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….
I only use animal manures, wood ash and my own urine to fertilise my garden. It seems to be working.
My Obsession with Compost
What is the best thing you can put on your garden to grow more food? Compost?
Plain old, run of the mill, well rotted manure. Preferable from a ruminant (think horse, sheep, goat, cow) but chicken is also good.
But if you don’t have an endless supply of well rotted animal crap, you’re going to need to produce the next best thing:
There are entire books devoted to teaching you how to make better compost. I’ve even reviewed them on this website. So I don’t intend on re-hashing those authors work.
Instead what you’ll read below is an uncensored look into my own gardening habits and some of the weirder things I’ve put on my compost heap ready for the next seasons’ veggies.
The List: 5 Weird Things You Didn’t Know You Could Compost
Before we go further, let me give you fair warning that if you are a bit squeamish, this isn’t the post for you. Maybe something on propagating gladiolus bulbs would be more you’re style.
However, if 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. Some things (like urine and ash) even get added directly to the soil.
1. Human Urine
I recently took some 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. Over the past year I’ve come to see our piss as one of the most under used 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 it’s own is too ‘hot’. So you need to mix it with organic matter to dilute it a bit (read this for more).
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.
To save your urine, try collecting it in a milk bottle. Or you could ‘go’ on the heap – as long as the neighbours aren’t watching…
2. Put Human Hair on your Compost Heap
Confession time: I use to think my mother was a raving lunatic for putting hair clippings on the compost. But 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 the straight onto the compost. I’m not only reducing the household waste but I’m feeding The Heap at the same time.
If you want to take things a step further, make friends with your local barber for a free, regular supply. Just make sure he’s not breaking trade laws like this poor chap did.
3. 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 2 bottles when one would have done. It’s half a bottle of white left and your other half is watching her figure. You’re a man so naturally you don’t drink white wine.
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. Yes the neighbours will think you’ve lost it, but then they already caught your weeing on the garden at eleven o’clock in the morning.
This is nothing.
You can also put leftover beer on there but I’ve never had any of that so you would need to try it for yourself.
4. Put Used Coffee Grounds on the Compost Heap
Pretty much since the age of twelve, I’ve drank 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, gather it together in a bin (I just mix it with the veg peelings and leftovers from breakfast) and dump on the heap when full.
If you want to take things further, you could scam the grounds from the office coffee machine or even trawl your local cafes looking for used coffee. Make sure you mix this with plenty of carbon based material to stop it going all rancid.
5. 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 on the garden.
As well as your own wood ash, you could try collecting your neighbours or family members’ ash. I get my parents to save the ash from their wood burning stove for my heap although I suspect they keep some for themselves too…
If you have a bonfire, keep the ash and spread on your heap in a fine layer. Little chunks of charcoal are good too as they absorb nutrients and water which will help your soil in the long run.
Just be careful of burning plastics or coated papers – you don’t really want those chemicals in your soil.
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 – 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 and threw out a little less waste, it would make a big difference to our planet.
P.S. If you liked this, you’d enjoy what I wrote about gardening in my book A Father’s Mission which is out now. Get it here.