What Materials Are Needed for Composting?

Called "black gold" by gardeners, compost can be easily made at home. In its simplest form, a compost pile is made by piling up garden waste--both fresh and dried--and allowing it to slowly decompose. By adding fresh green plant materials and dried brown plant materials in relatively equal amounts, decomposition will occur more rapidly.

Green Materials

Fresh, green materials add nitrogen to the compost pile. Include grass clippings, pulled weeds and spent plant materials from your garden. Add fruit and vegetable peelings and scraps from your kitchen, as well as egg shells, coffee grounds and used tea bags. Do not include meat, grease, oil or dairy products.

Brown Materials

Add carbon to the compost pile in the form of dried brown materials. These include any plants not in their fresh, green state. Add fallen autumn leaves and the tops of perennial garden plants when they die down to their roots with autumn frosts. Other dried materials to include are shredded newspapers that do not contain colored ink, shredded office paper, junk mail or cardboard boxes. Wood chips can also be added, although they break down more slowly than most other ingredients in the compost pile.

Seed Compost

Add a shovelful of finished compost to the top of the pile each time you raise its height 6 to 10 inches with the addition of more green and brown materials. Finished compost contains microbes that will activate the decomposition process and start the pile "cooking" sooner than it would without use of the seed compost.


It is necessary to keep the compost pile moist for decomposition to continue. Every time you add a new layer of green or brown materials or turn the pile, spray the top of the pile. Add enough water so the top of the pile is barely damp, similar to a wrung-out sponge.

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About this Author

Sharon Sweeny has a college degree in general studies and worked as an administrative and legal assistant for 20 years before becoming a freelance writer in 2008. She specializes in writing about home improvement, self-sufficient lifestyles and gardening.