Composting dos and don’ts

You may compost the following “brown stuff” and “green stuff.”

Carbon (“brown stuff”):

• Brown, dry leaves
• Small twigs (smaller than a pencil, as they take a long time to break down)
• Straw (not hay, as hay has seeds in it)
• Coffee filters
• Peanut shells
• Clean, crushed eggshells
• Hair
• Dryer lint (from cotton materials)
• Egg cartons

You may compost small amounts of the following “brown stuff”:

• Sawdust
• Shredded newspaper (black-and-white newspaper ink is soy based)
• Shredded, nonwaxed paper plates

Nitrogen (“green stuff”):

• Teas bags and strings
• Coffee grounds (in moderation, as too many coffee grounds can turn your compost acidic)
• Lawn and shrub clippings
• Rose petals and stems
• Citrus rinds and pulp
• Kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps (peels, tops, parts that you don’t eat)
• Fresh green leaves (not walnut tree leaves)
• Unused bagged salad greens from the store
• Seaweed

Do not compost the following items:

• No sick, diseased plants
• No plants with pests or insects on them
• No rocks, sand or clay
• No roots or seeds of flowers or weeds
• No meat, fish, oils, salad dressings
• No animal waste (no dog or cat waste)
• No cooked foods, like mashed potatoes or rice
• No dairy products, such as milk or cheese
• No bones
• No Styrofoam or particle board

Additional tips for a healthy compost bin:

• Add equal amounts of green and brown material by volume.
• Remember: The smaller you cut it all up, the faster you will get compost. Cut up vines, 2-inches to 6-inches long for most greens.
• Layer your greens and browns like lasagna. 2 inches to 6 inches of diverse mixture. Or greens first, then browns.
• Keep the compost pile moist but not soaking wet.
• Turn the compost pile weekly to inject air into the pile. This helps the composting process for the aerobic bacteria. You will feel the heat of the compost pile if all things are working correctly. It should smell earthy, but it should not stink.
• It is also important to bury your fresh green scraps under a 2-inch cover of browns, as flies may lay eggs in on the rotting produce, and maggots will be born. (That is what usually stinks—that, or that the compost pile is either too wet or it hasn’t been turned to get oxygen to help heat up the pile.

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