Ingredients for Composting

Any experienced gardener will tell you that compost is essential to create a good garden soil. It amends a soil that is sand-based or one that is clay-based. It adds nutrients that, in turn, feed your plants. Commercially made compost can be purchased at nurseries or garden centers. However, it's a fairly easy process to make your own, as long as you know what ingredients to add. For the best nutritional results, use a combination of items.

Food Ingredients

You can put any food item into your compost pile. However, animal and dairy products (beef, fish, pork, chicken, cheese, milk) may attract unwanted pests to your compost bin. It's best to stick to items, such as vegetable and fruit peelings, spoiled or freezer-burned vegetables and fruits, expired herbs, coffee and tea. Egg shells may be added to your compost (to add calcium), but they may take a bit longer to decompose. These items are referred to as green matter and they are high in nitrogen. Grass clippings are also included in the nitrogen-rich compost matter. These items are quick to decompose and add moisture to the compost.

Woody Ingredients

Woody plant items are generally high in carbon. They are classified under brown matter. Dry leaves, sawdust, straw, corn cobs, vegetable stalks from the garden, pine needles and even paper are included in this category. However, if you add paper into your compost pile, know what is used in the processing and ink. When using compost for vegetable gardens, you wouldn't want to add anything that would not be healthy to digest. Woody (or brown) items are slower to decompose, but add fiber to the mix.


You can't have a good compost pile without water. However, if you add so much water that you have a sopping mess, you will kill the microorganisms that break down the materials to make compost. If you let the pile become too dry, you will cause the microorganisms to dehydrate. Both situations are not advantageous to a well worked compost pile. Keep the pile in a moist state. The best method is to sprinkle the top of the compost pile; turn it with a shovel or pick and then sprinkle again. The frequency with which the compost needs to be watered will vary depending on how quickly it dries in your location (depending on climate and atmosphere). It's best to check it often and make a decision accordingly.


Besides water and food, the microorganisms, breaking down the materials, need oxygen. Turning your pile as you wet it will provide pockets of oxygen. Woody ingredients also create air pockets.

Keywords: compost pile, compost ingredients, compost materials