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90 Things We Compost

On this, that rare odd extra day of February, it is still winter in Michigan, and it has been a very wintery winter. It seems like it’s always snowing. In fact, it’s snowing right now.We had a little break in the weather last weekend (that is the temperature went above freezing for the afternoon!) so Jim and I had a chance to work outside for 20 minutes or so. We tidied up the yard a bit, moving a wheelbarrow into the barn that had previously been frozen to the ground, carrying compost out to the bin, and taking a few pictures of the frosty garden.

Given the frozen state of affairs, I’ve had compost on my mind. While not actually gardening, composting nonetheless lets me think about what I will feed our plants at some point in the not-too-distant future.

In my websearch for composting resources, I came across this great list: 163 Things You Can Compost Marion Owen’s list includes some things have I haven’t composted (so far), and it also inspired me to make an exhaustive list of the things we have composed. So here goes:

Freezer-burned vegetables
Freezer-burned fruit
Wood chips
Popcorn (unpopped, “Old Maids” too)
Freezer-burned fish
Old spices
Pine needles
Matches (paper or wood)
Old, dried up and faded herbs
Spent grains from brewing beer
Spent yeast from brewing beer
Grass clippings
Potato peelings
Hair clippings from the barber
Stale bread
Coffee grounds
Wood ashes
Tea bags and grounds
Egg shells
Grapefruit rinds
Pea vines
Houseplant trimmings
Old pasta
Grape wastes
Garden soil
Powdered/ground phosphate rock
Corncobs (takes a long time to decompose)
Blood meal
Beet wastes
Tree bark
Flower petals
Pumpkin seeds
Expired flower arrangements
Bone meal
Citrus wastes
Stale potato chips
Rhubarb stems
Wheat bran
Nut shells
Cover crops
Fish scraps
Tea bags (black and herbal)
Apple cores
Electric razor trimmings
Kitchen wastes
Shrimp shells
Crab shells
Lobster shells
Pie crust
Onion skins
Watermelon rinds
Date pits
Olive pits
Peanut shells
Burned oatmeal
Bread crusts
Cooked rice
Banana peels
Wooden toothpicks
Stale breakfast cereal
Pencil shavings
Fruit salad
Tossed salad (now THERE’s tossing it!)
Soggy Cheerios
Burned toast
Old or outdated seeds
Liquid from canned vegetables
Liquid from canned fruit
Old beer
Fish bones
Spoiled canned fruits and vegetables
Produce trimmings from grocery store

and here are some other items we compost that are not on that list:
• ash from hardwood charcoal (NOT from charcoal briquets!)
• leftover oatmeal
• sad old rice
• the lost items from the bottom of the fruit and vegetable drawers
• flour that’s gotten too old
• jack o’lanterns (and other pumpkin shells)
• spent sunflower heads (after Jim has saved the seeds for next year)
• avocado peel (we’ve had less luck with the seeds- too hard)

Marion Owen’s list also included several categories of things we don’t compost, the most prominent being paper products. We have always lived in places where curbside recycling collects paper; we’ve put our paper there, rather than composting it ourselves. The exception to that is newspapers, which we’ve used successfully several times to take down weed patches. To do that, we spread newspaper layers over the area, like behind a garage say, and then put a layer of yard waste like leaves and trimmings to hold the newspapers down. Over the course of a season or a winter, the weeds underneath are thoroughly smothered.

We have no pets, so we don’t compost pet hair or feathers. We don’t have a supply of manure either, although that may change if a certain proposal passes in our town. We’d really love to have chickens!

Marion Owen’s list also includes leather items, such as old gardening gloves and worn-out wallets. I have to admit: I’m intrigued. Jim’s present wallet is looking pretty sad and therefore like my next science experiment more and more each day.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. What NOT to Compost | Our Twenty Minute Garden linked to this post on March 19, 2008

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