Compost This, Not That

by Teresa O'Connor

In the garden, compost is black gold. Comprised of yard trimmings, food wastes and other materials, this homemade soil amendment brings loads of benefits to the garden, using free ingredients.

Compost This, Not That

Compost significantly improves the soil structure so that it retains water and nutrients efficiently, but also allows good water drainage, root growth and air penetration. Whether you have sandy soil or heavy, clay soil, compost can help by adding valuable organic matter to your garden.

Not only that, compost also adds important microbes to the soil, and attracts beneficial insects, which are important to plant growth. This "black gold" often has macro and micro nutrients rarely found in synthetic fertilizers.

I'm a big fan of compost, because of the way it improves my soil quality while, at the same time, reduces my household and garden waste. My Fiskars® Eco Bin™ Composter – which sits near a hibiscus shrub in my garden – couldn't be easier to set up, and compresses easily into a flat, lightweight unit for easy storage. The round shape, open bottom and puncture-proof mesh walls help everything decompose rather quickly too.

Along with all those other benefits, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says compost can also do wonderful things like:

  • Provide nutrients so that you don't need as much – or any – chemical fertilizers.
  • Increase the yields of agricultural crops.
  • Help remediate soils contaminated by hazardous waste.

So, what are the best things to throw in the compost pile? And what should not be composted. Here's help.

Fiskars Composting Tips 02

Compost This

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Leaves and yard trimmings
  • Tea bags
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Houseplants
  • Grass clippings (unless sprayed with chemicals)
  • Eggshells
  • Fireplace Ashes
  • Hair and fur
  • Shredded newspapers and clean, untreated paper
  • Wood chips
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Sawdust

But, Don't Compost This

  • Eggs and dairy products – such as butter, milk and yogurt – can attract rodents and flies.
  • Meat or fish bones and scraps can smell and attract pests.
  • Weeds, diseased or insect-ridden plants may survive the composting process and be transferred back to the garden.
  • Treated papers—such as glossy magazines, photographs or waxed paper—have chemicals that don't belong in healthy compost. That applies to pressure-treated and chemically enhanced wood products too.
  • Cat or dog feces (and cat litter) may contain germs, pathogens or parasites harmful to humans.
  • Coal or charcoal ash may contain chemicals harmful to plants.
  • Fats, oils and grease can create odor problems, which attract rodents and flies.
  • Yard wastes with chemicals may contaminate the compost and pose health risks to humans.
  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs can release chemicals that are harmful to other plants.
  • Oleander leaves are extremely toxic and should not be used in compost for vegetable gardens.