One of the greatest benefits of making compost is that it allows us to recycle garden and yard waste into a valuable, usable product. And it reduces the amount of solid waste going into landfills. However, there are a few items that shouldn't be put in a compost pile.

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Composting - What to Add

Backyard composting is a great way for homeowners to utilize the resources that we have in our own backyard. Grass clippings, shredded leaves from the fall and other garden debris are some of the items you can compost. Instead of sending it off and taking up room in our landfills, we can turn this resource into something that we can reuse in the garden. And that’s what composting can do for us.

There are definitely a few things that you should not put into a compost pile. For instance, weed seeds, and diseased plant materials. Sometimes, those diseased plant materials could transfer over and remain active in the composting process. And the same is true for weed seeds. Some weed seeds don’t die at a very high heat.

Things that you should put into a compost pile include straw, plant residues from garden clean up in the spring, grass clippings, leaves, and kitchen items. This pile here has a lot of items from our kitchen. I can see that we have grapefruit and orange peels, banana peels, and coffee grounds. If you use paper coffee filters, it can also go in because it’s organic and will break down.

Things to avoid in the kitchen include fats, oil, and bones for several reasons. First, it may attract wild animals. And, it could cause some odors. If you have leftover salad that has salad dressing on it, you would want to avoid putting it into the compost. Potato salad and other similar foods should also stay out of the compost pile.

However, if it’s just lettuce leaves, or fruits and vegetables that are past their prime, these are good for the compost pile. Even apple cores will help in the break down process, and add some of the nitrogen that is needed. Most piles have brown, fallen leaves which are a high carbon source. You’ll need a nitrogen source to balance it and to help with the break down process.

This feature story prepared with Chelsey Wasem, former Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Johnson County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

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