What to Compost and What Not to Compost for Optimal Organic Gardening

What to Compost and Not Compost

Composting is a fantastic way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. By recycling organic materials, you not only contribute towards a sustainable environment but also save money on fertilizer. However, composting can be confusing if you don’t know what items are suitable for the process. In this blog post, we will guide you through what to compost and what should be avoided.

The Essentials of Composting

Before diving into specific items, it’s essential to understand the basics of composting. The ideal conditions for successful decomposition include:

  • A mix of “green” (nitrogen-rich) and “brown” (carbon-rich) materials
  • A balanced moisture level – not too wet or dry
  • Adequate ventilation to allow oxygen flow
  • Maintaining an appropriate temperature range between 110-160°F (43-71°C)
  • Frequent turning or mixing to promote decomposition

What You Can Compost:

Fruit and Vegetable Scraps:

Leftover fruit peels, vegetable trimmings, cores, seeds without chemicals—all make perfect candidates for composting.

Coffee Grounds and Filters:

Coffee grounds are nitrogen-packed ingredients that enrich your compost pile while filters break down over time.


Rinse out eggshells before adding them as they provide calcium—beneficial for maintaining pH balance in your soil.

Nut Shells:

In small quantities nut shells such as peanuts or walnuts can be included. However, avoid using large amounts as they take longer to break down.


Fallen leaves are fantastic sources of carbon. Shred them first to speed up the composting process.

Grass Clippings:

If your grass hasn’t been treated with chemicals, clippings can be an excellent source of nitrogen for your compost pile.

What You Shouldn’t Compost:

Dairy Products and Meat:

Avoid adding dairy products or meat scraps to your compost as it may attract pests and create unpleasant odors. Opt for a specialized facility if you have these items to get rid of.

Oily Foods:

Oily foods like salad dressings or butter should also be avoided as they can slow decomposition and cause bad smells in your compost heap.

Pet Waste and Litter:

Avoid putting pet waste or kitty litter into your compost bin, especially if planning on using the resulting soil for edible plants. These materials may contain harmful bacteria that could pose health risks.

Weeds with Mature Seeds or Diseased Plants:

To prevent spreading weeds or plant diseases, it’s best not to include them in your compost pile unless you have access to high temperatures capable of killing seeds and pathogens during decomposition.

Troubleshooting Your Composting Process

  • If the pile is too wet: add more dry brown materials (like shredded paper) and turn regularly
  • If the pile smells bad: add more dry materials, ensure proper aeration by turning frequently
  • If decomposition takes too long: adjust moisture levels, chop larger items into smaller pieces, and ensure a proper balance of green and brown materials

Remember, composting is an ongoing process that requires patience and attention. By following these guidelines on what to compost and not compost, you’ll be well on your way to creating nutrient-rich soil for your plants while reducing waste.