Sample compost image

With the new organic recycling requirements, learning to compost can be very helpful to you and beneficial to your garden.

According to the EPA, all composting requires three basic ingredients:

  • Browns - This includes materials such as dead leaves, branches, and twigs.
  • Greens - This includes materials such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds.
  • Water - Having the right amount of water, greens, and browns is important for compost development.

Your compost pile should have an equal amount of browns to greens. You should also alternate layers of organic materials of different-sized particles. The brown materials provide carbon for your compost, the green materials provide nitrogen, and the water provides moisture to help break down the organic matter.

What to compost

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Nut shells
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Yard trimmings
  • Grass clippings
  • Houseplants
  • Hay and straw
  • Leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Cotton and Wool Rags
  • Hair and fur
  • Fireplace ashes

What NOT to compost and why

  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
    - Releases substances that might be harmful to plants
  • Coal or charcoal ash
    - Might contain substances harmful to plants
  • Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs*
    - Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants
    - Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils*
    - Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Meat or fish bones and scraps*
    - Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)*
    - Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides
    - Might kill beneficial composting organisms

Worms for composting

Worm bins include African Red Worms (Eisenia fetida), also known as Red Wigglers, which are the most common type of composting worm.

They process large amounts of organic matter (up to half their body weight per day), reproduce rapidly, and are very tolerant of variations in soil conditions.

As nature's soil aerators, worms improve and condition the soil as they burrow in search of food. Composting worms excrete a valuable natural fertilizer (called castings), which contain 5 times the nitrogen, 7 times the phosphorus, 3 times the magnesium, 11 times the potash, and 1.5 times the calcium as are normally found in 6 inches of top soil.

Other names for Red Wigglers include Tiger worms, Garlic worms, Manure worms, and Brandling worms.