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Home Composting – Compost materials

Home composting is a simple way to reclaim a waste product and transform it into organic material that is beneficial to the environment. The average family generates approximately 225 kilos (500 pounds) of organic waste every year. This represents more than 40% of the total waste output that can be composted instead of being sent to a landfill.

What goes into successful compost?

Alternating layers of wet and dry materials. To speed up the decomposition process, cut materials destined for the compost into small pieces.


These wet materials are nitrogen-rich. Micro-organisms feed on sugars and proteins. These materials decompose quickly.

  • Plant residue, weeds, cut flowers and green leaves
  • Kitchen refuse, fruit and vegetable scraps, peelings
  • Eggs shells
  • Lawn clippings and wood ash (in small quantities)


These dry materials are carbon-rich, and decomposition is slow.

  • Tea and herbal tea bags, coffee grounds and filters
  • Pasta (without the sauce), rice, cereal, and bread
  • Nut shells (except for walnut shells, which are toxic)
  • Dead leaves, dry hay, straw, and cut grass
  • Needles and twigs from coniferous trees
  • Kleenex tissues, newspaper, and sawdust (in small quantities)

Materials that should never be added that attract animals and vermin, slow down decomposition, release unpleasant odours, or contain pathogens or toxic substances:

  • grease (oil, mayonnaise, etc.)
  • meat, fish, bones, dairy products
  • domestic animal litter
  • diseased plants
  • clippings from a lawn that has been chemically treated
  • weed seeds or diseased weeds
  • pieces of charred wood and briquette ash
  • human or animal excrement
  • rhubarb leaves

The key to successful composting

Here are a few tips for obtaining compost that contains the right nutrients and will decompose quickly and without problems.

For rich and balanced compost, the ideal mix includes 2 to 3 parts "green" materials for 1 part "brown" materials. Start with a layer of browns and add a layer of greens.

  • Alternate layers throughout the season.
  • Throw on the occasional shovel of earth.
  • Aerate every two weeks - use a fork to make holes or stir
  • Maintain a constant humidity level

Small materials decompose more quickly.

  • Cut and mince kitchen waste before adding
  • Shred leaves and needles with your lawnmower
  • Cut up garden waste

Humidity and temperature play an important role in the decomposition process.

To check a new compost pile, insert a metal rod into the centre of the pile and wait approximately 30 minutes.

  • If the rod is warm and moist - all is well.
  • If the rod is cold and moist - the pile is too wet. Integrate brown (dry) materials.
  • If the rod is warm and dry - there is not enough moisture. Water with the hose, and then turn the pile over.

To check a decomposing compost pile, take a handful of compost and squeeze.

  • If a few drops of moisture fall through your fingers and the rest stays in your hand - all is well.
  • If a trickle of moisture runs down your hand - there is too much water. Integrate some brown (dry) materials.
  • If the handful is dry and crumbly - there is not enough moisture. Water with the hose and turn.

Problems and adjustments

Even though composting is a simple and natural process, you may run in to a few problems such as the following:

  • Lack of heat - you can either add a large quantity of new materials, or turn the pile and incorporate high-nitrogen materials such as grass clippings, corn gluten meal, or blood meal.
  • Ammonia smells - add either dead leaves or earth and aerate.
  • Rotten eggs smell - turn the pile and allow to dry.
  • Ants - turn over your compost and water.
  • Small flies - add fresh green materials to the compost and cover with brown materials.
  • Large blue-bottle flies and rodents - this means non-decomposable ingredients have been added to the compost, such as fish, meat, or excrement.