Some materials or better than others for composting because they break down easily and produce compost faster. Not only is having the right type of material important in the composting process but so is having the right mix of materials. For example, brown, or carbon-rich, items supply carbon during the composting process for microbes to eat, and green items provide nitrogen and protein to accelerate the composting process.
Fresh Grass Clippings
Use fresh grass clippings that have not been treated with herbicide for composting. Fresh grass clippings release nitrogen and help heat up the compost pile quickly. They are easily available after mowing the lawn or weeding the garden. Avoid weeds that contain lots of weed seeds, as the seeds may not compost and prevent problems once the compost is used in the garden.
Fresh manure contains microorganisms that help start the composting process. Also, fresh manure attracts insects that lay eggs in the compost and accelerate the composting process. Avoid fresh manure that comes from animals that have been fed hay or grass treated with herbicides--which may not break down in the composting process.
Crushed leaves become immediate food for the organisms that break down material in the compost pile because the pieces are small and readily available for composting. Large twigs and stems take longer to compost.
Straw or Hay
Straw or hay adds carbon-rich material to the compost pile. It is easy to find in bulk and usually does not contain weed seeds.
Large Animal Bedding
Large animal bedding that was used for cattle or horses is a valuable addition to the compost pile because it contains animal waste that has a high nitrogen content as well as the carbon-rich hay, straw or sawdust.