The Garden Community for Garden Lovers

United Kingdom, United Kingdom Gb

What sort of things can I compost?
Thinking of keeping some foods aside that go off, such as bread, fruit, cakes, etc. What food are and aren't ok to put in the compost bin?
Or is it better to just stick to bits of plants (minus roots and flower heads)?

People have mentioned gardening with manure, does that go in the compost bin?



Hi Amanda, don't compost cakes and breads, not unless you want to share your compost with rats......:-) Only fresh fruit and veggies, egg shells, grass cuttings and shredded paper. There might be other stuff too, I would need to check with Michael.

25 Jul, 2011


Paper?? lol
I would need to remove any seeds from fruit though wouldn't I?

25 Jul, 2011


No - properly made compost heats up enough to kill seeds. You should ideally make alternate layers of soft plant materials and "browns" which would include your shredded paper. Its also a good idea to put the occasional spade or two of soil over the heap to help the bacteria along. You don't need to remove roots or flower heads, but don't put in very invasive roots like couch grass. Basically anything made from plants is OK (but not baked stuff even though its got wheat in!) Lawn mowings help the heap to heat up but should be mixed with other stuff or they tend to go slithery and nasty.

Small amounts of manure would be very helpful in the heap but if you have a lot its better to leave it in its own heap to rot down.

Ir you regularly have left over food perhaps you should plan better so you don't waste anything? Stale bread can be toasted or baked dry and crushed into crumb for coating fish. Most fruit can be cooked before it goes off. If you regularly waste cake, just buy less!

25 Jul, 2011


I think Steragram has covered all the basics. I want to emphasis do not put any cooked food in your compost. If you cook too many vegetables turn them into soup and freeze. Table scraps need t obe bagged and binned...

26 Jul, 2011


Amanda, you can get "food digeters" that are designed to take all kitchen waste, bread crusts, chicken bones, fish remains, gone off apples, stale cakes - all stuff that you mustn't put in a normal compost heap or composter. They are designed to be vermin-proof.

I've tried a Green Cone which needs to be sited in a sunny spot and is for food remains only. My OH shaded the one and only suitable spot, (GRRR) but I was lucky enough to get a Green Johanna on Freecycle. This special food and garden waste composter is supposed to be sited in shade. I have one operating now and it seems to be doing fine, though I put very little garden waste in it - I have ordinary composters for that!

Our local council had a scheme a few years ago, where these systems were available at a subsidised cost to anyone who wanted one which is where I got my original Green Cone. The chap who was giving away the Green Johanna on Freecycle subsequently had obtained it in the same way.

Perhaps you could contact your local council and see if they would be prepared to offer them at a cheap rate to householders. They would be saving on the amount of stuff going to landfill if they could get more of these systems in use.

26 Jul, 2011


Sounds like a great idea Beattie! Our council actually makes a weekly collection of waste foodstuffs and they compost it centrally but I don't know how their digester works. How does the green cone work?

26 Jul, 2011


You'll probably get the best idea if you google it & look on an official website, but you pick a sunny spot with good drainage and dig a hole big enough to take the plastic basket like a laundry basket that goes in the ground. It's about 2' across and 2' deep and circular.

The rim of that basket should sit just below ground level.

I wrapped that basket in wire mesh to make sure that rats couldn't get in - they only recommend that you do that if you have a rat run nearby, but I'm paranoid about them. (And I was glad I did....)

The cone bit that sticks up out of the ground has a double wall arrangement that collects heat from the sun, helping the kitchen waste in the laundry basket to rot down quickly.

You need to assemble the contraption, screwing the twin walled cone to the laundry basket and adding the lid. Then you sit it in the ground, fill round the basket, burying the join between basket and cone and sealing in any smells.

They supply you with a kitchen caddy that you put all the kitchen waste into - pizza crusts, onion peel, fruit remains, meat bones, fishy left-overs - all can go in.

For the first few weeks and during/ after cold weather you sprinkle the waste with a special powder containing microbes to help the waste break down. Then with a bit of luck it should run for quite some time.

Eventually (I think the manufacturers claim around 2 years), when the basket in the ground gets full, you need to dig it out, dig the compost into the ground in a flower or veg bed, replacing anything that isn't broken down enough in the basket.

I've also seen on Youtube where a family have 2 Green Cones, use one for a year, then use the other for the next year. Digging out ought to be more pleasant if the waste has had a whole year to decompose.

What won't it take? Don't put in excess fats - I collect them in empty jam jars, screw up the lid and when it's full, put it in the bin with the general waste.

I had to stop using mine as a project of my OH's shaded the ones spot we were able to agree on as suitable. :-(

Your council may decide they could save money if at least some residents do their own recycling of waste food at home, so saving a bit of the collection costs.

26 Jul, 2011


That sounds great!
I would have to use them from home though and unfortunately I have no garden, all yard front and back!

May have to be a Johanna if I can find one at a reasonable price.

Thankyou! Xx

27 Jul, 2011


The Green Johanna still needs to sit on earth as liquid "leachate" comes out of the rotting stuff and is unsightly & could be smelly if it goes onto a hard surface. And worms and microorganisms need to get in and out through the little holes in the base plate.

If you don't have a garden, just paving, the best solution for you would be a wormery. Worms will digest quite a bit, but I know they don't like citrus fruit & peel, and I don't think they are able to deal with big bones from meat. (Leg or shoulder bones for instance)

27 Jul, 2011


Whilst the Green Cone and the Johanna are great it is still much better not to generate this level of waste in the first place. As Sterogram stated if you are regularly throwing away cake 'buy less cake'! As a planet we can not afford for folk to be binning or even recycling food...

27 Jul, 2011


Nevertheless, with the most careful buying there are items that come into the house that we don't eat - fish bones and skin, apple cores, vegetable peelings and so on, and these specialist digesters & wormeries are designed to dispose of them.

27 Jul, 2011


Apple cores and vegetable peelings are compostable... Mind you Bulba eats his apple cores :-)

28 Jul, 2011


We don't buy stuff that goes to waste that often, it's just with having a little girl, some foods often get dropped on the floor by accident and need disposed of.

How does a wormery work then? Xx

28 Jul, 2011


Have a good look around this site -

There's lots of info, including how to make your own.
Basically, a wormery is a container which you put your kitchen waste into (not quite everything - they don't like citrus, and not too much oniony stuff). Living in the container is a colony of worms that eat the waste and turn it into compost (worm poo). There needs to be a mesh between that container and one underneath to collect "leachate" - the liquid that comes out - worm pee, presumably? This can be diluted and used as plant food too. Every now and again you get out the compost and give the worms a bit more living space again.

You need to keep it somewhere where the temperature doesn't vary too much. I know someone who has one and keeps it by the back door - outside in summer and indoors in winter.

28 Jul, 2011


I love this site!

28 Jul, 2011

How do I say thanks?

Answer question


Not found an answer?