What to put in the compost

Composting works well when there is a good mix of nitrogen-rich material and carbon-rich material. The wider range of materials you use in the mix the better. A suggested mix is two parts brown to one part green. The compost pile shouldn't dry out but whether you turn it regularly is a case for debate. A compost pile will compost faster if it is turned. Oxygen is essential for the organic matter to decompose it also decreases anaerobic microbes responsible for a smelly heap.

Chopping up the ingredients for the heap will also make it decompose more quickly and it will make it easier to turn.

Fallen leaves can be added in small amounts but it is better to cold-compost a pile over several seasons. The addition of coffee grounds will speed the process up.

Making good compost takes time but a hot composter can speed the process up, they are expensive though.

List of ingredients for the compost or wormery, see also Vermiculture

The following things can be put on the compost heap. * shows items that can be put in the wormery too.

Nitrogen rich 'greens'

fruit peelings and scraps* (worms need to avoid citric fruit)

veg peelings and scraps* (worms need to avoid garlic, leeks, onions)

softwood plant pruning


weeds (no seed heads)

tea bags without the bag if it contains plastic*

coffee grounds (yes they look brown but they are nitrogen rich), sprinkle on a thin layer

egg shells *

animal and poultry manure

hair and feathers

grass clippings not huge amounts or the pile can become slimy and smelly, add layers less than 3cm

Carbon rich 'browns'

cardboard (inks that don't smudge when rubbed are usually water based or soy inks) add in layers less than 5cm

fallen leaves (small amount)

shredded paper

newspaper * (be careful of coloured inks, black and white tend to be soy inks)

paper (not magazines)

paper towels *

paper bags, packaging (scrumple in loose balls)

egg boxes

cardboard tubes *

hedge clippings - tougher ones

plant prunings (woody ones shredded)

nut shells

sawdust (untreated wood)

wood ash (small amount but use untreated wood)

Hopefully with the right mix and smaller pieces, this will compost down within a year.