Composting – Part 3: Compostable Materials

Compostable Make-up and Ratio

Welcome to part thee of my composting series. Here I briefly cover the materials that make up compost. There are a different variety of items that can be composted. How they are prepared will determine how quickly they breakdown and the quality of your soil. The basic ingredients for composting are WCAN which stands for water, carbon, air and nitrogen. I simply remind myself using the mnemonic Watering CAN. According to the folks at Cornell, the composition of carbon to nitrogen should be kept around thirty to one (C:N = 30:1). That means for every 30 pounds of carbon materials (dried/ brown stuff) there should be one pound of nitrogen (wet/green stuff).


Typical Carbon and Nitrogen Sources for Compostables

The time it takes for these materials to be broken down is determined by freshness and size. Green leaves, twigs, sticks and grass clippings for example can take upwards of a season to breakdown depending on size, moisture, heat and aeration. In comparison to dried materials, green materials take more time to breakdown. Still, it is recommended that a combination of dry and wet items is used.

Grass clippings are neutral in carbon and nitrogen. Dried leaves and twigs are carbon rich; while urea and manure are high in nitrogen. It is also important to note the combination of ingredients will determine the nutrient content of the resulting compost. The more varied and nutrient rich the ingredients, the more the microbes that breakdown the compostables will have to eat. It also means the final product will be extremely beneficial.

You’re probably wandering about the combination of materials that should be used to make your compost. The following list of items have worked well for me in the past: wet and dried: leaves, twigs and sticks; vegetable and fruit skins; coffee grounds; paper and cardboard, tea bags, remains from the juicer, fish bones and eggshells. Even though I don’t recommend it, you can use manure but think of your neighbors. To further aid the decomposition process, pulverizing, shredding and cutting large materials also aids this process and if you have any worms, it is better for them. This is especially true for hard substances such as fish bones, eggshells, sticks and twigs



I start my b in off with a layer of shredded paper and/or cardboard. The latter is mainly for the worms. It creates an area that they can hang out when they are not eating. It also plays the role of carbon.  I follow that paper layer with green ingredients such as kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and pruned leaves for the nitrogen content. I then add a thin layer of dead leaves, if I have any, and soil for some added microbes. I repeat the layering process minus the cardboard until my bin is full and then I spray with my DIY accelerator concentrate mixed with water until soaked through. I then gently add my worms and seal the bin. I repeat the spraying process once or twice a week, depending on the moisture content of the bin, remembering to rotate the materials each time I water them. If you use worms as I do, remember to be careful when rotating the composting matter because you do not want to hurt your worms. This may require emptying the bin into two piles wherein the top section is returned to the bin first and the bottom layer is placed on top. After two months in the heat, the end product should be black, sickly sweet smelling, and look like soil that is dark chocolate in color.


Caveats About Compost Materials

1) Eggshells: raw eggshells have the potential to carry salmonella into your garden. It is recommended that they are either baked at 350 for 15 minutes or boiled for 30 minutes before using as compost materials or even as a dietary supplement and/or food additive for its calcium benefits. If used in as a part of the diet, please note that too much calcium in the elderly has been linked to an increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, grinding the shells into a powder also speeds its decomposition into compost.

2) Cardboard and paper: for your sake and for the sake of the worms, do not use cardboard or paper that have a shiny or plastic like coating. Also, while newsprint is acceptable, try to avoid magazine paper or anything that is heavily printed or shiny. The toxins from the ink and finish will be in the finished product and end up in your edibles and then in you.

3) Non-compostable items include human waste, dairy products; animal: skins, bones, and meat.

4) The more worms you have, the quicker the compostables will be broken down and the healthier the end product will be.


Remember, if you try this out, please let me know the results you get. You can share your results on this blog or on my Facebook page. You are also welcome to share your own gardening tips and advice. Don’t forget to like, thumbs up and share.

Happy Gardening!



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