Mix roughly 3-to-1 volumes of carbonaceous, or “brown”, material and nitrogenous, or “green”, material. In general, brown material feels more dry and woody, like dead leaves and dried grass. Green material is softer, mushier, or easily bruised, like fresh grass clippings, most kitchen waste, or livestock manure (not domesticated pet litter or droppings). These items, with the addition of water, oxygen, heat, and composter organisms (microscopic and macroscopic), will degrade and become compost. The nitrogen will assure quick composting, while the carbon will balance the mixture to prevent it from rotting and giving off that ammonia smell.
What to add to the pile or composter: What you put in the compost pile is up to you — just remember
that it needs to be from an organic material. Here’s a short list of possibilities:
- Hay, straw, pine needles
- Kitchen scraps (egg shells, old bread, vegetable and fruit scraps)
- Animal manure, except for dog, cat, pig, or human
- Old vegetables, flowers, or trimmings from trees and shrubs
- Wood chips
- Shredded black and white newspaper. (In the past, color printing used heavy metals in the ink. Most color printing now uses soy-based inks, but it’s better to avoid them in the garden altogether to be on the safe side.)
What not to add: Some items don’t belong in your compost pile. While hot compost piles can kill off many diseases, weed seeds, and insects, it’s not a sure thing, and some of these unpleasant guests may survive to invade your garden again. Certain materials can also invite unwanted wildlife to the pile or spread human diseases. Avoid adding the following to your compost bin:
- Kitchen scraps like meats, oils, fish, dairy products, and bones. They attract unwanted animals, such as rats and raccoons, to the pile.
Weeds that have gone to seed or that spread by their roots, such as quackgrass
Diseased or insect-infested vegetable or flower plants
Herbicide-treated grass clippings or weeds
Dog, cat, or pig feces.
Recipe #1: Four parts kitchen scraps from fruits and vegetables, 2 parts chicken or cow manure, 1 part shredded newspaper (black ink only), and 1 part shredded dry leaves.
Recipe #2: Two parts kitchen scraps, 1 part chicken manure, and 1 part shredded leaves.
Recipe #3: Two parts grass clippings, 1 part chicken manure, and 1 part shredded leaves.