Composting might not be as cool as making smoothies and creating new vegan dishes, but it is a trend worth catching onto if you haven’t already. Composting isn’t some hippie style of gardening – it’s  a fantastic way to use something you’d normally trash and re-purpose it to enhance your garden, soil, or your plants if you have any. The idea of composting is to essentially let the items disintegrate, which will help them nourish the soil due to the nutrients that form as they disintegrate.

The 411 on Composting

Composting is really pretty easy, too. All you need to get started is either a composting pail or an old container such as black compost bin (which will help it last through the winter). Or, you can use an old pail with drainage holes that has a lid. Some other household bins you have at home may even work, too, or you can buy a smaller composting pail or crock if you don’t compost a lot at one time.

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But first, you may be wondering – what can you actually compost with and how long do they last before you need to use them? First, you’ll be glad to know most all vegan foods make great compost material, along with some forms of household trash.

Items like banana peels, any pieces of unused or veggies or fruits, and most any plant-based food scraps make great compost material, but many of us know that. What about the other stuff you might be unnecessarily throwing away? Here are some other uncommon items you can use for your composting that might not have thought of, but will give you rockin’ soil to grow some seriously awesome plants and flowers all year round!

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds are something I always throw away, but they’re actually one of the best items to compost with. They’re acidic and as a result, they react with the pH in the soil and help enhance the minerals that grow in the soil as a result. You may want to go with organic coffee though, since you don’t want to be putting pesticide-laden coffee into your body (or the earth!) Speaking of which, here are 5 Reasons You Should Only Buy  Fair-Trade Organic Coffee if you don’t already!

Coffee Filters

Don’t just use the coffee grounds in your compost either- use the filter too! What a better way to clean up after making a delicious cup of coffee (healthfully of course) than to toss the filter and grounds in your compost bin? Just a personal note: I like using all natural, eco-friendly coffee filters which are pretty cheap, and they’re better for the soil and you since they’re unbleached and recycled.

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Algae

That’s right – algae isn’t just good for you, but also good for the earth (not surprising since it’s pretty much one of the most awesome foods ever.) All seaweeds and algae make great compost, so feel free to add some dulse, wakame, nori, or even a touch of spirulina to your compost. Algae is rich in minerals and has the perfect pH to help neutralize the soil. Blue green algae is also great for the brain and awesome to use in smoothies or you could add a pill-based supplement to your compost.

Peanut Shells

Peanuts aren’t just tasty- they’re also extremely rich in nutrients that the soil loves! Peanuts are good for you since they’re high in protein, B vitamins, and magnesium (so long as you aren’t allergic, of course). Just don’t toss those shells- they’re fantastic compost material! Avoid using peanut butter in the soil, however, since it doesn’t break down as easily as the shells do.

Corn Stalks

Corn stalks also make great compost material due to their specific mineral content. Buying corn in the stalk is also usually cheaper so it’s a great way to make use out of this healthful veggie-like grain. Always buy organic corn when you can, however, since it’s one of the most genetically modified crops.

Dryer Lint

Yes, you read that right- you can actually do your laundry and use that annoying lint left in the dryer filter when you’re done. This might help you remember to clean out the filter too (which I seem to have a problem with myself!) Dryer lint provides natural carbon to the soil and makes great composting material. Try not to use highly toxic dryer sheets that are filled with chemicals and go for more natural sources instead.

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Tea Leaves

Brewing a hot cup of tea? Save those tea leaves and if you’re using tea bags, save those too! Tea makes a great compost material since it’s full of nitrogen. Try to buy organic tea free of pesticides if you do though (these also taste much better anyway.)

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Other Composting Tips

  • Do not use conventional fruit and veggie scraps (especially the peels) since they are filled with pesticides you don’t want to add to your soil.
  • Avoid using pet manure, rotted vegetables, or vegetables that have spots of mold (which will kill the soil.)
  • If you don’t want to purchase a special compost pail you can also use an ice cream pail but it may leave an odor as it sits.
  • Compost decomposes faster at a temperature of 120-160 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you want to speed up the process, put it in a special compost bin outside and place it in the sun.
  • Chop and shred larger items such as lawn clippings, newspaper scraps, coffee filters, etc. into smaller pieces. This will help them decompose faster.
  • Be sure to turn your compost over every day or so to help speed up the process. This also helps the soil aerate faster so things don’t stink as badly.
  • Continue to add organic food scraps to your compost every few days. It acts as fuel to your compost and will help speed up the process. Juice pulp is PERFECT compost material!

For more details on how to start a compost, visit Planet Natural for a Composting 101 Guide or check out Earth Easy’s step by step guide to composting as well.

Do you compost and if so, what’s your favorite items to use?

Image source: Mosman Council/ Flickr

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