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Dos and Don’ts of Composting

Many beginning gardeners believe that all you need to grow healthy plants and vegetables is water and sunlight. However, plants also need healthy soil rich in nutrients to be able to grow properly. And composting is a great way to do just that.

But before you start composting, there are a few things to keep in mind. Like what can and cannot be composted.

The IN List:

  • Animal (cow or horse) manure
  • Cardboard rolls
  • Clean paper
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Cotton rags
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Eggshells
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Grass clippings
  • Hair and fur
  • Hay and straw
  • Houseplants
  • Leaves
  • Nutshells
  • Sawdust
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Tea bags
  • Wood chips
  • Wool rags
  • Yard trimmings

The OUT List:

  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
    • Release substances that might be harmful to plants
  • Coal or charcoal ash
    • Might contain substances harmful to plants
  • Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs
    • Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants
    • Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils
    • Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Meat or fish bones and scraps
    • Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)
    • Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides
    • Might kill beneficial composting organisms

Source: “Create Your Own Compost Pile” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Photo credit: "Bac a compost communautaire et bac a compost normal" by solylunafamilia 


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