We often think carefully about the ingredients we put into our best recipes. But your garden may benefit from a little more attention to detail in what you throw into your compost.

Yes, a good compost pile requires special ingredients to ensure it produces the highest quality soil. But there are some other key things to consider as you look to build your own and incorporate sustainability into your garden mix.

First, make sure whatever you put into the pile is free of toxins, disease and other contaminants. This includes everything from grass clippings from chemically-treated lawns to produce grown with pesticides. Don’t forget that many diseased plants will carry spores and other harmful microbes into your compost pile with them and could pollute that soil for future use. So be cautious to sort whatever you’re putting in the bin.

A second thing to consider is somewhat obvious but critically important. Is what you’re composting biodegradable? Be sure to remove all labels, plastics and other foreign wrappings from anything you’re looking to compost so that those objects don’t partially degrade and add harmful toxins to the soil.

We’ve covered what not to put into your pile, now let’s review some beneficial ingredients to a good composting recipe:

  • Any green and brown products are typically good to go. Untreated grass clippings, vegetable kitchen scraps and even weeds will all break down well. Even things like aquarium algae and chicken manure can be used to boost the nitrogen content. Hedge trimmings, plant stalks and leaves are some of the barkier things to include.
  • While you wouldn’t want to put meet into your bin, you can use eggshells, which actually break down very quickly and are nutrient-rich.
  • Some of the crazier inclusions? How about tea bags, which are part brown and part green compost, dryer lint (made mostly of natural fibers), and the contents of your vacuum cleaner, provided it’s mostly dust and dirt.

Focus on including these items in your compost and you’ll be sowing seeds in rich soil in no time. And you can take pride in implementing such a simple and productive sustainability practice.