There is very little point in composting if you do not get a nice rich compost at the end of it that will be good for your garden. It is one of those areas where people new to composting feel righteous and empowered, and so they should! It is great to do something that is good for your small ecosystem and make it more sustainable.


You have made the decision to compost so you are going to keep all of those leaves, grass clippings, leftovers, and mulch them all down for a plentiful compost to use on your garden next year. Wrong!


There are actually a few giant potholes that could easily come in the way of you and your rich compost next year.


What not to compost:


  • Wood ash - it is very alkaline and can stop the composting process cold. A good use of wood ash is to make acidic soil more alkaline if you have specific plants in mind.
  • Grass Clippings - if they come from a treated lawn then they will produce plant-killing compost. Grass clippings from a non-chemical lawn are best left behind to feed to lawn and keep is lush. It doesn’t hurt to throw some in the compost but the bulk should be left behind.
  • Paper and junk mail - Most counties have got efficient at recycling this through the normal channels. Adding it to your compost adds zero value as it contains no nutrients. Junk mail just continues its spamming parade by serving unwanted and unnecessary waste to your compost heap. Let the bleached, treated paper be recycled and avoid harassing your compost pile with it!
  • Food scraps & leftovers - There are two big reasons not to ditch your organic waste in the compost bins. Number one food attracts rats and other vermin so unless you have sealed secure containers it is not worth the risks. The second reason is that some food items contain zero value/nutrients (lettuce leaves & apple cores) and others are not nature friendly (citrus peels broken down contain a corrosive compound that kills worms and bones take forever to decompose). The exception is seafood shells that contain chitin. They are an excellent source of calcium and other nutrients that fight plant diseases. They will attract vermin to your compost heap though so beware!


Now we have established where some first-time composters go wrong let’s have a look at what you can compost.


What makes great compost?


Great compost is highly sought after by any gardener that knows their stuff. We have a tendency to want to compost everything because it feels like the environmentally thing to do. But, we also need a good end product so we can nourish our plant beds and allotments with the end results.


Focus your attention on:


  • Leaves - blow them, or hoover them up and then shred them to break them down and start the process.
  • Coffee ground and filter paper - so what remains after you have had your morning filtered coffee can go straight into the compost bin
  • Teabags and tea leaves

These ingredients will ensure you have a good balance of ‘greens’ (quick to rot and provide nitrogen and moisture) and ‘browns’ (slower to rot and provide carbon & fibre). It is not a long list but that is because we want to guarantee success on your first outing.


Each year you can start to branch out by adding other ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ to the mix.


Now you know what you should be putting in your compost bins for that all-important first rich compost - here is a video on how to make your compost bins in case you haven’t got that far yet! Thanks to GrowVeg for their great video.