What you can and can't compost
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What You Can and Can’t Compost

It is important to know what you can and can’t compost to get the best mix for your garden and prevent any contamination to your food crops.  Composting is a great way to reuse waste and improves your soil structure adding beneficial nutrients to your garden.

Materials that can be composted fall into two groups.  The first is carbon which refers to items such as twigs, newspaper, cardboard and dried leaves.  Basically, anything that isn’t green can be considered carbon.

The second group is nitrogen which includes kitchen scraps, lawn cuttings and green leaves.  It is important to have an equal mix of both carbon and nitrogen in your pile for the materials to break down quickly.

Compost Bins

There are many types of composting bins that can be purchased however you can make your own from scrap materials.  Try this guide to making compost bins

It is important the bottom is open to the ground so the worms and other bugs can make their way up through your pile.  They are your workers turning the raw materials into a rich soil your plants will love.

If you are looking to buy a compost bin, these tumbling bins are a good option. You can find them at Amazon. (Paid link)

Compost Piles

Should I Layer My Compost Pile?

It isn’t necessary to layer the pile as long as you have roughly an equal mix of carbon and nitrogen materials throughout.  Starting the pile with a bed of twigs on the bottom helps to get air to the bottom and up through the materials.

Do I Need to Turn My Compost Pile?

No, you don’t need to turn your compost if you use equal amounts of carbon and nitrogen materials in the pile and have a pitchfork.  Poke holes in the pile with your pitchfork when it reaches a foot in height then again at two foot then finally when it is completed. 

Should I Cover My Compost Pile?

Yes.  An old piece of carpet or hessian bag (burlap (Paid link)) will do.  This will keep the moisture in and the birds and other pests out.

Storing Kitchen Scraps

A used ice-cream container is the perfect size for storing kitchen scraps until you are ready to take them out to your compost pile.

To prevent the insides from becoming slimy line it with a piece of newspaper then put your scraps in the middle.  Throw it all in the pile, give the container a quick wash out then you are ready for your next batch.

You can compost kitchen scraps.

What You Can Compost

Nitrogen MaterialsCarbon Materials
Raw Vegetable ScrapsBrown Twigs – No larger than an
Fruit ScrapsDried Leaves
Boiled RiceStraw
GrainsSawdust from untreated wood
FlourShredded or Scrunched
Stale BreadCardboard
Coffee Grinds & Tea Bags – Take
the staple out first!
Toilet Rolls
Green PruningEgg Cartons
Lawn Cuttings
Clover & Lucerne
Green Vegetable Garden Waste –
Remove any diseased fruit or
plants before adding

Other Materials That Can Be Composted

  • Egg Shells – Give them a quick wash before adding.
  • Aged Chicken or Cow Manure (Any herbivores) – Fresh manure can be too hot for the worms.
  • Wood Ash – Add only a little at a time.

What You Can’t Compost

  • Meat and Fish
  • Dairy and Eggs
  • Fats
  • Citrus and Onion – The acidity can harm worms and other beneficial organisms.
  • Pet Waste (Waste from any meat-eating animal) – As tempting as it is, don’t throw your kitty litter in especially if the compost will be used on vegetable crops for human consumption.
  • Coal Ash
  • Glossy Paper and Plastics
  • Sawdust from treated wood


Compost heaps should be a minimum of 1 metre cubed (3 feet cubed) for it to break down effectively.

You don’t need to put all of your lawn cuttings in the compost. They can be used to make weed tea fertilizer which is a concentrated natural fertilizer for your garden. See this guide to making Weed Tea.

To Save or Print this guide on what you can and can’t compost, click the button below for the PDF File.

If you love gardening you might like this Homesteading guide or these guides on growing Cucumbers, Tomatoes or Jalapenos.

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