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So what do you know about compost? I don’t know much except what I’ve learned from researching this post. The plans for my potager garden have been a bit tricky, however Daylight Savings remedied the situation by giving us a few more hours of light in the day. Yay!

My father is helping me to build two square containers for summer planting: tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and of course herbs. To prepare the soil, I have been  making compost. Let me clarify this by saying, I’m probably not making the best compost known to man, or even composting properly. I’m saving compost appropriate food waste items in a container and then adding it to my soil as plant food. The end. At this point in my career as “The Black-Thumbed Gardener” that is about all I am capable of doing.

It shows a lot that I was more excited about the dove gray compost bucket I found at World Market than the actual compost, but then who’s surprised? Gray is the now color, isn’t it?!

So…back to compost. The decomposition of certain food and plant items is fueled by millions of bacteria and fungi devouring and recycling it to make rich, organic fertilizer and soil amendment. Make sure to turn/rake the soil often when adding your compost mixture.  See the chart below for types of items appropriate for compost.

If you have any gardening questions for Sadie, please don’t hesitate to email me and include Sadie in your subject line. was also a valuable resource on composting. Happy planting!

Materials to Compost

Browns = High Carbon Greens = High Nitrogen
Ashes, woodBark

Cardboard, shredded

Corn stalks

Fruit waste


Newspaper, shredded

Peanut shells

Peat moss

Pine needles


Stems and twigs, shredded


Vegetable stalks



Coffee grounds

Food waste

Garden waste

Grass clippings


Hedge clippings

Hops, used



Vegetable scraps


*Avoid weeds that have gone to seed, as seeds may survive all but the hottest compost piles.

Materials to Avoid

Coal Ash – Most ashes are safe to mix into your compost pile, but coal ashes are not. They contain sulfur and iron in amounts high enough to damage plants.

Colored Paper – Some paper with colored inks (including newsprint) contain heavy metals or other toxic materials and should not be added to the compost pile

Diseased Plants – It takes an efficient composting system and ideal conditions (extreme heat) to destroy many plant diseases. If the disease organisms are not destroyed they can be spread later when the compost is applied. Avoid questionable plant materials.

Inorganic Materials – This stuff won’t break down and includes aluminum foil, glass, plastics and metals. Pressure-treated lumber should also be avoided because it’s treated with chemicals that could be toxic in compost.

Meat, Bones, Fish, Fats, Dairy – These products can “overheat” your compost pile (not to mention make it stinky and attract animals). They are best avoided.

Pet Droppings – Dog or cat droppings contain several disease organisms and can make compost toxic to handle.

Synthetic Chemicals – Certain lawn and garden chemicals (herbicides – pesticides) can withstand the composting process and remain intact in the finished compost. Poisons have no place in the natural micro-community of your compost pile.



-ciao for now-


photo credit: Patrizia Montanari




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