Sticks and Stones, Twigs and Bones!

Can you compost stones, sticks, twigs and bones?
The opinions shared here are based upon my own experiences working with compost and may not be shared by all.

Main image my own.

Compost Images My Own

Can you compost stones, sticks, twigs and bones?

Whilst l loosely adhere to the layerings of browns and greens when composting, l also tend to follow more of a no-rules waste strategy, as in anything goes in. This is governed by my style of composting in the New Zealand box system, but also, when l was using open aired pallets, l adopted the same approach.

Garden waste, brown waste, kitchen scraps, paper and cardboard, bokashi and coffee grounds are all thrown into the heap. Many say don’t throw in meats and the such like, although l do that.

I bury deep and centrally to the pile and also l hot compost looking to reach temperatures of between 150 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit when the batch needs that requirement. So the inclusion of meats and so on doesn’t worry me.

I don’t add large branches, and if l must, then l break them down, chop them up or shred them to make them smaller, but even then, you will still have smaller twigs and sticks in a pile.

Equally, whilst l don’t deliberately add stones into the heap, they do make their way in either through my garden wastes or the natural lay of the ground around me, as well as they may travel in with a neighbour’s garden waste. Again the presence is not something that bothers me.

My mother used to work with gemstones when we lived in Australia, and she owned a rock tumbler. The tumbler’s purpose was to tumble rocks next to coloured stones to make them smoother. Once done, she would sell the stones or use them in arts and crafts.

Strangely enough, l see stones in the compost heap in the same light. Each time l turn the compost piles, the small rocks help grind the compost particles into smaller pieces; the same applies to twigs, sticks, and bones.

I have noticed over time, with the inclusion of stones and bones, especially that they become smoother and easier to crush with a hammer and add to the compost pile or discard into the ground itself.

Branches and large twigs left to their natural rotting process can take fifty-plus years to break down. So we need to reduce that time to benefit from the nutrients the materials can offer our heaps.

Waste leaves under standard decomposition methods break down between six to twelve months, whilst a hot composting process can achieve the same result in as little as eight weeks.

Smaller twigs and sticks can take, even with hot composting, six months to break down. I reuse twigs, sticks, and bones from one pile to the next. Everything eventually decomposes or is manually pounded and added to the relevant area in the garden.

Where l am able, l try to use larger twigs for more natural uses, like building bug habitats where possible, and they are great for introducing wider biodiversity. Twigs and shredded sticks can be added to the compost or used as mulch for plants or bark chippings for pathways.

It’s perfectly safe to add bones to the heap. Some bones decompose quicker than others, though. Chicken and fish bones are the fastest to decay, with fish being shorter than chicken. Pork bones are slower to rot because they are a thicker material than chicken or fish, and usually, the marrow is the first to go, with the bone taking much longer. Beef bones are much larger and can take considerably longer to break down.

However, bones like twigs and stones still help break down the compost pile, so you can still have them present for a few heaps, should you wish.

Once l have a batch of compost ready for sieving, having gone through the hot composting stages and the cooling down, l remove all unnecessary sticks, twigs, stones and bones. I then add them to a new compost heap, and the process starts again with a new composting batch as they become my internal breaking-down tumblers.

Common Composting Questions Directory

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Published by The Autistic Composter

Earthly Comforts is a wildlife journaling scrapbook focusing on the countryside, wildlife biodiversity and environmental conservation, flora and fauna volunteering projects, gardening, composting and vermiculture, inspiration, poetry and photography.

7 thoughts on “Sticks and Stones, Twigs and Bones!

  1. Hey Rory. Great information. You have become a true composting artist!
    I haven’t had a lot of experience with composting, but find it was not a good idea to add meat waste to my compost bin in southern GA. There was a real problem with Fire Ants. They moved in and took over. They are vicious! Was not a good experience to say the least. Do you have Fire Ants there?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I wonder if we are speaking of the same ants, Rory? These Fire Ants, migrated into the southern USA from South America and are very aggressive. They swarm enmasse whatever they come into contact with. Their bite leaves blisters on the skin that are very difficult to heal. They have been known to kill large animals and even people. The first fork I turned over, they were all over me in a flash! As far as I was concerned after that experience, my compost bin became theirs forever.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We are talking the same ants Betty.

        Ants don’t like to be disturbed – most species of ant don’t.

        The secret to any invasive species like ants is to keep turning the compost.

        Hot composting is a system of turning the pile over every three days to maintain the temperature and keep most predation out.

        By continually turning the heap and this only is adviseable with the hot composting process as it will not work with other temperatures.

        Other methods include turning and then watering but the true secret is the frequency of the turn and the speed.

        If you research online and for the States you’ll find lots of cases where the answers lie in speed, hot composting and hot composting turning with water 🙂

        What most ant species like about compost piles is drainage, food moisture and security to the tunnelling systems they create.


      3. Hey Betty – yes the bites are a lot like bullants in Australia. Over here in the UK we have red ants which can deliver a seriously aggressive sting/bite. I am allergic to such bites and come up in swollen welts.

        So l do understand the owch factor 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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