175 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Compost – and Tips to Help You Get Started

If you are just beginning to homestead, you probably already know all about composting. It’s a great way to reduce your impact on the environment and to use up your resources to the fullest. 

Even if you don’t have a garden, composting is a great way to get rid of “trash” and to help rejuvenate the soil.

In this article, I’ll tell you about all of the reasons why you should compost – and fill you in on a whopping 175 things you probably didn’t know you could compost.

Here’s what you need to know.

how to compost

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Reasons to Compost

how to compost
Photo: Pixabay

If you’re not sold on composting yet, here are some of the best reasons as to why you should get started.

  • It reduces waste: Did you know that yard and food waste make up 30% of the country’s waste? If you’re able to compost these biodegradable ingredients, you can easily keep these out of the landfill and waterways.
  • You can use fewer pesticides: Use compost on your lawn and garden, and you’ll have fewer pests. Why? Composts contain beneficial soil microbes that help support the soil instead of depleting it. A strong soil is more resistant to disease.
  • Compost improves the soil. As a corollary to the point above, compost helps to build up your soil in a natural way. It encourages a balanced, gradual release of nutrients to fertilize and improve your soil.
  • It can improve moisture retention. If you have heavy, clay soil or porous, sandy soil, compost can improve your structure over time. It will reduce the problems you have with too much mud in the spring and make it easier for you to grow a healthy garden.
  • It saves money. Instead of spending money on trash disposal fees and fertilizers, you can double up and save money by letting it break down on its own.

How to Compost

how to compost
Photo: Pixabay

Composting isn’t difficult to do, but many people avoid it because they fear that it is a process that is far too complicated for the average homeowner. Not the case! You can compost in a large backyard bin or even a small vermicomposting bin in your basement. 

You’ll need to start with a compost bin. There are plenty of options, including:

A vermicomposting bin, like this which will allow you to use Red Wiggler worms to do your composting for you indoors.

A compost tumbler like this if you think you are going to have trouble remembering to turn your bin  – these are designed for outdoor use. 

A traditional compost bin like this if you have plenty of space and just want the most basic system to get started.

You don’t have to run out and buy a bin, either! You can easily make your own out of old wood, pallets, or other materials you have lying around. You can even build your pile up on the ground and cover it with a tarp, or dig a trench and compost in the hole, too. 

You should pick a good location for whichever system you choose. If you compost indoors, put your bin in a cool, dry location. If you’re composting outside, you’ll want a sunny spot that you can get to year-round.

Greens and Browns

Once you start composting, you will hear people talking about “green” and “brown” ingredients. 

Green ingredients are things like vegetable scraps, garden waste, tea leaves, coffee filters, etc. These are rich in nitrogen.

Brown ingredients include things like dried leaves, straw, sawdust, woodchips, shredded paper, and twigs. These are high in carbon.

How to Start Composting 

Once you have a few green and brown ingredients ready to be composted, you can get started. You will want to begin with a generous layer of brown ingredients on the bottom. Then, place a layer of green ingredients. You can alternate these layers, but you should use about three times as many brown ingredients as greens. 

Remember, the smaller the material is, the more quickly it will break down. Large woody debris will take a long time to break down, while grass will decompose quickly.

It may behoove you to add a shovelful of soil when you are getting started, too. This will add some soil organisms to the pile and accelerate its decomposition. 

You should keep your pile at a moisture content of 50%. You may need to put a lid on your compost to protect it from heavy rains or snowfall. You will also want to stir your pile every three to five days – or at least every week. This will keep the airflow and microbes moving so you have nutritious compost that can be used more quickly.

175 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Compost 

how to compost
Photo: Pixabay
  1. 100% cotton feminine products 
  2. 100% cotton products like cotton balls, or paper Q-tips
  3. Acorn shells
  4. Alfalfa hay or pellets (usually fed to rabbits, gerbils, etc.) (B)
  5. Algae
  6. Animal carcasses (this will take a very long time and may attract pests, so be careful with this one)
  7. Apple cores
  8. Aquarium plants
  9. Ashes from untreated wood
  10. Avocado pits
  11. Bagasse
  12. Bamboo
  13. Bamboo skewers 
  14. Banana Peels
  15. Bee droppings
  16. Beeswax
  17. Bird cage droppings
  18. Blood Meal
  19. Bone Meal
  20. Bread
  21. Burlap bags
  22. Business cards
  23. Cardboard boxes
  24. Cardboard egg cartons (you  might want to cut them up so they break down more quickly)
  25. Cattails
  26. Cellophane bags (make sure it’s not plastic)
  27. Cereal
  28. Chewing gum
  29. Chicken bedding
  30. Chicken manure
  31. Chopsticks
  32. Christmas trees (chip them first)
  33. Cigar stubs
  34. Citrus rinds
  35. Clover
  36. Coconut milk
  37. Coffee filters
  38. Coffee grounds (G)
  39. Cooked pasta
  40. Corn cobs
  41. Corn husks
  42. Cotton fabric scraps
  43. Cow manure
  44. Crab shells
  45. Crackers
  46. Crepe paper streamers
  47. Crumbs
  48. Dead flies
  49. Dead houseplants (including the soil)
  50. Dead leaves
  51. Dry dog or cat food
  52. Dryer lint 
  53. Dust bunnies
  54. Egg shells
  55. Elmer’s Glue
  56. Entire vacuum cleaner bags 
  57. Envelopes
  58. Eraser rubbings
  59. Evergreen garlands
  60. Fallen bird’s nests
  61. Feathers
  62. Fish meal
  63. Fish pellets
  64. Flat soda
  65. Floor sweepings
  66. Flowers from your floral arrangements
  67. Freezer burned fruits and vegetables
  68. Fruit scraps
  69. Fur from the dog or cat brush (B)
  70. Garden snail shells
  71. Gauze
  72. Goat manure
  73. Granite dust
  74. Grass Clippings
  75. Greensand
  76. Ground cover
  77. Hair
  78. Hay bales
  79. Hayweed
  80. Hemp
  81. Herbs and spices
  82. Hoof and horn meal
  83. Hops
  84. Horse manure
  85. Ivory soap scraps
  86. Jell-O
  87. Juice boxes 
  88. Kelp
  89. Kentucky bluegrass
  90. Latex balloons
  91. Leather
  92. Leaves from houseplants
  93. Leftover fish bait
  94. Limestone
  95. Linen bed sheets
  96. Lint
  97. Lobster shells
  98. Loose tea
  99. Matches
  100. Molasses 
  101. Moldy cheese (in moderation)
  102. Moss
  103. Mushrooms
  104. Nail Clippings
  105. Natural potpourri
  106. Natural silk
  107. Newspapers
  108. Nori
  109. Nut Shells
  110. Oatmeal
  111. Old candy
  112. Old jelly, jam, or preserves
  113. Old rope and twine
  114. Old wine
  115. Olive pits
  116. Onion skins
  117. Organic tobacco waste
  118. Outdated seeds (make SURE they are outdated first!)
  119. Paper documents (yes, you can get rid of those bills!)
  120. Paper mache 
  121. Paper plates
  122. Paper towel/toilet paper tubes
  123. Paper Towels
  124. Peat
  125. Pencil shavings
  126. Pickles
  127. Pine cones
  128. Pine needles
  129. Pizza crusts
  130. Popcorn kernels
  131. Popsicle Sticks
  132. Potash rock
  133. Potato peels
  134. Pretzels
  135. Produce trimmings
  136. Protein bars
  137. Pumpkins
  138. Rabbit, hamster, or gerbil droppings – do not use dog or cat feces
  139. Raffia
  140. Rawhide Dog Chews
  141. Razor trimmings
  142. Receipts
  143. Reptile cage lining and bedding
  144. Rice milk
  145. Roadkill (be careful, as this will take a long time)
  146. Sawdust
  147. Seaweed
  148. Sheep manure
  149. Shrimp shells
  150. Silkworm cocoons
  151. Sod
  152. Soy milk
  153. Spanish moss
  154. Stale beer
  155. Stale catnip
  156. Stale coffee beans
  157. Starfish
  158. Sunflower seeds or sesame seeds (you may want to chop them up first so they don’t sprout)
  159. Tea bags
  160. Tempeh
  161. Tissues
  162. Tofu
  163. Toothpicks
  164. Tree bark
  165. Twigs
  166. Used brewery grain
  167. Used masking tape
  168. Veggie scraps
  169. Vines (like grapevines)
  170. Weeds – you may want to heat some of them first to destroy weed seeds
  171. Wine Corks
  172. Winery wastes
  173. Winter rye
  174. Wool
  175. Yarn scraps

Is that enough inspiration for you to get started?

Make sure you are careful, though, about not trying to throw everything into your compost. Here are some things that should stay out of your compost bin and just go in the trash.

25 Things You Should Avoid Composting

how to compost
Photo: Pixabay
  1. Plastic
  2. Glass
  3. Aluminum Foil
  4. Metal
  5. Coated papers
  6. Glossy papers
  7. Diseased plants
  8. Feces of carnivorous animals (chickens are okay, even though they’re omnivores)
  9. Sweet baked goods
  10. Meat 
  11. Dairy 
  12. Cooking oil
  13. Used feminine hygiene products 
  14. Plants treated with herbicides 
  15. Black walnuts 
  16. Treated charcoal briquets
  17. Sawdust from treated wood
  18. Large branches (this won’t hurt anything, but will slow down composting)
  19. Synthetic fertilizers 
  20. Milk products
  21. Invasive plants
  22. Poisonous plants
  23. Dyed or synthetic fabrics
  24. Metallic wrapping paper
  25. Greasy foods

So there you have it! What do you think – are you ready to start composting? Let me know how it goes in the comments section below!

Want to learn more about composting and gardening? Be sure to check out these articles!

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Author: Rebekah PierceI'm a writer and small farm owner, and lover of everything outdoors. I'm hoping to share my passion for farming, gardening, and homesteading with you on my blogging journey.

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