One of the first things people wonder when they begin thinking about composting is “what in the world can I put in there?” Well let me be the first to tell you that leftover meatloaf from last week is definitely not a contender for the compost pile. To be honest, there are several different trains of thought when it comes to specifics, but in general, you want to have a good combination of “greens” and “browns.” Say what? If that seems like Greek to you, then let me take a moment to break it down:

Greens (Nitrogen-rich materials): This will be your veggie scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, grass clippings, and egg shells from your kitchen. These are things that come to mind when people think “composting.” And while they’re great, they’re not the only thing necessary for a successful compost pile.

Browns (Carbon-rich materials): A lot of these materials are well… brown. Think dried leaves,  foliage trimmings, paper bags, cardboard, and newspaper. (Not the shiny sales papers, but just the black and white print)

No-No’s- Meat or meat products (Spam anyone?), oil or foods cooked in oil, bones, diseased plants or leaves. Trust me on this; you do NOT want these to go in there. They’ll mess up the mojo of your compost pile.

Why the combination? Just like I need a delicate balance of coffee and chocolate to function, you balance out your compost pile with this combination that keeps the pile doing its job and breaking down all of those kitchen goodies you’re putting in there. So if you want that “black gold” useable for your garden, then just make sure you’re putting in both greens and browns equally.

Do I just dump it in? Basically, yes. The one thing you want to keep in mind is that the larger a piece of material is, the longer it takes to break down, so here are a few tips:

  • Crush egg shells (by hand or in a blender if you’re fancy.)
  • Chop up any large scraps (I do this while I’m still doing my chopping on the cutting board.)
  • Rip newspaper (When I’m done with the paper, I rip it into strips before putting it in my “brown bag”.)
  • Ask for paper bags at the store, then use them to hold your newspaper shreds. You can shred the bag too and put it in the compost.
  • Here’s a great printable to post up on your fridge as a reminder of what can and cannot be composted:

compost sheet 2


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