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What Goes into the Compost Bin?

When it comes to starting a compost pile, one of the biggest questions is what actually goes  into it – and, more importantly, what doesn’t. The basic rule for a successful compost pile is a 50-50 mix of green and brown materials.

Here’s a list to guide you in having a successful compost pile. Also, watch this video episode of Down & Dirty with Gardener Jim Martin to learn how to set up your backyard compost pile and start fertilizing your flower and vegetable beds.

Green Items for the Compost Pile

  • Fresh grass clippings
  • Fresh garden trimmings, flowers, plant leaves
  • Barnyard manure (horse, cow, chicken)
  • Garden vegetable leaves and stalks, fallen fruit
  • Weed leaves, stems and flowers
  • House plants and potting mix

Green Items that Don’t Belong in the Compost Pile

  • Clippings treated with “weed & feed” or other herbicide
  • Insect- or disease-infected plants
  • Pet feces (cat, dog, bird, rodents)
  • Meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, cooked vegetables and fruit
  • Weed seed heads and roots of spreading weeds; also Bermuda grass or rattlesnake weed

Brown Items for the Compost Pile

  • Autumn leaves
  • Twigs and stalks
  • Coarse sawdust and shavings
  • Shredded paper, cardboard, paper towels, napkins, tissues

Brown Items that Don’t Belong in the Compost Pile

  • Large amounts of evergreen leaves, needles or cones
  • Branch over ½ inch diameter, berry brambles, rose stems, holly
  • Sawdust from plywood, painted or treated wood
  • Coated photo or copy paper, colored paper, waxed cardboard

Don’t forget a lot of kitchen scraps can go into your compost pile, including egg shells, fruits, coffee grounds, grains and corn husks. 


should fireplace ashes be put into the compost ben.  i have two large (9’X4’X4’) bins almost full and about 2 gallons of oak wood fireplace ashes.  if not in the bins, is it ok to put’em in a hole vacated by our excavating the large root stump of a fallen (40’) tree?

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