Things to put in your compost

Composting Items List For Enhancing Soils In The Garden

Listed are some of the items used for composting which I recall being used by my parents in order to enhance the soils in their garden.

It amazes me that the ‘old fashion’ way of enhancing ones garden is slowly being lost. How will you keep your garden soil healthy, if and when you no longer have modern fertilizers available to replace the nutrients consumed from the soil?

(Guest article by ‘Antique Collector’)



All vegetable matter that comes from preparation of a meal.  For example, fruit and vegetables cleaned up for storing in the refrigerator — the unusable parts go into a garden pail with a lid, kept at your prepping area.

Cooked vegetables or fruit that were not consumed, along with spoiled produce, goes into the bucket for recycling for compost.  It can include canned products you have purchased from the grocery store, or put up yourself, but were leftovers and not consumed. 

You will need a container that has a tight fitting lid, to contain the smell.  This will also control any fruit flies from developing.  If your location is prone to aggressive bees,  the lid will be your life savor.


Neither the two legged or 4 legged variety goes into the composting pile. 

Your only exception will be fish (fresh water fish), that includes all the parts you do not consume.  If you go fishing, and bring your catch home to clean — the head, skin, tail & guts go into your fish bucket.

If you bring home fish from the ocean, I would recommend a different area for composting this material.  As I do not recall how my parents handled the composting of those contents.

You can purchase fish emulsion, but prepare to spend a tidy sum for this product.  If can be located at the garden shops and big box stores. It will be a limited fix for your gardens heath, when you have no access to the healthy version.  Make sure you stock up for the long term.  You should have latex gloves when working with this material, if it gets on your hands it will have to wear off(smell).


If you go fishing and come home with a container with earth worms still inside, dump the soil along with the worms in your compost pile.  They consume the food matter that you deposit into your compost pile.  Remember to keep your worms happy & well fed.  It’s less expensive for you to start your own earth worm casting material than purchasing from a vendor.

If your compost pile is not generating enough heat to keep the worms from getting cold — You can place layers of newspaper over the pile in order to trap the heat, along with moisture inside during winter months.  In some areas you may require more paper layers to keep your worms happy during your minus-degree cold. 

Come spring time you can penetrate the news paper material with holes, sprinkle water on it, and start your next layer of green material the top.  The other process is to pull the paper off, and lay it where you will start your future pile to be composted.  


*PLAIN* not the flavored grounds.  Spread that over your compost material for saturation.  Sprinkle the dry grounds on your lawns in order to feed the soil, and any earthworms living there. 

Worms love coffee grounds, so plan a monthly feeding during the warm months if you have lawns, lightly sprinkle.


If you do not have one where you are residing at this time, then dig hole(s) in your planter boxes or ground. Place the green material into those holes, cover with soil to winter over till next garden season. Then use a small roto tiller to work it in come spring time.

Egg Shells

Save them from your breakfasts, baking, and crush them — then place in the container for composting.  Shells replace the calcium your soil loses during the up take of nutrients.  Need a quick calcium fix? Put the egg shells in a pan of water, and heat up to remove the calcium from the shells.  That water then can be given to your plants which are lacking.

Banana Peels

You can toss them in whole or chopped up, to be broken down in the compost pile.  You can use these not only in your garden, but for feeding your rose bushes, fruit trees, and shade trees.  The vitamin content in the skins is great for keeping plants healthy.  The banana peels also keep certain insects from attacking those plants. (spider mites).

Milk Products

Old milk that has gone bad, cottage cheese, or yogurt can be used in your ‘compost pile’. 


Old bread — reduce it into crumbs.  It will take less time to break down to feed your soil and of course your worms.   

Any other suggestions on composting and general garden care for all of the beginners and long time gardeners?

[ Read: Diatomaceous Earth For Long Term Storage Of Wheat & Grain ]

[ Read: What Is Borax Good For? ]


  1. Given the time of year for this article (just past Autumn / Fall foliage, and the leaves are falling down), if your compost pile is big enough, I would add some fallen leaves.

    1. we have a lot of trees and a more than 100 year old house we love but it has its share of challenges. we have not done this every year but many years. put raked leaves into sturdy black trash bags. soak with hose. tie shut.use the bags around the foundation to help insulate during the winter. the leaves rot nicely. in spring add to compost or raised beds you are building soil into.dont use the cheapest black bags as they fall apart by spring.

  2. now’s the time to add that chicken straw/manure to the garden. make the girls earn their keep.

    we till ours under over the winter.

    nice spot to put the corn next summer.

    1. grandee
      Good morning, chicken manure is great for enhancing the garden soils. Not to sure about the straw, in times past it probably would have been alright.
      Have you done a test area for this straw to make sure it is not laden with chemicals that retard garden production?

  3. Majority of you are avid gardeners. You will know that chicken manure is great for gardens, but it needs to age before being used in the garden.
    In ‘grandee’s’ case they are tilling it in to the soil for a faster break down replacing the nutrients in the gardens soil.
    If you have started your winter garden already then the best place for this type of fertilizer would be in your compost pile.

  4. Ken J
    Good material to use in your compost piles.
    Leaves from the city trees are sent in to be shredded for compost, the out lying areas are put to the burn piles(if it ever rains)or the dump. It is do in part of the high acidotic oils in the leaves.

  5. I know a guy that buried an entire pony in fresh manure, it took a few months but all he found were bone chunks (joints) and teeth when he dug into it to spread on his field.
    Results may vary.
    SSS composting, only for the most deserving.

    1. Hay. that’s^ actually on topic.
      I believe horse poop is high in nitrates so horse pooey alone will kill seeds and plants.
      Used moderately, mixed in it’s very good fertilizer I let my horse dumps dry for days to weeks for easier handling when mixing/planting.
      But fresh is best for composting as the natural flora can still help do it’s thing in breaking down garden/lawn waste
      YRMV-Your Results May Vary

  6. The manure, bedding, bits of straw and hay from the barn goes into it’s own big pile. I dump weeds and stuff cleaned out from the garden there too. It gets piled up twice a year into a bigger pile. The oldest broken down stuff goes into the garden or mulches trees and shrubs. Crunched up eggshells, coffee grounds and tea leaves just get spread in the garden all year. Garden mulch is old hay and straw flakes to keep the weeds down. Chopped leaves are put down in the fall to cover garlic plantings and any bare soil in the garden. This year the cover crop is growing well. I’ve tried doing traditional compost piles but I never seem to have the right stuff at the right time and I hate turning it. The point is to feed the soil so my advice is to do the best you can to get the organic materials in there.

  7. I use grass clippings to hill up my potatoes then till it in when they are done. Then I use the clippings to mulch around the tomatoes. Our strawberry barrel has a compost tube in the middle that gets the kitchen scraps during the summer. In the winter they go in the garden. Our garden is in the front yard and the city has an ordinance that says I can’t have a pile in my front yard so I have to scatter the scraps. I have a sweeper that pulls behind the mower to pick up leaves in the fall. I gather them from some neighbors and till them in.

  8. Make sure that you do not put any straw or grass in your compost pile or in your beds that has been treated with the broad leaf herbicide Aminopyralid or better known as “Grazon”. It remains in the plants and soil for years and ruin any vegetables that come in contact with it. Lost my first seedling tomatoes this year when I transplanted them and used straw from a bale of hay around the base to hold moisture and the grass apparently had ben treated with Grazon. The plants took on weird shapes like something from a Dr. Suess book.

    Do a search for Grazon to see just how bad this stuff is to soils for years. It’s been banned in several European countries because of its long term residual properties.

    1. SS,
      You’re lucky to have a hay supplier that you know and can trust. Yesterday I had the push mower out chopping up leaves and covering my raise beds with them for the winter. You can’t beat free and non-toxic compost.

      1. SS,
        I would avoid Blue Ridge, Jasper and Dahlonega Ga as they has been overrun by the Atlanta libs. Areas such as Suches, Young Harris and Blairsville are still pretty good but prices have gone through the roof. The build up is along the sides of Hwy 5 / 515 so you’ll have to find a place that doesn’t have easy access (winding and gravel roads) to avoid the spread. We are lucky to have so many WMAs and Wilderness Areas to help contain the spread but that has makes available land more scare and as more family farms are subdivided the inevitable cancer will spread.

    2. I am thinking my straw was ok to use. The tillage radish ground cover has come up nice and thick and looks healthy.

      But this is good to know, about the Grazon!

  9. I have heard that horse manure from animals treated with Ivermectin will kill the worms within the compost pile. Some organic gardeners/farmers are very careful about sourcing the components of their compost pile. ( This info was learned from a family business that raised and sold worms for bait in CA Central Valley ).

    1. Calirefugee,
      Thanks for the tip. I read where cow and horse manure from animals that grazed on grass sprayed with “Grazon” is toxic to vegetable plants for years as the herbicide remains active in the manure. It’s getting harder and harder for the average person to garden and I wonder if this is by design. Luckily, I have the time to make my own compost and soil amendments but those that don’t have the time or resources are fighting an uphill battle.

      1. Deep South Homestead( you tube, got hay that had been treated with Grazon, fed to horses and cows and they lost quit a bit of production..Traced it back to treated hay.
        I have done some research – Sunflowers and mushrooms is said to clean it up,with 2-3 years, the plants that do grow in it, must be burned to eliminate the cycle of poison.

    2. Califrefugee
      My dad would bring home the red worms from fishing and put them either in the garden or compost pile depending on the time of year, it was due to our weather conditions up here.
      He always said that if you used a spade to lift up your dirt or composts and found worms your soil was healthy.
      NO worms, the soil was lacking in minerals/nutrients to keep them alive.

      Amazing that our parents passed on such knowledge but it was slipping away. Am happy we can all share what we know. Each snippet adds up to a lot of knowledge.🤗

  10. Reply to RC: Yeah, I and my family are learning the hard way being that most of my relatives were farmers growing up. Seems that with every new technology or innovation there is a wrinkle or unexpected side effect. Last week I typed about how relatives were growing the “new” baby bok choi decades ago. ( a genetic cross b/t the Brussel Sprout and Bok Choi – bok choi growing out of a central stalk ). The first year this was grown, it was disced under because people would not buy it. It took about 3-5 years for this product to bring in a profit. ( I love the stuff because it yields more useful material to cook with and cuts down on waste from tough stems ). Now it is here to stay.

  11. One element we all missed on re-energizing our garden soil. It was not until last evening while listening to Dr. Wallach on radio that it was mentioned. One which I knew but had totally forgotten.🙄
    Ashes from your wood stoves. We no longer burn wood to heat our homes and then put it into the soil for the current or next years gardening cycle.

    1. AC – good point as lots of minerals present, but sparingly is key if full ash as it can pH shift the soil. Water and ash leech is a way to make caustic (NaOH). But..there are good minerals which will be key as next year fertilizer will be scarce. Pot ash is hard to find as is nitrogen. Some has been pulled off the market.Glad we stocked up when we did.

    2. AC,
      good to add ashes if your soil Ph is low. In many of the arid soils of the SW which are alkali already, you don’t really want to add ashes. Best to do a soils test first to determine how much of what to add.

  12. That’s true! I do add ashes sparingly if I haven’t burned the garden after a particularly bad weed year.

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