What You Can (and can’t) Turn into Compost

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Despite the air of mystery that sometimes surrounds composting it’s not difficult. If you haven’t yet designated a space for your compost pile or bin now’s the time to do so. Follow this simple guide for trouble-free composting and free food for your plants.

Green for Go – Things you can and should compost


  • Raw vegetables and fruit or vegetable peel: Any raw vegetable matter makes idea composting material but cut down whole vegetables to help them break down quickly
  • Newspaper or cardboard: But not too much at a time, shred or tear it first
  • Healthy garden waste: From your weeding, pruning and dead-heading, the key is to mix as many different sorts of waste together as possible
  • Egg shells: crush them first!
  • Coffee grounds and filters, tea bags and tea leaves
  • Used compost! From your hanging baskets or containers, why waste it?
  • Hoover bag contents & lint from washing machines and dryers

Amber Alert – Things that need special treatment before composting

  • Woody material: If it’s too thick it won’t break down, shred first and use in small quantities
  • Grass cuttings: You generally have too much of a good thing and can end up with a slimy, smelly layer in your compost that prevents the air getting into the heap. Spread cuttings thinly or mix them in well with other larger and more woody matter
  • Perennial weeds: Ensure they’re dried out enough not to come back to life in the heap
  • Wood ash: It can make the pile alkaline and suppress composting, use in small quantities, well mixed in
  • Healthy autumn leaves: They can be composted but they’re slow. Best to pile them separately since once they do break down they make a superior compost

Red for Danger – Things you shouldn’t put in your compost (and why not!)

  • Cooked food
  • Meat or bone scraps
  • Dairy products: All of these three things can attract vermin, the idea is to produce food for your garden not to feed the local rodent population!
  • Dog or cat droppings or litter: There’s a disease risk here so don’t put these them on your heap
  • Glossy or waxed paper products paper products: Neither will break down and the wax is actually a food source for rodents
  • Diseased garden waste: The fungi, bacteria or virus may survive the composting and spread disease in your garden
  • Weed seed heads and thick roots: when you spread your compost you don’t want to spread the dandelions too

Compost heaps also need moisture, air and the right balance of dry and green materials, your Fantastic Gardeners will be happy to advise you on this until you get the hang of getting the balance right. Just one word of warning, once you start composting, it can be surprisingly addictive….Have fun!

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