What can be and what cannot be composted is a common question among garden lovers.

Generally speaking, most organic materials can be used in a compost pile. Some organic waste though, is not suitable for composting for various reasons. Some kitchen scraps, may attract vermin and pests or be slow to rot. Some organic materials can be composted but you would get better and faster results if they are put in a separate pile or are ‘conditioned’ before going into the compost heap.

By familiarising yourself with what is best to use in your compost pile, you can better control your composting efforts and keep harmful stuff out. You can also choose to mix and match different household waste and garden waste to create different type of compost. Check out this amazing black gold compost recipe.

Compostable materials are usually divided into two groups, green and brown. Greens are soft young green plant growth that are quicker to compost and browns and tougher materials that are slower to compost.

We put together a comprehensive list of household waste and garden waste items with explanation attached to each item.

 

yesYes – can be composted

no No – cannot be composted

cautionCaution – Maybe suitable for composting but there will be reservations. Check the notes to decide if suitable

bokashi Bokashi Bucket would be most suitable in this case

green  Soft young green plant growth that composts quickly

brown  Tougher woodier materials that are slow to compost

green_n_brown Most plant materials are a mix of green and brown in varying proportions. More brown than green as they get older and tougher

Manure from horses, chickens and other animals bedded on straw can be composted. Water well if dry or mix with wetter ingredients. Can pep up a slow heap.

Manure from animals bedded on wood shavings can be composted, but only add in small amounts (see also Wood shavings). Water well and mix with grass clippings or other ‘Green’ materials.

Annual weed seeds may survive in a compost heap, so try to pull up weeds before they go to seed. Otherwise you have to hoe off any weeds that grow from the compost.

Spreads by seeds and roots. Place runners into a plastic bag and leave in full sun for a number of months until they turned to mash, then put them into the compost bin. Or make separate ‘weed compost heap’ (see ‘Couch grass’).

Small quantities are useful for balancing a heap with too much Green’ stuff in it. Large quantities are best recycled separately in a leafmould heap.

Bindweed can re-grow from pieces that don’t rot fully in a compost heap. Put into a black plastic sack, add some grass clippings, and leave in the sun for 6 months or more till rotted. Add the sludge to your compost heap.

Do not compost. Very slow to rot and can attract vermin and pests.

Don’t collect or handle bracken when the plants are producing their brown spores -usually during hot, dry periods – as there are some health risks from inhaling the spores.

Does not compost well and can attract vermin. Bokashi Bucket would be most suitable in this case.

These can take a long time to compost so may have to go through the compost heap several times. Chop up with a spade or bash with a brick to speed up the process.

Including cereal cartons, cardboard boxes, loo roll middles and egg boxes. Crumple up to keep air in the compost heap. Don’t add in flat sheets. A good balance for kitchen organics and grass clippings. Printing inks will not affect the compost.

These are fine to compost and will not attract the carrot root fly.

Do not compost. Toxocariasis and Toxoplasmosis are dangerous diseases that can be found in used cat litter and can be passed on to humans.

Plants are very hardy and not easy to kill, they may re-shoot from the vines. Place tubers and adventitious roots in a plastic bag and leave in full sun for a number of months until they turned to mash, then put them into the compost bin.

Persistent weed with tiny corms that will survive in a compost heap. Put in a black plastic sack (with some grass clippings) and leave in the sun for 6 months or more. When fully rotted, add the sludge to your compost heap.

Need to be shredded before composting. Your Local Authority may organise Christmas tree collection/ shredding.

Lemon and other citrus peel is quite safe to compost. Chop it up to speed the process.

Not of living origin, so will not compost.

If you use a kitchen tidy, don’t pour the coffee straight into it, as it will become very sloppy. You can empty a plunger straight onto the compost heap. Coffee filters can go into the kitchen tidy.

Good compost activator, if available (needs moist location for growing).

Can be composted but best taken for recycling into new paper. Crumple up into balls to keep air in the heap. Flat sheets can stop the air moving and could make the heap smelly.

Do not compost. Does not compost well and may attract vermin. Bokashi Bucket would be most suitable in this case.

Can regrow from bits of root that might survive in a compost heap. Make a separate ‘weed compost heap’. Cover tightly with black plastic until all signs of roots have gone. Or use the black sack trick (see ‘Celandine’).

Chop up tough sterns first.

Do not compost cheese and other dairy products. They do not compost well and can attract vermin. Bokashi Bucket would be most suitable in this case.

Young plants ok. Chunks of root might survive a compost heap and regrow. Make a separate ‘weed heap’, covered with black plastic until all signs of roots have gone. Or use the black sack trick (see ‘Celandine’).

Don’t compost plants with persistent soil-borne diseases (eg white rot, sclerotinia, wilts, clubroot). Many plant diseases, eg mildew, will not survive in a compost heap as they only survive on living plants.

Even if the nappies are biodegradable they could be health risk in a compost heap.

Not of living origin so will not compost.

Plants that are poisonous to eat will not poison a compost heap, or plants fed with that compost Take care not to inhale dust or fumes when pruning or shredding poisonous plants such as camphor laurel or Datura species.

Bury these in the compost heap as peelings with an ‘eye. can grow shoots. If the original tuber had blight, the new shoots could also spread this disease.

Potato plant tops that have been infected with potato blight are safe to compost in a covered heap – preferably one that heats up. Don’t use the compost on another potato or tomato crop.

Potato tubers do not compost well in a normal compost heap and will often grow into new plants. The disease potato blight can spread to your crops from these plants if the tubers were infected.

You can put both the plant and soil into your compost heap, unless there are vine weevils in the pot.

Although poisonous to eat, rhubarb leaves will not poison a compost heap, or plants fed with that compost.

Use only from untreated wood and in small quantities in a compost heap. Very slow to rot and can cause deficiencies if added to the soil before fully rotted.

Only use seaweed that has been washed up on the beach, do not pick it deliberately. Avoid the dried seaweed above the tideline as this can be very salty.

A good source of compost material.

Soil on roots of weeds and plants is fine, but do not add extra soil deliberately.

Not of living origin so will not compost.

Old and weathered straw is best as it has already started to decay. Water well if dry or mix with wetter ingredients.

These may take a long time to compost so may have to go through the compost heap several times. Chop them up with a spade or bash with a brick to speed up the process.

Young plants ok. Chucks of root that might survive a compost heap can regrow. Make a separate ‘weed heap’. Cover heap with black plastic until all signs of roots have gone. Or use black sack trick (see ‘Celandine’).

Do not compost. Toxocariasis and Toxoplasmosis are dangerous diseases that can be found in dog  poo and passed on if to humans.

Not of living origin so will not compost.

Not of living origin so will not compost.

Egg boxes made of cardboard only, plastic labels won’t compost. Crumple up before adding to the heap as this will help keep air in the heap. A good counterbalance to kitchen waste and grass clippings.

Good for adding minerals to your compost. Eggshells are often still visible in ready compost but this is not a problem. Crushing them before adding will help.

Leyland cypress, laurel, yew etc are very slow to rot. Shredding will speed up the process. Make a separate evergreen heap if you have large amounts, shred first, water and mix with lawn clippings, manure or other quick to rot ‘greens’.

Not of living origin so will not compost.

Not of living origin so will not compost.

Not of living origin so will not compost.

Good activator, but large quantities must be mixed with other tougher materials. Don’t compost the first two cuts from a lawn after it has been treated with weedkiller.

Chunks of root can survive a compost heap and regrow. Make a separate ‘weed compost heap’. Cover with black plastic until all signs of roots have gone. Or use the black plastic sack trick (See ‘Celandine’).

Very slow to compost but can add useful plant foods.

Old hay is best. Fresh hay may have to be well watered, or soaked in water, before adding to the compost.

Young hedge clippings including privet, will compost well. If there are lots of older, woody or evergreen hedge clippings, make a separate heap (see ‘Evergreen prunings’).

Best recycled to make more paper but can be added to the heap. Glossy paper doesn’t compost well. Crumple up before adding to the heap. Don’t ass as flat sheets as this will stop the air moving and could make it smelly. A good counterbalance to kitchen waste and grass clippings.

Can regrow from bits of runners that might survive composting. Place runners into a plastic bag and leave in full sun for number of months until they turned to mash, then put them into the compost bin. Or make separate ‘weed compost heap’ (see Couch grass).

Can regrow from see, tuber and root system. Place tubers and aerial roots into a plastic bag and leave in full sun for a number of months until they turned to mash, then put them into the compost bin.  Or make separate ‘weed compost heap’ (see Couch grass).

Do not compost, can attract vermin and pets. Bokashi Bucket would be most suitable in this case.

Good compost activator.

Best recycled to make more paper but can be added to a heap. Crumple up first. Printing inks will not be a problem. A good counterbalance to kitchen waste and grass clippings.

Nut grass is one of the most invasive weeds known. Tubers have to be dug up, as weed pulling usually results in breakage of roots, leaving tubers in the ground from which new plants emerge quickly. Put the weed into a bucket of water, soak them for a month or two until they drown and rot. The result is a beautiful fertilises Strain it and its ready for use.

Mat be quite tough at the end of the season, more brown than green.

Onion weed is an erect herb with an underground bulb, producing several smaller bulbs. Put the weed into a bucket of water, soak them for a month or two until they drown and rot. The result is a beautiful fertiliser. Strain it and it’s ready to use.

Crumple up before adding to the heap. Don’t add as flat sheets as this will stop the air moving and could make it smelly. A good counterbalance to kitchen waste and grass clippings.

Persistent perennial weeds that are very difficult to control are best not included in the normal compost heap. Try the black plastic trick (see ‘Celandine’) or make a separate ‘weed compost heap’, covered well with a sheet of black plastic.

If your pet eats little or no meat, such as a hamster, rabbit or gerbil, compost the bedding from its cage. If bedded on wood shavings, you need to be careful how much you put in (see ‘Wood shavings’).

Not of living origin so will not compost.

If you use a kitchen tidy, don’t pour the tea with the tea bags straight into it, as it will become very. sloppy. You can empty the teapot straight onto the compost heap.

Young plants will compost well. Large thistle roots may have to go through the compost heap several times. Use the black plastic sack trick (see ‘Celandine’) or make a separate ‘weed compost heap’ (see ‘Couch grass’).

If you do add these to a compost heap, take care when using the compost as the thorns may still be sharp enough to prick through your skin.

Not of living origin so will not compost.

A good activator to kick start the composting process. Water on to a heap, diluted approx 1 Part urine to 20 parts water. Be careful not to overdo it or it will make your compost heap too salty for worms to enjoy.

Crumple up into balls before adding to the heap. A good counterbalance to kitchen waste and grass clippings.

Collect in a container in the kitchen and empty it regularly. Add crumpled paper products soak up excess liquid and balance the mix. Alternatively, fruit and vegetable residues can go into the Bokashi Bucket. Bokashi Bucket would be most suitable in this case.

Can regrow from stem fragments that might survive composting. Place runners into a plastic bag and leave in full sun for a number of months until they turned to mash, then put them into the compost bin. Or make separate ‘weed compost heap’ (see Couch grass).

As long as you are getting a good mix of greens and browns in your heap, you should not need to add water. If the heap has died out, remove the bin, turn the heap and water ingredients as you remake it.

Weed seeds are unlikely to be killed off in a cool compost heap. Try to pull up weeds before they go to seed. Otherwise you have to hoe off any weeds that grow from the compost.

A good source of minerals for growing plants. You can also add ash from barbecues if you use lumpwood charcoal. Briquettes contain chemicals to help them bum which is not good for the compost.

Use only in small quantities in a compost heap. Very slow to rot, and can cause deficiencies if added to the soil before fully rotted.

Best shredded. Use in small quantities in a compost heap. Or make into a separate woody heap (see ‘Evergreen prunings’) or heap up out of the way where they will make a good wildfire habitat and rot eventually.

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