The Greens & Browns of your Compost

The Greens and Browns of Your Compost

Knowing how various browns and greens behave in your compost can make all the difference in your garden.

Get to know how different browns and greens behave in your system and curate compost ingredients to optimize moisture levels, troubleshoot problems, and af­fect the rate of decomposition.

Knowing the quirks of individual items is particularly helpful if your com­post system has limited space or is in proximity of wary or sensitive neighbors.

Easy Items That Break Down Quickly


• Grass clippings
• Salad greens
• Banana + peels
• Coffee grounds and filters
• Tea bags, with staples removed
• Apple cores
• Strawberry tops
• Peeled fruit (except citrus) and vegetable skins (carrot, apple, potato, etc.)


• Dry autumn leaves
• Non-waxy paper, including newspaper
• Non-waxy cardboard boxes
• Cardboard egg cartons and beverage trays
• Paper towel, toilet paper, and wrapping paper rolls
• Sawdust from untreated wood
• Coffee chaff
• Non-oily bread, pasta, and grain
• Dried flowers

Very Wet Greens:

• Watermelon + rinds
• Cantaloupe + rinds
• Honeydew + rinds
• Celery
• Tomatoes
• Cucumbers
• Plums

Items That Are Slow to Decompose


• Big pits (peach, plum, avocado, etc.)
• Avocado skin
• Carrots (whole or chunked)
• Corncobs


• Sticks, twigs, and logs
• Pine needles and cones
• Wooden chopsticks and stirrers

Greens with Natural Odor

• Garlic
• Onion
• Cabbage

Tricky Greens That Require Special Handling

• Manure
• Citrus rinds (a no-no in vermicomposting)
• Meat
• Bones
• Dairy
• Cooked food
• Oily food
• Weeds

Never Evers

• Diseased plants and flowers
• Poisonous plants such as poison ivy
• Materials exposed to toxic chemicals
• Cat manure and litter

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