Making your own compost ensures a growing matter of high quality, but don't just throw any old thing in your compost barrel. Know what ingredients work best and what not to add. Many "recipes" work with varying ingredients and amounts used, creating hot or cold compost piles, but what you need to remember is to keep the ratio even among green and brown ingredients and provide moisture and air to your compost pile.
Green Compost Ingredients
Green ingredients supply the needed nitrogen to your compost pile. Used in wet and dry forms, green ingredients include grass clippings, aquarium water (freshwater only), dead plants (disease and thorn-free houseplants), deadheaded blossoms, plant cuttings, hedge trimming and weeds without seeds. Add thin layers of green ingredients topped with brown ingredients and repeat several times, or add a balance of both and mix well. Keep compost moist, but do not allow it to become waterlogged. Use moist ingredients or add water during dry periods. Other green ingredients include manure from chickens, horses and small pets (rabbits, hamsters and gerbils), coffee and tea grounds, plus vegetable and fruit peels and trimmings.
Brown Compost Ingredients
Brown ingredients provide the carbon required to make compost. Obtainable in dry forms, these ingredients control the moisture levels of your compost barrel. Add brown ingredients such as dried plant stalks or vines from your garden to your compost pile. Put in only small quantities of pine needles and untreated sawdust because of slow decomposition. Include leaves and small branches broken into sections less than 1 foot long. Chop up or chip larger branches for quicker decomposition and only use straw--not hay, which often contains seeds--in your compost barrel. Other good brown ingredients to use include untreated wood chips, shredded cardboard, paper products (except glossy paper) and eggshells.
Ingredients to Exclude
Exclude certain ingredients from your barrel to prevent toxins or pathogens from getting into your compost. Keep all diseased plants or treated wood in any form out of the compost barrel. If you are not sure about any ingredient, play it safe and do not add it to your pile. Never include items that decompose gradually, attract animals and smell bad--bones, fish, meats, poultry, fatty foods or whole eggs. Other ingredients to keep out of the compost barrel are reptile, cat, dog or pig manure or any bedding used by these animals.