Unlock the Secrets of Sustainable Gardening: Master the Art of Composting!

March 3, 2021 in environment, Sustainability

Article summary and Key takeaways: Composting is a sustainable practice that diverts organic waste from landfills and provides nutrient-rich soil amendments. The key ingredients for successful composting include a balance of carbon-rich materials and nitrogen-rich materials, adequate moisture, and proper aeration. There is a wide range of items that can be composted, including organic kitchen waste, yard waste, paper products, natural fibers, plant-based materials, eggshells, nutshells, and wood ash. However, it is important to avoid composting meat, dairy, synthetic materials, and diseased plants. Using a composter can help create compost more efficiently, and there are different types available depending on space and preferences. Following guidelines such as adding a balance of browns and greens, keeping the compost moist, turning or mixing regularly, avoiding compaction, and not adding large quantities of any single material can ensure a healthy composting system. A step-by-step guide to making compost at home includes setting up a composting system, layering compostable materials, maintaining the compost pile, and troubleshooting common issues. Composting is a simple and effective way to reduce waste, improve soil health, and support sustainable gardening practices.

Items You Can Use for Creating Safe Compost

Composting is a vital practice for sustainable gardening and waste reduction. It not only helps divert organic waste from landfills but also provides nutrient-rich soil amendments for gardens and landscapes. By turning your kitchen scraps and yard waste into compost, you can contribute to a healthier planet while enjoying the benefits of using safe compost in your outdoor spaces.

Understanding Composting Basics

Composting is the natural process of decomposing organic materials into a dark, crumbly substance known as compost. This process is facilitated by microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, that break down the organic matter into its basic elements.

Composting works by creating the ideal conditions for these microorganisms to thrive. The key ingredients for successful composting include a balance of carbon-rich materials (known as browns) and nitrogen-rich materials (known as greens), adequate moisture, and proper aeration.

There are different methods of composting that you can choose from, depending on your space and preferences. Backyard composting is a popular method that involves creating a compost pile or using a compost bin in your yard. Vermicomposting, on the other hand, utilizes worms to accelerate the decomposition process and is ideal for those with limited outdoor space.

Compostable Items List

There is a wide range of items that can be composted to create safe and nutrient-rich compost. Here are some examples:

1. Organic kitchen waste:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea leaves and bags (remove staples and strings)
  • Eggshells

2. Yard waste:

  • Grass clippings
  • Leaves
  • Small branches and twigs

3. Paper products:

  • Shredded newspaper
  • Cardboard (cut into small pieces)
  • Uncoated paper plates and napkins

4. Natural fibers:

  • Cotton and wool scraps
  • Untreated wood sawdust
  • Dryer lint

5. Plant-based materials:

  • Straw and hay
  • Wood chips and bark
  • Dead plants and flowers

6. Eggshells and nutshells

7. Wood ash

These items are suitable for composting because they are organic and will break down naturally over time. They provide essential nutrients, carbon, and nitrogen that feed the microorganisms responsible for decomposition.

Items to Avoid in Composting

While there are many materials that can be composted, there are also some items that should be kept out of your compost pile. Here are a few examples:

1. Meat and dairy products:

Meat, bones, dairy products, and oily or greasy materials should not be composted. These items can attract pests and rodents, create unpleasant odors, and slow down the composting process.

2. Diseased plants or weeds with seeds:

It’s best to avoid composting plants that are diseased or infested with pests, as well as weeds that have gone to seed. This helps prevent the spread of diseases and weeds in your compost and future garden.

3. Synthetic materials:

Materials such as plastic, rubber, and synthetic fabrics should not be added to your compost pile. These materials do not break down easily and can contaminate the compost with harmful chemicals.

By avoiding these items, you can ensure that your compost remains safe and free from potential contaminants.

Using a Composter

A composter is a valuable tool that can help you create compost more efficiently. There are different types of composters available, including tumblers, bins, and worm bins.

Tumblers are rotating containers that allow for easy turning and mixing of the compost. They are ideal for those with limited space or for those who want to speed up the composting process.

Compost bins, on the other hand, are stationary containers that provide ample space for composting. They are suitable for larger quantities of organic waste and are often used in backyard composting systems.

Worm bins, also known as vermicomposters, utilize worms to break down organic matter. They are compact and can be kept indoors, making them an excellent option for apartment dwellers or those without access to outdoor spaces.

When using a composter, it’s essential to follow a few tips for effective and efficient composting:

  • Regularly add a balance of browns and greens to your composter
  • Keep the compost moist, but not overly wet
  • Turn or mix the compost regularly to ensure proper aeration
  • Avoid compacting the compost, as it needs space for airflow
  • Avoid adding large quantities of any single material, as this can disrupt the decomposition process

By following these guidelines, you can maintain a healthy and productive composting system.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Compost at Home

A. Setting up a composting system:

Choose a suitable location for your compost pile or bin. It should be easily accessible, receive partial sunlight, and be away from structures or trees with extensive root systems.

B. Layering compostable materials:

Start by creating a base layer of twigs or branches to provide airflow to the compost pile. Add alternating layers of browns and greens, ensuring a good balance between the two. Aim for a ratio of approximately three parts browns to one part greens.

C. Maintaining the compost pile:

To maintain your compost pile, periodically turn or mix the materials to promote decomposition and prevent odors. Keep the pile moist by adding water as needed, but be careful not to overwater it. A properly maintained compost pile should feel like a damp sponge.

D. Troubleshooting common composting issues:

If your compost pile is not decomposing as quickly as desired or has an unpleasant odor, it may indicate an imbalance in the composting process. Adjust the ratio of browns to greens, ensure proper aeration, and monitor the moisture levels. If pests are attracted to your compost, consider using a compost bin with a secure lid or covering the pile with a layer of browns.


Composting is a simple and effective way to reduce waste, improve soil health, and support sustainable gardening practices. By utilizing compostable items such as kitchen scraps, yard waste, and paper products, you can create safe and nutrient-rich compost for your garden and landscape. Remember to avoid composting items such as meat, dairy, synthetic materials, and diseased plants, as these can hinder the composting process and introduce harmful elements.

Whether you choose to use a composter or create a compost pile in your backyard, the process of making compost is relatively straightforward. With a little effort and maintenance, you can transform your organic waste into a valuable resource for your plants. So, why not start composting today and reap the benefits of safe and sustainable gardening?

Question 1:
Answer: Fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, yard waste, and leaves are good for composting.

Question 2:
Answer: Four materials that can be used in the making of compost are kitchen scraps, grass clippings, shredded paper, and wood chips.

Question 3:
Answer: You can use a combination of kitchen scraps, yard waste, and other organic materials to make your own compost.

Question 4:
Answer: Two items that can be composted are fruit peels and tea bags.


About the author 

Sam Martinez

Hello, I'm Sam. With a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Yale, I've dedicated my life to understanding and advocating for our natural world. My work has taken me from the halls of academia to the front lines of environmental activism. I'm thrilled to share stories from my journey, insights from my research, and ways we can all contribute to a healthier planet.