces nitrogen
- Pine needles, as these items don’t decay quickly
Fast Composting Tips
If you want to speed up the composting process, you can take a few essential steps to improve the results. One of the key ways to keep your compost working quickly is to maintain the green and brown content ratio as you contribute organic items.
1. Best Conditions for Making Rapid Compost
- Oxygen concentration – Good: Greater than 5%, Better: Much greater than 5%
- Temperature – Good: 110-150 degrees F., Better: 130-150 degrees F
- Moisture Content – Good: 40-65%, Better: 50-60%
- Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratio (C:N) – Good: 20:1 – 40:1, Better: 25:1 – 30:1
2. The Smaller, the Better
A small compost is easier to manage and tends to break down quickly. It’s also essential to chop or slice up the organic items into small, one-inch pieces. You can use pruning shears or a reel mower to reduce their size before adding them to the compost.
3. Regularly Add Green Organics and Water to Keep the Compost Moist
Green organics are generally moist because they are fresh and recently grown and discarded. It’s essential to include as many wet ingredients as possible in the compost bin, as too many brown or dry items take much longer to break down without adequate moisture.
4. Keep an Organic Bin in Your Kitchen
If you don’t have a yard or garden to set up a compost pile outdoors, you can purchase a bin for your kitchen to collect organic items. When the container is full, you can deposit the composting into a community green bin or similar receptacle used for a local garden.
It’s easy to maintain a small composting bin, though you’ll need to empty it often into an enormous compost pile outdoors. You can add small, indoor house plants instead of discarding them outdoors. These smaller bins compost quickly and can be easily added to a larger compost outdoors.
When you start a compost pile for your home, you’ll find many great benefits for your kitchen and garden. A well-maintained compost bin is a great opportunity to reduce waste and keep your kitchen eco-friendly.