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Composting is not an exact science, but a healthy pile should contain an average carbon (brown material) to nitrogen (green material) ratio of about 30 to 1. You can achieve this ratio by adding 2/3 unshredded brown material with 1/3 green material.

Nitrogen or protein-rich matter, such as manures, food scraps, green lawn clippings, coffee grounds and green leaves provide raw materials for making enzymes. Cover fresh, nitrogen-rich material with carbon-rich material, which provides aeration to speed up the composting process, to eliminate foul odors and to help produce a fluffy compost pile.

RELATED: Compost Cookery: How To Get A Gardener’s ‘Black Gold’

Carbon materials include branches, dried leaves, bark, sawdust, shredded brown paper bags, corn stalks, coffee filters, pine needles, eggshells, straw, peat moss and wood ash. Too much of  one material will slow down the composting process. If you have all leaves, all grass clippings or an overload of any other single type of material, it can throw off the balance of the pile.

Good compost is made up of a variety of organic matter, but there are materials that should never be added to your compost bin for various reasons. Here are 12 items that you should make an effort to keep out of your compost bin:

  1. Dog or cat droppings
  2. Colored or glossy paper
  3.  Meat, bones, fat or fish scraps (they will attract pests)
  4. Any item with oils on it
  5. Any item with pesticide residue (banana peels, peach skin, orange rinds, etc.)
  6. Agricultural lime
  7. Charcoal or charcoal ash
  8. Diseased plants
  9. Sawdust with any machine oil residue and the like.
  10. Black walnut tree leaves
  11. Grass clippings that have been treated with herbicides or “weed and feed” type products
  12. Perennial plants or weeds that have gone to seed. The seeds may later germinate in your garden if the compost pile does not generate enough heat to destroy them.

This article originally published in THE NEW PIONEER® Spring 2015 issue. Print and Digital Subscriptions to THE NEW PIONEER magazine are available here.

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