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Compost for your Garden - List of Over 200 Compost Ingredients

Updated on February 5, 2014

Compost List - Over 200 Compost Ingredients - a.k.a. How to Make Compost, Improve Your Soil & Spend Less Money on Your Garden

Compost Happens with or without you.  But, you can make compost better, faster, and easier, and improve your garden, and help the Earth and your environment, and SAVE MONEY - all at the same time!

This picture of a Swallowtail on a Daylily was taken by fizgig777 & posted here on GardenWeb.comJust an example of the Beautiful & Good things that happen when you add COMPOST to your garden soil.

Compost Basics

Compost happens when nitrogen, carbon, air and moisture feed microbes that digest and decompose stuff into compost.

What is compost good for? To add to your garden, your houseplants - or just back to the ground.

Nitrogen - a.k.a. "greens" - food & green plant scraps

Carbon - a.k.a. "browns" - leaves, paper products

Suggested ratio is about 3:1 Brown/Carbon :to: Green/Nitrogen

Nothing is all nitrogen or all carbon - but the things in the list below have significantly more of one than the other.

How long does the "stuff" take to decompose into compost? That depends. [famous lawyer answer] Depends on container, size of "pile", green/brown ratio, moisture content, amount/activity level of microbes.

REMEMBER: Especially if you have a garden - All of these nutrients came out of the ground to make the plant. If you don't compost, how will it get back into the ground?

Winter's Bonus

Used Coffee Grounds

for the Compost Pile.

Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work
Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work
The original "Square Foot Gardening" is my favorite gardening book. I use the square-foot method in my garden, but I use good quality soil which I amend frequently with compost.

What is Your Relationship to Compost?

Do You Compost?

See results

A Printer-friendly and Alphabetized List

Would you like to be able to get a printer-friendly and/or an alphabetized or categorized version of this list?

I'm wondering - and I'D LIKE TO HEAR FROM YOU - because if you would, I'll work on putting it together for you!

Would you like a printer-friendly or alphabetized list of these 200+ Compost Ingredients?

See results

YOU Asked for IT!

A Printer-Friendly PDF

Organized List of

200+ Compost Items

awaits YOU HERE!


Let's Party!

Do You Learn by Reading? Then these Composting Books are for you!

Some of us learn by doing.

Some of us learn via Internet webites & forums.

Some of us learn by talking to others.

Some of us learn by READING A GOOD BOOK!

[And some of us are quadruple winners! But my favorite method is still A Good Book.]

Great "Everything Compost" Website

Get all of your Soil & Compost questions answered here.

Yes! You CAN make Compost in the Winter!

As Marion Owens says, if she can make compost in Alaskan winters, so can you. Visit her great gardening website - below.

A Neat Composting Container

Not everyone has the real estate, the lack of Home Owners' Association rules, or the aesthetic tastes of a 4' square compost pile hemmed-in by pallets or scrap 2' x 4's.

Some would like - or need to - have a more compact pile with "clean lines."

Welcome to the compost bin. I recommend the one below because it looks the best and works the best for what's out there. [I don't recommend the tumblers because I've heard that the resulting compost is a bit on the slimy side, rather than rich looking & smelling dirt.]

Free Compost

Did you know that you might be able to get FREE compost?

It's true.

Check with your local town/county dump or recycling center. Many of these municipalities recycle leaves and grass clippings (from individuals and/or landscaping companies) into compost.

Mine does. And it comes out pretty good too!

Compost Haven

You've gotta visit the great

compost community at Compost Forum

for cool compost ideas & tips.

Pressedboard Food Boxes

You know the pressedboard food boxes that cereal comes in? Well, there are actually more of those little devils running around your home than you might realize . . . and they would all be a lot happier in your compost pile (going to good use feeding the earth) than sitting uselessly (but still decomposing nonetheless) in a dump. I shred mine because my compost pile needs to stay in a small-ish container, but if you have an open bin or pile, just throw the box in there!

Here are some examples of pressedboard boxes in the average home:

- cereal boxes

- cracker boxes

- organic oats, flax seed boxes

- jello and pudding boxes

- pasta boxes

- taco boxes

- sugar and brown sugar boxes

- artificial sugar boxes

- cornstarch boxes

- tea boxes

- brownie and cake mix boxes

- and ... I bet you can find more!

How many pressedboard boxes does your family throw away each month?

See results

200+ Compost Ingredients - Printer-Friendly Version

Vegetable Trimmings/Scraps

Fruit Trimmings/Scraps

Used Coffee Grounds - from your home

Leaves - whole


Leaves - shredded

Napkins/paper towels

Plants from your/others' garden (dead plants)

Grass clippings - from mowing the lawn

Deadhead & pruning plant trimmings

Used Coffee Grounds - from a shop

Moldy stuff in fridge that you're finally cleaning out (not dairy or meat)

Newspaper - shredded, balled up, or as is

Halloween Pumpkins

Clementines, Oranges, Pears, Apples, Cantaloupes (that got too mushy)

Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Peppers, Zucchini, Celery, Lettuce (that got too mushy)

Spent Annuals

Scrap paper


dog fur

apple cores

cat hair

OPL - other people's leaves

small twigs

weeds - without seeds

Human Urine

Cereal boxes

Dead bugs

Paper towel & toilet paper "tubes"

Nut shells

Orange, clementine, mango & melon peels

Junk mail (but not glossies)

Used Envelopes

Cut flower arrangements that should have been tossed already

water/broth from steamed/boiled veggies

mushy, brown bananas

left-over coffee in the pot

shreds from home/office shredder

coffee filters


stale pastries

A failed veggie side-dish attempt (that no one will eat)

Hard, left-over rice from take-out Chinese food

BBQ & other sauces that are past their expiration date (but no dairy)

Fall Potted Mums that are not being planted

Crab apples

Popcorn - bottom of the bowl

Old spices & herbs

Frozen veggies - with freezer burn

Hair brush & tub drain junk


Dryer lint (but not dryer fabric sheets)

Seaweed & Kelp

Houseplants past their prime

Old jelly, jams & chutneys that got moldy before you finished them

Uneaten extra 1/2 serving at the bottom of the oatmeal pot

Take-home bags of left-over spaghetti, mashed potatoes & gravy, Sunday morning breakfast, baby eggplant in garlic sauce

Mushy onions

Juices/liquids from canned veggies

Heavy or Lite syrup from canned fruit

Vacuum cleaner contents

Cardboard boxes (big ones, shipping boxes)

Holey underwear & socks

Pickle Juice

Dust Bunnies

Stale chips & crackers

Guacamole turned brown

That Exotic, New Veggie that you never got around to making

The Now Slimy fresh mint & parsley that you never got around to using

Fliers from the Home Owners' Assoc, & local vendors that are stuck in the door

Store receipts

Used "To Do" Lists

Used coffee grounds - from the office

Absolutely worn-out cotton rags

Used tea bags or tea leaves

Old Wine that you'll never drink

Ugly grapes

All those "Page 2 of 2" that your printer spits out that has nothing on them

Rhubarb Leaves (because you can't eat 'em!)

Beet tops

Used dirt from container plants

Green tomatoes that are too small to transform

Moldy bread

Pulp from the Juicing Machine

Lemon & Lime rinds after you've squeezed the juice out of 'em

Grapefruit skeletons after breakfast

Cotton, Wool & Felt scraps

Slugs (Wanted Dead or Alive - the living will help decompose the cooler compost, and in doing so, will stay out of your garden!)

Vines, Leaves & Stems from Bean, Zucchini & Cuke plants

Pizza crusts that the kids hate to eat

Blood meal (dried blood) (available @ garden stores)

Alfalfa pellets



Flat Soda

Winter crop harvests

1 year old frozen left-overs (w/o meat or dairy)

Used food/Christmas shopping lists

Pine Needles

Matches (used)

Rabbit, hamster, guinea pig cage cleanouts (but not dog or cat droppings)

Bird cage cleanouts

Moldy applesauce from the huge unfinished jar

Kids' lunch box left-overs

Left-over breakfast toast scraps

The 2 Remaining Pancakes

Squishy raw potatoes

The Remaining Peanut Butter in the Jar (because you're going on a diet)

Stale Cookies

The Gift of a Fruitcake (b/c no one is every really gonna eat it)

Brown shopping bags

Pressed board boxes

Electric pencil sharpener empty-ings

Watermelon rinds

Sugar & Flour that falls onto the table & floors when making cookies

Soggy cereal left-overs (after draining out the dairy)

Hummus gone bad

The Now-Moldy Bumper from the Bumper Crop of Tomatoes

Toe-Nail & Finger-Nail clippings

Children's homework & schoolwork papers (b/c they just can't all be kept as a momento)

Notices from the School & PTA

Sewing & Quilting fabric scraps & thread snips

Moth-eaten wool sweaters

Used coloring books

Old Halloween Candy - especially the kind that no one likes

Hard-as-a-rock Easter Jelly Beans

Valentine's Day chocolate box candies that you don't like

Paper Mache projects that didn't quite turn out as planned

IRS tax forms that you won't use because you have tax software or a CPA

Moldy bottom of the pasta sauce jar

Old Baking Soda (that was used to deoderize the fridge)

Hardened, congealed drink mix powders

Every pressed board item that came out of the bathroom closet & drawas that you finally decluttered)

Christmas cards (that you come across in February)

Any printed item along the line of "Go Yankees" (b/c I'm a Red Sox fan)

The Little Paper Peelings that Teenagers create when they're talking on the phone and peeling the label off bottles, etc.

Assembly Instructions after you've put the thing together

Puzzles that are missing a few pieces so no one will actually do them anymore

Completed Sudoku & Crossword puzzle books

False propaganda letters from your opposing political party

Hard-as-a-rock Marshmallows

Paper Wrapper of the Ream of Paper

Old Recipe Clippings for recipes that you'll never make

2-day-old bagels & donuts (that are past dunking stage)

Potato & Carrot Peelings

Now-Irrelevant Business Cards

Pear stems & cores

Pressed board boxes that 12-packs of soda come in

Pint & half-gallon ice cream containers

SAT vocabulary index cards (after the tests, of course)

Grocery Store Sales Inserts in the newspapers (not glossies)

All of the paper bills that you pay online anyway

White Rice (because you're going to replace it with brown rice because white rice is so bad for you)

Cotton balls that you used to clean the dog's ears

Empty matchbooks

Cardboard egg cartons (but not the styrofoam ones)

The cardboard boxes that the dryer sheets come in (but not the dryer sheets themselves)

Spent Blooms from the Butterfly Bush

Mistletoe after Christmas

After-dinner plate scrapings (but not meat or dairy)

Stale left-over dinner rolls (if you're not going to get around to making homemade breadcrumbs)

Construction paper scraps

The Dust-Covered dried flower arrangement

All that tissue paper in the Christmas gift boxes (that's too crumpled to re-use)

Pressed board that almost every child's toy comes in (& which is intricately tied to with those million darn plastic twisties)

Flower bouquets that you're saving in the freezer (from that special occasion that you can't remember)

Junk faxes that you receive (that you don't want to turn into scrap paper before throwing out)

Price tags & store tags from new clothing

Old cotton & wool kids clothes that are too stained or worn

Old shoelaces

Pomegranate skin & membranes

Outdated train, bus & subway schedules (same goes for outdated maps too!)

Wedding, shower & party invitations (after the event, if not going into the scrapbook)

Scrapbook decoration scraps

Brown-bag school book covers @ the end of the school year

Your teenagers' notebooks from last year

Thank you cards that you received (that aren't making it into the scrapbook)

Acorn Hats

Paper cups & plates

Pine Cones

2-year-old mustard

Popsickle sticks

The Roll of Paper Towels that got left out in the rain

The Junk (minus the coins) in the couch seat cushions (same goes for the car floor mats and seat crevices)

Toast Crusts that finicky kids don't eat

Strawberry tops

Scummy water in the flower vases

Tissue boxes

Solid rock brown sugar (that won't soften w/any softening trick)

The old apple slices that you had put into the brown sugar to soften it

The Cinnamon Rolls that no one could finish (because they got a sugar headache from eating the first 4)

Grape stems

Half-melted ice-pop that your child left melting on the kitchen table before they went outside

The Plate of Food that you left on the kitchen counter that the dog just licked (not meat or dairy)

Rice Krispy Treats that turned so hard that they will break your teeth if you tried to eat them now

All food items in your fridge & pantry that are not on your New Year's Resolution diet

Left-over water, tea, coffee, soda that sat out overnight

Apple Cider 2 weeks past its prime

Left-over spiked punch

Half-Eaten bagels & snacks still left in the car from this weekend's road trip

Guacamole - that got brown while sitting out on the table for several houses during the game-night party

Golf tees

Toothpicks (yes, used)

Melted Remains of 7-11 & QuickCheck Slurpy/Slushy Sodas

The Tomato that the ground hog took a bite of and left on the ground for you to pick up!

Last year's now-rotten bulbs that never got planted

Also - tell us - What have you added to your compost pile lately?

Did we leave something out of the 200+ compost item list? We'd like to know :)

Share your comments here!

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    • TheresaMarkham profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @MarcellaCarlton: I encourage you to jump into composting! You can make it as low- or high-maintenance as you'd like. You can determine what you'd like your ingredients to be. There's nothing like creating your own "loamy soil" (gardener's gold, i.e. finished compost) to add to or make your garden beds!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have to start doing some of this, I already use my banana peels to feed my roses by digging them into the soil around each bush, and I will eat fruitcake. But I've been somehow reluctant to make a compost pile. Thank you for sharing.

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 

      7 years ago from Diamondhead

      Thanks for the info I'll keep it in mind

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      7 years ago

      Oh, so helpful. Printing out this list makes good sense. You have so many items I'd never have thought of composting. Thanks.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading this lens! I just got started with composting and your list gave me a lot of really great ideas - and it was funny too. Great job, enjoyed my visit.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm interested on this one. Thanks for putting up this lens. Very helpful with valuable info

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thank a most helful and informative site

    • TheresaMarkham profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @KandDMarketing: Absolutely!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens. Good composting info! If people only knew what really adds value to compost, then much of what ends up in landfills could be useful enriching soil elsewhere!

    • Im Horse Crazy profile image

      Im Horse Crazy 

      8 years ago

      Horse crazy girls always love composting - what else would we do with the manure?!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      @vermontmom: Yes you can compost them. The leaves are toxic to humans as they contain large amounts of oxalic acid, but this breaks down in compost.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I was impressed and great lens too.

      Heated Towel Rails | Gazebo | Patio Heaters

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens! I've added you to my new lens on garden shredders, which of course make a great compsting material!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens! I've added you to my new lens on garden shredders, which of course produce material suitable for composting.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hey I have reviewed your squidoo lens and I really liked it. Because of this I went ahead and âlikeâ you on squidoo. Giving your lens another like.

      When you have time, please take a look at my lens. It is located at

      If you like my lens, please add a like to my lens as well. I am new to squidoo and I would appreciate any comments at all.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      9 years ago from Ljubljana

      Great list, I can adapt it, just need some more place...

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I just harvested our rhubarb and was wondering if I can compost the leaves (as they are toxic). I've done it before, but didn't use the compost in the garden anyway (used it on flowers). Thanks for the info.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I wouldn't want to compost store receipts if I were you. The thermal ones contain BPA. Be careful!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great list you have here, very thorough. A pure pleasure to read.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I have a compost when it's gardening time. My grandmother has one all year. It's the best use for giving nutrients back into the soil.

    • TheresaMarkham profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      @tssfacts: That sounds like a great childhood experience!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great article. I grew up composting way before it was kosher to do so. I have fond memories of helping my Mom dig our compost hole and filling it up and turning it over. Then when spring came we had all the plant food we needed and it was even organic lol.

    • squid-janices7 profile image


      9 years ago

      My small town started a composting program that has made it easy for everyone to compost stuff. I joined and my family now only sends 1 trash bag a week to the regular trash bin (reduction of over 50% in our annual trash). I love composting and I LOVE this lens. Great topic!

    • TheresaMarkham profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      @kimbesa2: Kimbesa, Thank you so much for your SquidAngel Blessing!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Ah, what a great shit list -- OH OH ... can I seriously say that? Well poop then! Merry Christmas.

    • kimbesa2 profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      Thinking compost all year round! Very timely and **angel blessed**!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great list. Very helpful.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very cool lens! That is an awesome list you have put together, I can't wait to look it over in more time. Thanks so much :) Simple Compost

      Straw Bale Compost Bin

    • Kevin Wilson 2 profile image

      Kevin Wilson 2 

      10 years ago

      ps - I added your lens to my new composting resources lens at

    • Kevin Wilson 2 profile image

      Kevin Wilson 2 

      10 years ago

      ps - I added your lens to my new composting resources lens at

    • Kevin Wilson 2 profile image

      Kevin Wilson 2 

      10 years ago

      Great fun going through the list! I recycle most of the paper items rather than composting them. I have a big three-bin composter in the back yard built from pallets, a ring-o-wire compost pile in the front yard, leaf and grass clipping piles in the side yard (from my neighbor), and a black plastic compost bin from a previous life that's been re-purposed as a garden-stake-holder because the bears rip it apart if I use it for compost.

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L B 

      11 years ago from Covington, LA

      Wonderful lens. If everyone would compost and grow some of their own food, it would do so much to help improve the environment. Welcome to the Naturally Native Squids group. Don't forget to add your lens link to the appropriate plexo and vote for it.

    • kathypi lm profile image

      kathypi lm 

      11 years ago

      wow, great info, i am just going to start composting, kathy

    • kathypi lm profile image

      kathypi lm 

      11 years ago

      wow, great info, i am just going to start composting, kathy

    • Tiddledeewinks LM profile image

      Tiddledeewinks LM 

      12 years ago

      I save all our veggie peelings, unused leftovers, dead flowers, and our chicken manure for composting. Great lens ideas you have. Thanks!

    • TheresaMarkham profile imageAUTHOR


      12 years ago

      Hi Arrowood! I've considered ID-ing each ingredient "green/nitrogen" or "brown/carbon" but with all these wacky things, I wasn't completely confident in my categorizing skills. One reason - everything is not either-or - rather, it's a blend, and the category that the item is put into is dependent on whether it is more of one than the other. But here's one tip for you - cotton clothes (socks, underwear, tshirts) are a brown/carbon - and btw, so is beer!

      All the Best, Tree

    • From the Abbey profile image

      Jeffrey S. Arrowood 

      12 years ago from Somerset, WI

      Wow! What a list! It would be helpful for us beginners to know what items on the list are nitrogens and which are carbons. I'm always on the lookout for carbons in addition to my shredded paper.

    • EmmaCooper LM profile image

      EmmaCooper LM 

      12 years ago

      Cool lens!


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