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Materials For Backyard & Garden Compost


Almost any organic material can be used to make a compost pile. Correct ratios of carbon rich (brown) material such as dried leaves, straw, hay and wood chippings plus nitrogen rich (green) material like grass cuttings and kitchen waste produce the best results.

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A general rule of thumb is about 25 brown parts to 1 green would be about the best mix of material for compost. However by changing the ratios you can alter the rate of decomposition. Getting the right balance is an art gained by experience.  A useful tip – if you use too much carbon rich (brown) matterials, the pile decomposes slower verses too much nitrogen rich matterials (green) may cause unpleasant odor.

Leaves represent a large percentage of total yard waste. The smaller you can grind them the better as this helps storage and speeds up decomposition in the E.R.Composter. They are a natural source of carbon originating from tree roots. A few leaf species such as live oak, southern magnolia and holly trees are too tough and leathery for easy composting. Stay away from the black walnut tree as it contains a plant poison that survives composting. Eucalyptus leaves can be toxic to other plants. Do not compost poison oak, poison ivy or sumac.

Pine Needles are slow to break down into compost so need to be cut up as small as possible. They are covered with a thick, waxy coating. In very large quantities, they can acidify your compost, which would be a good thing if you have alkaline soils.

Grass Clippings contain lots of nitrogen and break down quickly. Grass clippings will clump together and start to smell as they lose oxygen. Mix them with plenty of brown material. Large quantities of grass clippings should be allowed to dry out before adding to the E.R.Composter. Once they begin to turn pale or straw-like, you can use without danger of souring. Avoid grass clippings that contain pesticide or herbicide residue, unless a steady rain has washed the residue from the grass blades.

Kitchen Refuse includes fruit waste, vegetable peelings and discards, tea bags, egg shells and practically everything that cycles through your kitchen. The average household produces more than 200 pounds of kitchen waste every year. You can successfully compost all forms of kitchen waste.


Be aware that meat, meat products, dairy products, and high-fat foods like salad dressings and peanut butter, can present problems and really should not be used. Meat scraps and the rest will decompose eventually, but will smell and attract pests. Egg shells are very good, but decompose slowly. Remember - the smaller you can crush or chop your kitchen waste the easier it will decompose when added to the pile.

Collect your kitchen waste in a container with a lid (so as not to attract pests) and deposit to your E.R.Composter every 2 or 3 days. When you add to your pile remember to top off with “brown” material to keep away unwanted visitors.

Wood Ash is good for the compost pile. A couple of buckets per pile would be good as they are alkaline and rich in potassium. Do not add coal or charcoal briquette waste.

Garden Trimmings are good for the pile. Cast offs from both the veggie and the flower gardens can be used. Try and avoid ‘thorny’ trimmings and weeds with strong roots.

Hay or Straw makes an excellent carbon base for a compost pile.

Manure is one of the finest additives you can use in a compost pile. It is very rich in minerals and nutrients. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are in abundance. Manure when left to age will be at its best.


Fresh manure should never be used in spring or summer as it can damage your plants because it is too ‘hot’, meaning that the high nitrogen level may burn your plants. Remember when adding to the E.R.Composter to also add layers of ‘brown’ material.

Seaweed is an excellent source of nutrient-rich composting material. Remember to wash thoroughly removing the sea salt before adding to the E.R.Composter.


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