The Essential Guide: What Goes in a Compost Bin for Nutrient-Rich Soil

The Basics of Compost Bins: What Goes In and Why


Welcome to our guide on compost bins! If you’re interested in reducing your carbon footprint, saving money on fertilizers, and enriching your garden or plants with nutrient-rich soil, then composting is the way to go. In this article, we will delve into what goes into a compost bin and why each item plays a vital role.

Understanding Composting

Before we get into the specifics of what can be added to a compost bin, let’s quickly understand how composting works. Composting is a natural process where organic materials decompose over time due to the activity of microorganisms like bacteria and fungi. These tiny organisms break down various waste materials until they transform into rich humus resembling dark brown soil.

The Essentials for Successful Composting

Brown vs. Green Materials

To achieve successful decomposition in your compost bin, it’s important to maintain a proper balance between “brown” and “green” materials. Brown materials include dry leaves, straw, wood chips, shredded paper or cardboard — these provide carbon-rich matter that helps create air pockets in the pile. On the other hand, green materials are nitrogen-rich items such as grass clippings, fruit/vegetable scraps (excluding oily items), coffee grounds/filters that introduce moisture and speed up decomposition.

Fruit & Vegetable Waste

Fruit and vegetable waste forms an essential part of any healthy compost pile since they provide valuable nutrients while breaking down quickly. Scraps like peels (except citrus peels), cores/seeds from fruits like apples or melons should be included regularly for optimal results.

Eggshells & Coffee Grounds/Filters

Another fantastic addition to your compost bin includes crushed eggshells and used coffee grounds or filters. Eggshells provide calcium, while coffee grounds add nitrogen and help maintain the pH of your compost pile.

Grass Clippings

After mowing your lawn, don’t toss those grass clippings away! They are an excellent source of green material for your compost bin. Just be sure to mix them with brown materials to avoid forming a dense mat that hinders airflow.

Leaves & Prunings

During fall, when leaves start littering the ground, take advantage by collecting them for your compost bin. Leaves decompose slowly but contribute great amounts of carbon to balance the nitrogen-rich green matter. Additionally, small prunings from plants can also be shredded and added.

Avoiding Certain Items

While there are many things suitable for composting, some items should never make their way into a compost bin. Avoid adding meat/bone scraps (as they attract pests), dairy products (they tend to smell unpleasant as they break down), oily/greasy foods (they hinder decomposition), weed seeds/weeds with persistent roots (to prevent spreading in garden beds).

Troubleshooting Your Compost Bin

Poor Decomposition or Smell Issues?

If you notice poor decomposition or foul odors coming from your compost bin, it might indicate an imbalance in materials or improper maintenance. Ensure you have enough brown materials to absorb excess moisture or add garden lime/wood ash if odor persists.

Pests in Your Compost?

Unwanted critters like rats or flies sometimes find their way into compost bins seeking food sources. To deter pests effectively: bury fresh waste deep within the pile; cover new additions under existing layers of organic matter; avoid adding any animal products that may attract vermin.


Now that you know what goes into a compost bin and why each item is important, you can start your own composting journey. Remember to maintain a good balance of brown and green materials, avoid certain items, and troubleshoot any issues along the way. By composting at home, you not only reduce waste but also create nutrient-rich soil that nourishes your plants and keeps the environment healthier for generations to come. Happy composting!