Composting is the process of decomposing organic matter into reusable, nutrient rich soil. It is an essential component to sustaining any community garden. At the Elon Community Garden, there are five composting bins which compost sequentially cycles through. Each bin houses a different stage of compost, ranging from dry organic material, such as brush, grass clippings and weeds, to nutrient dense soil that is ready to be returned to the garden. The Elon Community Garden has a composting bin available for student use. Food waste can be placed into the black bins next to the composting structures.

Composting Do’s

Grass Clippings

Excellent GREEN source. During spring and summer this can amount to almost 50% of your material. Turn the compost often in the first two weeks. If possible, dry out the clippings for a few days before adding them to the bin.

Coffee Grounds & Tea Bags

A good GREEN source. The compost bin is the best place for these common items. The microbes love a java fix!


A superior BROWN source, abundant leaves in the fall are worthy of stockpiling and added to the pile over many months to come. Whole leaves (maples) break down more slowly. Shredded leaves are best for fast decomposition into incredible leaf mulch.

Dead Plants, Weeds & Garden Debris

A good GREEN source, weeds, plant trimmings, dead flowers, stalks, etc. are excellent materials. When placed in bin, take a shovel and slice or chop them up into smaller sizes for faster decomposing.

Food Scraps

A good GREEN source. Smaller pieces decompose fast, so chop them up in kitchen or with a shovel in the bin. Don’t put large quantities in bin at one time without balancing with BROWN materials. Always keep covered with BROWN material at top of bin.

Newspaper & Corrugated Cardboard

A neutral source. There is no nutrient content in such items that will increase the richness of your compost. However, the microbes or worms like them. Always shred and soak them first and layer in bin.

Fruit Wastes

A good GREEN source. Chop up rinds and peels into small pieces for faster break down. Never leave exposed at top of pile; cover with a layer of BROWN material.


A good GREEN source. Acts as an activator to heat up the pile. Some fresh manure (chicken) can be too hot for a pile. For detailed instructions.

Hair, dryer lint

A natural source. It just makes sense to compost these since they are organic material.

Straw & Hay

A good BROWN source. Best to chop or shred it for faster decomposition, otherwise the particles break down slowly in colder piles.

Composting Don’ts

Meat, Grease, Bones, Skin

Never put these in your bin unless you are determined to attract rodents, scavengers, maggots, flies, terrible odors, bill collectors or even a snooping health department official.

Branches & Wood Chunks

Such material is best chipped up for paths or mulch. Even if shredded, they have a very high carbon content for a compost bin.

Large Amounts of Soggy Materials

Sloshy, matted, soggy, water-logged (you name it!), these materials (such as garden debris, fruit wastes, etc.) will turn your bin into a swamp. Best to let them air out and dry out, then you can put them in the bin.

Wood ashes, Lime, Charcoal

Some people use wood ashes or add lime to their compost bin. We don’t recommend this because they are too alkaline and would raise your pile’s ideal pH level of 6.8-7.0. Many plants (blueberries, strawberries, azaleas, natives, etc.) wouldn’t like the results either. Never compost BBQ ashes or coal: the sulfur dioxides and other chemicals will give the little worms and plants in your garden bad stomachaches.

Solid wastes: Cat, Dog or Human

These may carry disease pathogens that cannot be fully guaranteed to be eliminated during the composting process. There are some advocates for composting human waste (called “humanure”), but the process demands very careful and hot composting.

Plastic, Metal, Glass

Sorry, these simply will not decompose in your compost pile. Check back in a few hundred years to see what state they are in at your local landfill.

Processed foods, bread, colored paper, cooking oil, hazardous waste and milk products should not be composted.