What Waste Materials Make the Best Compost?


By producing compost you are reducing the carbon footprint while also adding an enriched fertilizer to the soil for plants to grow in. Compost can be purchased from garden centers or it can be created organically in the back yard.

The Key Materials

Creating good quality compost requires several key elements. These are nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, and moisture. However, these elements can be found in everyday household and garden waste and are usually classified into green and brown waste.

Green waste or organic matter includes vegetable peelings, fruit, mushrooms, tea bags, coffee grounds, green leaves, old flowers, and grass cuttings. These materials add the nitrogen element to compost. Green waste will decompose quicker and act like a catalyst to the compost pile.

Brown waste includes dry leaves, cardboard, paper, magazines, twigs, and wood chippings. These materials provide the carbon element to compost. Brown waste does not decompose as quickly as green waste, but it is essential to get the balance right between the two.

Moisture is provided through rain and also from the green waste. However, if there is a long, hot summer it might be necessary to add water to the compost pile.

Air is essential for the decomposition process, as it helps to accelerate the breakdown of the green and brown waste into a nutrient-enriched fertilizer. To get air into the compost it is vital to turn it regularly with a pitchfork. Doing this will also break down some of the green and brown materials.

What Else Can Be Added?

There are other organic materials that can be added to the compost pile. These include egg shells, seaweed, and seafood. Older plants with tough roots can also be added to a compost pile, but these will break down slower than younger plants. Other organic materials which can be added to a compost pile include wool, cotton, hair, and nail clippings.

The materials which are added to a compost pile need to be bio-degradable so that they will break down completely over a period of time. Never add meat or dairy products to a compost pile, as this will entice vermin such as rats into your garden.


If the compost heap starts to smell, this could be due to an excess of nitrogen, which is produced from the decomposition of green waste. To combat these problems simply add some more brown waste. Decomposing grass cuttings can be neutralized by adding some newspaper.

If nothing is happening in the compost pile then it might need more green waste or turning more regularly.

How Long Will it Take?

The process of producing fertilizers from a compost bin can take months or it can be done in six weeks. The time scale is largely dependent on the ratio of the materials that are used and the time of year. The green waste will break down slower in winter than in summer.