In 2009 alone, 37% of Americans considered themselves to be home gardeners, and that was before our current gardening revolution had really even begun. If you’re one of the millions of home or apartment dwellers taking it upon yourself to grow your own food, congratulations! You’ve probably already got your plot of land (or containers) mapped out, your fruits and vegetables selected, and your new compost bin empty and waiting to grow some organic fertilizer. But before you start throwing everything from the kitchen sink into your compost bin, be aware of the foods and household items you don’t want going in there.
A well-harvested compost pile is invaluable to any home garden. Good compost will improve the structure and vitality of your soil, making it easier to grow things, and supply ample doses of key nutrients into the soil to load your plants with the essentials they need to thrive. Composting reduces the need to water your garden as often, and it can cut back on the amount of waste you send to the landfill by about 20%, according to experts at the New Castle County Cooperative Extension of the University of Delaware.
But there are rules to good composting. Things like food scraps and organic waste (leaves, coffee grinds, and the like) are fodder for a compost pile, while other things can create excess bacterial growth and attract unwanted insects or land critters.
Here are the basic no-nos that experts at University of Delaware recommend you avoid tossing into your compost bin:
- Pet or human manure
- Chicken, fish or meat
- Dairy products
- Diseased plants
- Lard or oils (including nut butters, sauces or salad dressings)
- Painted or treated wood (chemicals) or wood products like paper or magazines
In addition, Mother Nature Network (MNN) adds the following no-nos to your compost list:
- Bread products like cake, pasta and flour-based foods, which create a breeding haven for unwanted pests
- Rice, which will attract critters and breed unbeneficial bacteria
- Invasive or prolific garden plants, like ivy or dandelion, which can actually take over your compost bin instead of contribute to it
- Walnuts, which contain a natural chemical that can be toxic to some plants
To learn more about composting, visit the website Composting 101, which contains a wealth of information to get you started on creating your own compost for the home garden.
Stay in touch with Kimberley on Twitter @GreenGourmetKim