UK gardening help and assistance


Brown and Green composting materials

Articles on composting often refer to 'brown' and 'green' material, that is all very well, but what is 'brown' and what is 'green'? One thing is for sure, you cannot determine this just by looking at the colour of the material.

This page, although not exhaustive, is intended to classify some common items of household and garden waste which can be added to a compost heap or bin.

Greens and Browns should generally be used as a 50/50 mix on a compost heap, always mix up the material so that it is not too concentrated.


Household waste:

  • Vegetable peelings.
  • Salad waste.
  • Fruit waste i.e. apple cores, skins etc. - includes citrus fruit.
  • Used tea bags/leaves.
  • Used coffee grounds and filter paper.
  • Dead flowers and house plants.

Garden waste:

  • Grass cuttings.
  • Old flowers.
  • Old bedding plants.
  • Nettle.
  • Rhubarb leaves.
  • Comfrey leaves.
  • Young annual weeds.
  • Pond weed.
  • Seaweed - but use in moderation and watch out for oil contamination etc.


Household waste:

  • Corn cobs and stalks.
  • Eggs shells - crush then up to help distribute them.
  • Feathers.
  • Cardboard Cereal and egg boxes - see note 1.
  • Corrugated cardboard packing - see note 1.
  • Newspapers - see note 1 - but not glossy magazines.
  • Toilet and kitchen roll tubes.
  • Tissues, paper towelling and napkins providing they are not contaminated with meat, fats, oils or disease.
  • Natural fibre string.
  • Shredded plain paper.

Garden waste:

  • Young wood garden prunings.
  • Dry leaves, small twigs and most hedge cuttings.
  • Hay and Straw.
  • Ash from wood or paper fires.
  • Sawdust.
  • Pine needles and cones - use sparingly as they are slow to compost.

Note 1 - tear into pieces or screw up and then make sure that they are well mixed with other types of material.