Author Archives: Composter

Can I Compost Cat Litter

cat litterCompostable: Well, sort of…

Category: Brown

There are many different kinds of cat litter, so it really depends what type of kitty litter you have got and want to compost.

For clay-based cat litters or sand-based cat litters, I would say don’t try to compost them.  The same goes for various crystalline types of cat litters.  They are not natural products made from living materials.  They are manufactured, often synthetics which will not break down like normal compostable material.  They could potentially leech chemicals into your compost which could actually be detrimental to the composting process or harmful to the plants you would ultimately feed with your compost. Continue reading »

Can I compost Ivy

IvyCompostable: Yes, but…

Category: Green

Ivy is normal plant material, so it will definitely compost.  The problem however lies in ivy’s ability to sprout and regrow from a small fragment.  Obviously we don’t want this in our compost.

To avoid this, people have suggested a number of possibilities.  One option is to set it aside and allow it to completely dry out before adding it to your compost.  And even then, cut it up into small 3-4 inch sections.

Another option is to get it composting on its own for the initial stages, perhaps with the cut up ivy in a black plastic bin bag.  And only when it has started to decompose, add it to the normal composter.

Can I compost Bread?

Compostable: Yes, but…

Category: Neutral

There is a lot of debate about putting bread in the compost, with strong views being held on both sides of the argument.  To get straight to the facts, bread, either fresh, stale or mouldy, will break down in the compost.

So what’s the big deal?  Well, one of the main concerns about putting bread in compost is the fear that it will attract rodents.  For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend putting bread in an open compost heap where rodents, and the like, could get easy access to it.  However if you have a closed compost bin, I see no harm in adding small amounts of bread to the compost.  I wouldn’t add full loaves of bread or anything like that.

Can I compost Moss?

Compostable: Sort of…

Category: Green

Moss is a very persistent beast, and putting it in a normal composter seems to be no guarantee of killing it and decomposing it.

Like all greens things, strictly speaking it should break down, but many people report that the moss is regrowing a very short time after the compost is spread around your plants.  In fact it can appear decomposed but within a day or two it is green and growing again.

Perhaps this is all down to not getting enough heat into the compost, and a high enough temperature might actually kill off the moss.  But if you want to avoid the possibility of spreading moss to your currently moss-free garden plants, then maybe throw the moss in the garbage instead of the composter, just to be safe.

Can I compost my Christmas Tree

Compostable: Sort of…

Category: Brown

This is not a straightforward yes/no answer.  If you put a Christmas tree on a large compost heap, then over time, yes of course it will decompose, like everything else that was once alive.  However it will most likely take a very long time to break down, considering that the base of the trunk alone could be six inches wide.  Do you really want to wait several years for your compost?

So, assuming you were planning to use your compost this year, then putting a whole Christmas tree straight into the compost is perhaps not the way to go.  So what other options are available?

Well you could strip the branches off and maybe just use these in the compost, although even then it will take a very long time to break down.

Or you could use a wood chipper or mechanical shredder to shred / chip the tree.  You could definitely use these chips in your compost.  They still might take up to a year to decompose though.  Some people might have concerns about the straw pine needles making your compost too acidic, but this is unlikely unless you have very little else in your compost.

Alternatively, these wood chips could be used straightaway in the garden as an excellent mulch.

Hopefully this has given you a few ideas about what to do with your Christmas tree once the festive season has passed.

Can I compost Egg Boxes

Compostable: Yes!

Category: Brown

Cardboard egg boxes are a great addition to your composter.  Don’t add plastic ones of course!

Due to their unusual shape, egg boxes are also very good at making sure there is some air in the compost heap, which helps ensure your decomposition takes place aerobically, allowing your organic material to break down as quickly as possible.

The cardboard of the egg carton itself can be a little slow to break down, so it is a good idea to tear the egg boxes up into smaller chunks and soak them in water for an hour to get things going a bit quicker.

Can I compost Weeds

Compostable: Yes (but with some notable exceptions)

Category: Green

Most weeds from the garden can be safely added to your composter.  In general, the heat produced from a good decomposing compost should be sufficient to kill the seeds of most weeds.  After all, you don’t want to be introducing weeds to your flower beds by using your compost.

There are a few exceptions, where the heat produced may not be high enough to kill off all the weed seeds.  In particular, avoid adding any dandelions, bindweed, couch grass, Japanese knotweed, creeping buttercup, horsetail, ground elder or lesser celandine to your compost.

To avoid problems with other weeds, perhaps only add the fresh leaves of the weeds and throw the roots away (although the roots and the small amount of soil on them will contain loads of active organisms that would help get your compost going).  If in doubt, maybe throw any flowers and seeds of weeds away as well.

Can I compost Cut Flowers

Compostable: Yes

Category: Green / Brown

If you have cut flowers in your house, they will be a fine addition to your composter.

Depending on how woody the stalks of the flowers are, you might want to cut the stalks into smaller lengths.  The woodier the stalks, eg roses, the more ‘brown’ you might consider them.  Also, the smaller the pieces, the quicker they will decompose to create your compost.

Can I compost Mushrooms

Compostable: Yes

Category: Green

Mushroom scraps and leftover stalks from the kitchen and the mushrooms you might find growing in your garden can all be put in your composter.

Mushrooms can easily grow on your compost, the spores are released from underneath the mushroom cup.  The way to avoid this is to make sure that there is sufficient heat in your composter to kill off any mushroom spores.

Can I compost Grass Clippings

Compostable: Yes

Category: Green

Grass clippings are a fantastic activator for your compost and adding a little of this will help get things going quickly.

It is really important to not get carried away and add too much grass.  Grass on it’s own will compact down, excluding oxygen from the decomposition process and turn into a dark, smelly slime.  To avoid this, add grass in moderation, and ideally try to let it dry out a bit before adding to the composter.  If you think you have added too much grass, add more ‘brown’ material as soon as possible and give it a good mix through.