Six things you never knew you could compost

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composting turns waste into a resourceFor this week’s ‘Change the world Wednesday‘ challenge we’re off to the compost bin!

Home composting is a great way to turn waste into a valuable resource, especially when you consider that around 60% of the contents of your kitchen bin could be reused in this way!

This week we’ve been asked to share our composting ‘How to’s’. For my beginner’s composting guide I’m going to go right back to basics and want to share six items you might never have realised you can compost. You’re probably aware that grass cuttings, small hedge trimmings and shredded paper can go into your compost heap, but here are other ideas that might surprise you!

The secret to great compost is to mix equal quantities by VOLUME (not weight) of green ingredients and brown ingredients. For green think wet – vegetable peelings, grass clippings etc. For brown think ‘dry’ – shredded cardboard or finely shredded woody prunings.

Eggshells

Eggshells contain valuable nutrients and make a great addition to your compost heap. Crush them before adding. Eggshells can take a surprising amount of time to break down, so don’t worry if you find a few pieces still intact when you use your finished compost.

Human hair and pet fur

Hair can be added to your compost heap, along with pet’s fur. When you clean out your combs and brushes, stuff some in the hedge for bird’s nesting material and add the rest to your compost heap.

Nut shells

You’ve had a party and you’re left with bowls of peanut and pistachio shells. Instead of sending them to landfill, you can add them to your compost pile. Nut shells are a good ‘brown’ and will help to balance other wetter ‘greens’ such as vegetable peelings and grass cuttings in your compost pile.

Seaweed and pond weed

If you have access to fresh seaweed, then you can pop it into your compost pile. Likewise you can get rid of pond weed in the same way. Remember, seaweed is part of the ecosystem of the shoreline, so don’t be greedy! Only take seaweed that has been washed up on the beach; don’t start peeling it off rock faces. If you’re clearing out your garden pond of weeds, then these can go into the compost heap too.

Textiles

Natural textiles such as cotton, wool and silk can be added to your compost heap. This could be an ideal solution for someone who does a lot of sewing, knitting or crafts and has small scraps of textiles and thread to get rid of. They will need mixing with wetter ‘greens’ such as kitchen peelings and you should only add a few at a time.

Vacuum cleaner contents and floor sweepings

The contents of most vacuum cleaner bags can be added to your compost, but you need to check a few things first. If you use chemical carpet fresheners or your flooring is not made from natural materials then don’t add them. But if you have natural flooring, such as wooden floorboards or wool carpets and your vacuum cleaner picks up everyday debris such as dust, pet hair and bits of soil then it’s fine to tip the contents out of the bag into the bin! The same applies to swept wooden floors.

What about you? What’s your ‘secret ingredient’ for great compost?

12 Comments

  1. Brenna on December 14, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Compost is one important thing we have yet to really explore in this house. We didn’t have the best time of it at the last house we were in, but the more I learn the easier it sounds. Love these ideas of things to add!



  2. joe on December 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    This is the first time I have seen this blog and may I say what a fantastic blog it is too! One of the items I include in my own compost that is not listed here is used tea bags.

    Ideally the tea bags would want to be of the type made from paper rather than man made fibre variety as there has been reports of the bags not breaking down fully but this has not been my own personal experience.

    I noticed that you included egg shells in your compost, these are great too but did you know that crushed eggshells (not too fine) around your plants also make for an amazing deterrent to slugs and snails? so no need for nasty poisons in the garden.



  3. Mrs Green on December 24, 2010 at 6:42 am

    @Brenna: Glad it’s inspired you Brenna’ have another go; I remember my first attempts were disastrous too!

    @joe: Thanks Joe; yes teabags are great if you can find real paper ones. Better still perhaps is to use loose tea leaves – cheaper too no doubt 😉 Thanks for the eggshells tip; our slugs seem particularly tenacious but I’ve heard other people with good reports of using egg shells.



  4. ecogrrl on January 8, 2011 at 2:56 am

    i love when i see a blogpost that can give me something i’ve not thought of before. for me i was aware of all of them except for not ever thinking about the dustpan. and i compost my dog’s hair from the brush! oy! thanks for the reminder!!!



  5. Mrs Green on January 8, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    @ecogrrl: Glad it was helpful for you Ecogrrl



  6. James on January 16, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Hey, thanks for the information! I have yet to start composting but it is a spring project I am planning, and will also be blogging about. I just started my green blog, so I could really use some readers! If anyone has the time please visit it at: http://gogreenwithme.blogspot.com/



  7. Mrs Green on January 22, 2011 at 9:37 am

    @James: Good luck with the compost heap, James and well done on setting up your blog to help inspire others.



  8. Mummy Manda on April 22, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    This is one thing that I want to start up in our garden – I seem to throw so much food waste away, especially now that I make most of our food from scratch. Great to know about egg shells as love eggs and hair as I loose so much, I always find long blonde strands everywhere! Think I’m going to buy a composter tomorrow – any tips?

    x



  9. Encourger on April 25, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    @Mummy Manda: Check Freecycle in your area or Craig’s List for your composter. We got one free, a huge tumbler one. It needed a few parts that were damaged but we bought them from the company for under $20.



  10. Mrs Green on April 26, 2011 at 11:04 am

    @Mummy Manda: Hi Mummy Manda, I would second the recommendation for Freecycle. Also, local councils sometimes run good deals, so check yours out before buying one. The most important thing is to put it on bare ground (so worms can get in) and make sure you add the same volume of brown and green ingredients. Have fun!



  11. lana on June 3, 2012 at 3:21 am

    You should not compost shredded paper because ink is really toxic, especially if you use compost on vegetables.



  12. Laurie on April 17, 2013 at 1:27 am

    Sorry to contradict this otherwise fine posting, but please don’t leave the hair cleaned from brushes, or thread or string, where birds and small animals can find it, unless it is very short straight bits that can’t get tangled with each other

    I am licensed wildlife rehabber and the number of times I have had to disentangle a bird, especially their feet, from a tangle of human hair is beyond countng. It can become tightly bound when it’s pulled, if the try to get it off of themselves, cutting off their circulation, or it can cause them to get caught on things that stick out such as branches so they become trapped.



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