What are the five weirdest things you can put on your compost heap? I’m constantly looking to push the boundaries of what is horticulturally possible (and socially acceptable), which is why I’ve compiled this list of the five weirdest things you didn’t know you could compost. Read on, if you dare!
Compost. My Obsession.
Before we go further, let me give you fair warning that if you are a bit squeamish, this might not be the right article for you. I’m definitely in the ‘waste not, want not’ camp. So, if like me, you want to be fully ready for a Mad Max/Waterworld style global meltdown and have a kick-ass garden at the same time, read on…
All of the following items have ended up on my compost at some stage.
I recently took some of my home grown plums round to a friend. After trying one, they asked me if I used any fertiliser.
‘Only my personal special blend’, I said, innocently.
They’ll never know (unless they read this of course) that I was talking about my own wee. Since I started growing my own food, I’ve come to see our piss as one of the most underused resources. We produce gallons of it every month. And then flush it down the loo.
But did you know your wee-wees are 14% nitrogen? That’s the stuff plants need to grow big and healthy. The problem is that urine on its own is too hot, so you need to mix it with organic matter to dilute it a bit.
Enter the compost heap. Most gardeners have a problem with too much carbon based organic matter and not enough nitrogen based stuff, so adding a litre or so of your own pee is a very good idea. It will also help keep the heap moist in dry weather.
Put Human Hair on Your Compost Heap
Confession time: I used to think my mother was a raving lunatic for putting hair clippings on the compost. But did you know hair is a source of nitrogen for your compost?
I cut my hair at home, as do my wife and daughter. Rather than put the clippings in the bin, I put them straight on the compost. I’m not only reducing the household waste but I’m feeding The Heap at the same time.
Put Used Coffee Grounds on the Compost Heap
I’m a heavy consumer of coffee. For as long as I remember, I’ve had between two and seven strong cups of coffee per day. I have an espresso machine, a french press, and a percolator espresso thingy, sometimes they all get used on the same day.
This coffee addiction (let’s call a spade a spade) produces a large amount of leftover coffee grounds. But did you know that used coffee grounds have a similar nutrient profile to animal manures? And if you put that waste coffee in the bin rather than the compost, you’re wasting a big opportunity. Instead, add them to your compost for a high nitrogen hit.
Leftover Beer and Wine
Yes, that is an actual thing (or so I’ve been told). Here’s the thing: sometimes you have guests over and you open two bottles when one would have done. It’s half a bottle of white left and your other half is watching her figure. You haven’t drank white wine since Spandau Ballet were singing something about Gold.
So what do you do with the leftovers? Pour down the sink? Feed to the neighbours cat (don’t do this)?
Put them on the compost of course! Yes, wine and beer contain alcohol but they also contain a lot of sugar, which is like a prime buffet for the bugs who make your compost so yummy for plants. The neighbours will think you’ve lost it, but then they already caught you peeing on the garden at eleven o’clock in the morning. This is nothing.
The Bottom of the Barbeque
OK, so I don’t mean that cremated sausage that fell through the grill and stayed there, slowly going blacker and blacker. I’m talking about… wood ash!
Ash has been used as a soil improver for thousands of years. It contains essential minerals that your plants need to grow and thrive. So don’t throw any of it out unless it’s in the garden.
As well as your own wood ash, you could try collecting your neighbours’ or family members’ ash. I get my mum to save the ash from her wood burning stove for my heap, although I suspect she secretly keeps some for herself too.
Put Weird Things on Your Compost, I Dare You.
If you’re like me, you can’t resist someone saying ‘I dare you’. So here I am, saying ‘I dare you’ to put weird stuff on your compost heap – urine, coffee, ash, wine, hair – that waste heap is your oyster.
As a serious point, we live in a world of limited resources. If every one of us composted a little more and threw out a little less waste, it would make a big difference to our planet. So go forth and make the weirdest, most plant-saving compost you can make!
Neil M White lives in Perthshire with his wife and three children. He has worked in horticulture as a landscape gardener and in a tree nursery. Now a ‘hobby’ gardener, he spends most of his time growing fruit or veg. Juggling gardening, family life, and a day job, Neil also finds time to write – his latest book on gardening ‘The Self Provisioner’ was published in April 2020. Catch up with Neil on his Twitter feed.