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Compost Do's and Don'ts

Q: I want to start composting. What are some things I can (and cannot) compost?
—Zach Stone, Arlington, Va.

A: Composting helps decrease the amount of trash in landfills and can provide an organic fertilizer for your garden. The essentials of composting are green and brown materials and water. Carbon-providing brown materials include dead leaves, branches, and twigs. Green ones, which supply nitrogen, include grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds. Water provides moisture to assist in breakdown. Here are a few dos and don’ts that might surprise you; for more, go to

Photography by: Lauren Tamaki

Compost These

Cut natural-fiber clothing (including wool and silk) into pieces, then compost them. Add wine corks, excluding plastic ones, to the pile. Tea bags can be added, but make sure to remove any staples.

Photography by: Lauren Tamaki

Not These

Cooking oil and butter and fish bones can create odor problems, which attract pests. Black-walnut-tree leaves and twigs release a toxic chemical called juglone that will compromise a compost pile.