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What To Put in a Compost Pile

Updated on August 12, 2008

Now that we have talked about making a compost bin, let's discuss what exactly to put in a compost pile. You can put a lot of different things in it, but there are also some things that you can't put in. Once you get the hang of it though, it is pretty easy to do. Adding things to your compost pile will really reduce the amount of trash you produce.

Many times when people think of adding things to the compost pile they think of two things - food scraps or yard waste. The truth is you can add both. I have found that I can add as much food as I want, but I have to limit the amount of yard waste that I put in or my compost is out of balance.

As for yard waste you can add grass clippings, leaves, pulled up plants or weeds that haven't gone to seed, hay or straw and dirt. You can also add sawdust if is from untreated wood. The thing is you don't want to add too much of any one thing or it gets out of whack. A compost pile needs both carbon material and nitrogen material to stay in balance. By making sure that you have some of many different types of things in your pile you will ensure that it stays in balance.

There are many food items that can be added to a compost pile. Coffee grounds, used tea bags, melon rinds, peelings, corn cobs, egg shells, fruits and vegetables. If something has gone bad in your fridge or on your counter it might be great for your compost pile. You do NOT want to add any meats, eggs or dairy products to your pile. You can tear up cardboard boxes, shred newspapers and even break styrofoam into small pieces and add it to compost piles. I just make sure not to add too much of these ingredients.

Other tips for making sure your compost pile does well are to make sure that it stays moist and that it has good air circulation. Turn your compost pile frequently and this will provide air circulation and speed up the breaking down process. You want your compost pile to be moist but not soaking wet. You can add manure if it is from a grain fed animal. Think chickens here. If my pile seems to be having trouble breaking down I will sometimes add a bag of chicken manure and mix it in well.

I hope this helps anyone out there wondering what is safe or not to add to your compost pile. It is very easy to compost, so if you haven't already, try it today!


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    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 5 years ago from Indonesia

      Useful information about making compost, Thank you for sharing. I also add 1 or 2 spoonful of EM4 solution to my pile to boost the degradation process.

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      360 5 years ago

      how can we make it work fast??

    • Jennifer profile image

      Jennifer 5 years ago

      I bet it will be fine, see how it breaks down over time and if it seems slow then paint it.

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      enriquereajr 5 years ago

      I made a compost bin out of an old plastic container. The container is white, do I need to spray paint it so that it doesn't get any light inside?

    • Jennifer profile image

      Jennifer 6 years ago

      Bethany, I wouldn't start over, have you already mixed it in? If you can scope it out do it. If not leave it in there and see what happens.

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      bees 6 years ago

      what do i put in compost bins?? please help

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      Bethany 6 years ago

      My boys and I started a 'growing our own dirt' last night :) but this morning we but 2 egg yokes in big of a deal will this be? Should we start over?

    • profile image

      chixo 6 years ago

      i never tried composting but it looks fun

    • Jennifer profile image

      Jennifer 6 years ago

      Megan, I don't think you can compost dog poop for a vegetable garden. Maybe if you were only ever going to use the compost for flower gardens, but I won't take a chance.

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      Megan 6 years ago

      Can you put dog poo into compost or worm farm??

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      Santina 6 years ago

      Composting is great my friends always said it was to hard but im starting

    • kimbrewaa profile image

      kimbrewaa 6 years ago

      very informative, great information-thank you for sharing! vote up and useful :)

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      no name! :P  6 years ago

      thanks for the trips! i really hope i do well on my science fair now! my project is about comporting thanks aging! :)

    • profile image

      Sarah 6 years ago

      I just made a compost and I put in coffee grinds and some of my dead flowers I got from when I was in a play

      The compost I great. And who ever drinks coffee in the morning should use the left over grinds in a compost it works great!

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      Tarah_ 7 years ago

      I have a small pile up the back of my yard where I put food scraps like banana skins and the remains of potted vegetables that have finished. It works well for me.

    • ymyhub profile image

      ymyhub 7 years ago

      I've noticed that a lot of people fail at composting because the don't put enough carbon material and the pile gets slimy and sticky. If I don't have enough dry stuff I throw in some shredded newspaper and that really helps.

      I also recommend a compost tumbler to make it easier to mix and aerate the compost. There's a compost tumbler by Tumbleweed that I love

      Thanks for the great tips.

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      andra 7 years ago

      thank you for all your useful comments on your webside. recently i was given a little plot. since then i have been a very keen making sure that everything 'green' goes in my compost bin. i'm still unsure about certain items such as potatoe peelings. should i be avoiding those? also, as i make my own juce i have a lot of orange skin left. i cut them into smaller pieces but are they good for my compost bin? thank you

    • profile image

      Sarah 7 years ago

      We have two compost bins going and they're looking good. However, in one of them we have little worms (maybe grubs) that are about the thickness of an earthworm, but are only about 3/4" long. They have legs like a centipede. What might they be; and is this okay to have? We haven't put any meat products in the composters.

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      Hailey 7 years ago

      I'm fifteen years old and interested and helping the planet. I'm growing a garden and have just started to create a compost heap. I also water my plants with rain water that I collect. Thanks for your tips!

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      Bryce 7 years ago

      Cat feces should never ever be put in with any compost, dog feces is okay for non-food producing plant

    • Jennifer profile image

      Jennifer 7 years ago

      Eliana - if it is strictly wood ashes then yes you can compost them, but mix them in very well.

    • profile image

      Eliana Jantz 7 years ago

      Can you put ashes to compost?


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      Kari 7 years ago

      Can you put cooked vegetable scraps in? I have lots of raw veggie scraps in our compost pile, but am wondering if I could do cooked ones as well to reduce our trash pile.

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      Meee  7 years ago

      Ya i think u can put peels in....i just started 1 and thats all thats in there xD

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      yusuf 7 years ago

      can u put citrus like orange peels in?

    • profile image

      ty 7 years ago

      thanks for all the tips im going to start one soon as i go outside. :)

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      Bill 8 years ago

      We're using manure compost that has been fed to earthworms along with peat moss and perlite for a soil-less mix for our self-watering container garden. The results so far have been spectacular. Seems the worm compost is much richer and is ready for use quicker than the traditional compost method. Pics of the results are here

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      lulu 8 years ago


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      Jen 8 years ago

      If your gardening efforts do not include vegetable gardening, you can even add dog and cat poop to a pile. Since dogs and cats are carnivores, however, you don't want to use their composted poop for food gardens. In a pile or a compost tumbler you can pretty much compost anything that was once alive, including meat. The problem comes in with bad smells that may emit from the pile, so if you plan to compost meat and dairy items make sure the pile or bin is well away from the house.

      You can read about my cat poop composting efforts here:

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      bloodylipstick 8 years ago from San Antonio, TX

      i live in texas where our soil is very clay-like.  most plants don't like it when you plant them in our plain old dirt, but buying potting soil is so pricey.  finally, i've been shown an alternative!  i've always assumed that composting was too difficult, but now i see that it's simple!  i plan on starting a pile this weekend!  thanks for all of the tips!