Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Three Foods Forbidden in Backyard Composting

Sometimes it’s fun to break the rules, live on the edge, go against the grain. Some rules were meant to be broken, but not these. So hang up your leather jacket and pack away the electric guitar at least long enough to read this post. I am telling you in my best patronizing tone (with my finger wagging) “Kids, you need to keep these foods out of your bin. It’s for your own good.”

Don’t Say Cheese
We have very little meat in my house but we make up for it in cheese. Swiss, muenster, cheddar, goat (mmmm…goat cheese), at any given time my fridge holds at least 6 or 7 varieties. But I will not compost them and not just because I could not bear my precious cheeses falling to such a fate.

Composting cheese will make your pile smelly and attract raccoons, rats, and other hungry critters to your bin. This goes for milk, butter, and any other dairy items as well. Dairy + Compost = Gross.

Your Compost Pile is Vegetarian
And you never want to force meat on a vegetarian. It isn’t pretty. Take it from my mom who had to deal with one annoying, teenage, budding-vegetarian daughter (who shall remain anonymous) in a family of carnivores.

Meat does eventually compost but your backyard pile is not hot enough to safely decompose the meat fast enough. Flies (and their resulting maggoty offspring) will set up camp in your bin if you try to compost meat. Consider yourself warned.

Oil will Spoil
Oil will coat anything it touches in your pile, smothering the microbes and slowing down decomposition. Oil also fills up pore spaces in the compost, squeezing out air and water which could cause the pile to stink.

So if you have any leftover oil-laden foods like french fries (yeah, right) or dressing coated salad, it’s better to just throw them in the trash.

I know it’s hard to fight the urge to throw every bit of leftover food in the bin. But keeping these forbidden foods out of your compost bin will result in a much better smelling, healthier compost. Resist the rebellious streak and follow this rule. Your compost bin will thank you.


  1. Is it supposed to get moldy?

  2. If your compost is moldy, it probably isn't getting enough air. If you work some air into the pile it should heat up and the mold should go away.

    Now if your cheese is moldy, you're just not eating it fast enough (:

  3. I throw egg shells in my compost and noticed maggots in it this morning.

    1. Maggots can be larvae of many types of insects. they are decomposers and won't hurt your pile (they will actually help). Bury the food scraps if you are worried about flies.

  4. My compost bin is coming along nicely but it doesn't seem to be heating up as much I thought it would. I also have thousands of small fruit bugs?? when I open the lid. Is this normal>? Newbie here!

    1. It may be heating up in the center but you can't feel it on the outside. If you are aerating it every other week or so and keeping a good balance of three parts brown to one part green then it should hear up.

      Ugh, I hate fruit flies. Although they are annoying, they do not hurt your compost. Make sure you generously bury your food scraps under a few inches of leaves. Fruit flies will not burrow to lay their eggs so that should get rid of them.