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Last updated on January 21st, 2020

Compost bins are a wonderful way to recycle and starting the process is relatively simple. However, differentiating between what can and cannot be put in the compost bin is not as simple. 

What to compost – quick guide

Some of the most common materials you can compost include green waste such as grass clipping, annual weeds, fruit and vegetables, and even pet waste from none meat-eating animals such as hamsters and rabbits. This should make up 25-50% of your green waste and should be mixed with brown waste which includes hedge trimming which compost better when shredded, leaves from trees, wood chips and even newspapers and cardboard. Colour magazines will rot down put we recommend shedding first as they often have a protective waxy layer which can stop it from composting as well.

What not to compost – quick guide

Don’t compost perennial weeds, these are best burned on put in the green bins the council supply and we don’t recommend putting meat into your compost bin as this doesn’t rot down as well but can also spread diseases so its best just to avoid composting this. Finally, don’t recycle any diseases plant growth as this can also spread diseases to other areas of your garden where you spread the compost.

The gardeners guide to what you can compost

What you can compost and cannot compost

At its base, compost is organic matter. This means you are clear to include all organic matter such as grass clippings, tree leaves gathered from pruning or collected in autumn and winter, vegetable food scraps from your kitchen like banana or potato peels and even coffee grounds, animal manure from animals that don’t eat meat such as hamsters, rabbits and horses, disease-free garden waste from your weekly weeding round, and printer paper/black and white newspaper. 

Why shouldn’t you put certain manure into your compost

There are a few considerations to be made with these. For example: with manure that comes from animals which are not vegetarians (i.e., cats, dogs, pigs, or even humans) the faeces can contain pathogens that result in diseases. In order for the compost pile to kill off any of these microbes, it must get very, very hot. So you need to keep an eye on the temperature to be sure it gets hot enough if you want to toss some non-vegetarian manure into the mix, literally and figuratively. With this in mind, we usually recommend just avoiding including the types of waste even though they can be composted as it’s not worth the risk for most people, especially the less experienced.

Don’t add perennial weeds into your compost

Noxious weeds from perennial weeds can be tossed into your mix, but more often than not these invasive weeds will resume their life cycle with even the tiniest of plant material can start the spread of new weeds. This means they won’t harm the compost or any part of your garden on which you toss the compost, but they could invade and spread which most will agree you want to avoid after all most of us would prefer not to be planting more weeds in our garden. 

Composting green kitchen waste

Preventing pests such as mice and rats

How to avoid attracting mice and rat to a compost bin

Food scraps with small amounts of dairy, oil, and even eggs can attract animals like mice or rats as pictured above. While eggshells are good for a compost pile, if you don’t have a lock on the compost bin, you might generate a pest problem. 

See our recommended compost bins and tumblers

To help prevent attracting pests we recommend you always cover these types of waste with a good layer of manure or other green waste.

Composting coloured newspapers and magazines

Black and white newspapers are fine and will rot down quickly and are good for adding to a compost bin, most colour newspapers use a soy-based ink that can be composted just fine, the problem is they are often coated with wax which interferes with the composting so we recommend shedding them first. If you don’t it might take much longer than intended if you throw your colour newspapers and magazines into the mix without shedding them first.

What not to Compost

Do not compost diseased plant growth

What not to compost is actually very straight forward, do not add any diseased garden waste to your compost bin. This will spread to other plants and corrupt the compost. It’s just not worth the trouble, either burn it in a garden incinerator or put it in the general waste bin.

Do not compost meat, bones or dairy

Do not add meat, fat, bones, or dairy in pure form. This includes oil and butter. Pure meat, bones, or fat brings disease problems if not composted correctly as it takes a lot of heat to do this correctly and subsequent pest problems. 

There is very little that you have to alleviate from your compost pile. More important is maintaining a proper ratio of carbon-based items, brown items like wood or branches to nitrogen-based items or green items like grass clippings. As long as you maintain the proper ratio of two parts brown to one part green and you regularly turn your compost pile with a compost aerator every few weeks to provide better aeration, you will have a successful compost pile you can integrate into all areas of your garden.

Author

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at john@pyracantha.co.uk

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