Composting Dos and Don’ts

Autumn is a brilliant time of year for topping up the compost pile (or starting a new one!) If you’re unsure what to add and what not to add, then this quick guide is for you.



  • Old veg plants that have come to an end but that are otherwise healthy – e.g. old bean plants
  • Leaves from root veggies that will not be used in the kitchen – e.g parsnip foliage
  • Nettles and Comfrey leaves
  • Weeds that you have pulled up (but not their seeds, and preferably not invasive ones that re-root easily like brambles!)
  • Grass cuttings
  • Leaves and soft stems from other plants
  • Woody stems and twigs
  • Fallen leaves from trees

Don’t include:

  • Plants that have seeded – although they can compost, if you’re not a dab-hand at composting you may find that they germinate
  • Potatoes that you’ve dug up but decided not to store for use in the kitchen (they will produce new plants very happily which is frustrating)
  • Badly diseased foliage – anything with blight, mildew and other fungal diseases
  • Weeds that will re-generate easily, like bindweed, brambles and nettle roots.



  • Veg scraps – peelings etc (must be raw)
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags (make sure they are plastic-free ones)

Don’t include:

  • Meat and fish
  • Cooked food
  • Egg shells
    (all the above attract rats – not good!)

A few top tips:

  • Turn your compost regularly and you’ll get a faster breakdown.
  • Try and get an even mix of things that break down quickly (i.e., wetter things like tea bags, coffee, nettles, comfrey, veg scraps, manure) and things that break down slowly (drier things like cardboard, straw, twigs)
  • Chop cardboard, twigs and sticks down before adding them and they’ll decompose faster and generate more heat (which will help everything else decompose faster)
  • Nettles and comfrey are brilliant activators in the compost heap – add them every 4 weeks if you can and they’ll keep the whole process going for you.