Corn cobs and husks are two of the most common organic waste materials found at home and farms. These are usually thrown away because they are considered trash. However, they can be valuable ingredients for your compost pile.
Corn cobs and husks are both high in fiber and nutrients. When properly composted, they add valuable organic matter to soil.
In this article, I’ll be looking at sweet corn and how you can compost the entire corn plant.
Can You Compost Corn Cobs?
Yes, you can compost corn cobs! Even cooked corn cobs can be safely composted without attracting pests or scavengers. Corn cobs break down very slowly and can help to aerate your compost and provide compostable material.
As corn cobs take a long time to decompose, there are some tricks you can use to speed up the decomposition process. You can chop them up into small pieces before adding them to the compost pile by using a sturdy knife. Do take care when doing this as the corn cobs can be slippery and hard to cut.
You can also place them at the bottom of your pile, as this will help aerate the heap, and the materials around the corn cob will help it break down.
You don’t have to add corn cobs to your compost either, because they also make excellent mulch. They trap moisture, acting like a sponge. You can use corn cobs as mulch anywhere in your garden.
To make corn cob mulch, grind down the dried-out cobs. The easiest way to grind up corn cobs at home is in a food processor.
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Another use for that batch of corn cobs is as eco-friendly kitty litter! Simply wash your corn cobs, re-dry them, and grind them up to create bio-degradable cat litter.
Then you can compost the cat poop and litter later!
Can You Compost Corn Husks?
Yes, you can easily compost corn husks. Corn husks are great for composting, whether fresh or dried. In fact, you can compost corn stalks, leaves, and any other materials from the corn plant too!
Corn husks will decompose pretty quickly in a well-maintained composter and will help to create rich nutrient-dense compost.
If you are growing corn, you can shuck the ears of corn as you pick it and leave the corn husks as mulch on top of the soil. Doesn’t get much easier than that.
How to Compost Corn Plants
When growing corn, you will think that the majority of the plant is actually a waste product as it is only the cobs of corn that you will use! However, as any gardener will tell you, useable compost materials are never a waste!
Let’s go through each of the parts of the corn plant and how to compost them.
How to Compost Corn Husks
The first part of the plant that you will compost will be the green husks. Some people use corn husks to prepare food, like tamales, or as a food wrapper.
If you have used your corn husks in this way as a wrapper, you may want to use a separate, specific composter to dispose of them as they might still have food residue.
See my articles “Can I Compost Meat?” and “Can I Compost Cheese?” for a full breakdown of how to compost the food residue.
If you are composting clean corn husks, you can either shred them or add them directly to the compost pile. Treat dried or fresh corn husks exactly the same way.
How to Compost Corn Cobs
I mentioned how it’s a good idea to chop the corn cobs into smaller pieces before composting. Putting in the extra effort to cut them up will help them decompose and break down.
However, I think that corn cobs are too hard to break up before adding them, so there’s another option. Add the whole corn cob directly to your compost pile.
I find it easier to fish out the bits of cobs left in the finished compost and add them back into the composter until they fully decompose.
How to Compost Corn Stalks
If you are growing corn, then corn stalks can also be added to your compost. These stalks are quite woody, so breaking them down into smaller pieces before adding them to your compost is best.
Corn plants will add valuable nutrients to your compost heap and are perfect for adding organic materials.
They are a well-rounded plant for composting, as the stalks and cobs are high in carbon and considered a brown material, while the leaves and husks are high in nitrogen, which is a green material.
- Learn more about Brown and Green Compost Materials
You can even use corn plants as mulch rather than adding them to your compost. As you harvest your corn, you can chop down the stalks and leaves and let them lie on top of the soil to re-introduce the nutrients directly back into the soil.
Composting Corn Final Thoughts
Composting can be a gardener’s best friend. As well as providing nutritious fertilizer for free, composting makes clearing your garden an easy job.
When considering what to add to your compost, you might want to steer clear of things that won’t break down quickly. However, if it is organic, then it will break down eventually.
Learn more about other composting ingredients:
- Can Onions Be Composted?
- Can Dryer Sheets Be Composted?
- Can Cow Manure Be Composted?
- Can Pasta Be Composted?
- How Long Before Banana Peels Decompose
Composting Corn FAQs
How long does it take corn cobs to decompose?
Corn cobs usually take up to 6 months or more to decompose in a compost pile. You can speed up the process by first breaking the cobs into smaller pieces and then putting them into the compost. When not composted, a corn cob that’s thrown away in the trash can last up to 18 years because it’s not decomposing in a pile.
Do corn husks break down in compost?
Yes, corn husks easily break down in compost piles. They can be shredded or chopped into small pieces before being added to the compost, but it’s not needed. If you’re using a dedicated compost bin, then you don’t need to worry about any food residue remaining in the husk after composting.
Are corn cobs good for the garden?
Yes, corn cobs are good for the garden and the soil if it’s decomposed into finished compost. Corn cobs are an excellent source of nutrients. Corn cobs are carbon-rich, so they’re considered a brown carbon material. You’ll want to balance that out with green compost materials to get a good brown/green compost ratio.
What do farmers do with corn cobs?
Farmers have a number of options with their corn cobs, including making biofuel out of them to use on their tractors and other farm equipment. The cobs contain large amounts of nutrients and will usually compost or till them back into the ground. Another popular use for cobs is to use them as animal bedding because cobs are great at absorbing moisture.
Do worms eat corn cobs?
Yes, worms love corn cobs. They help decompose organic matter and enrich the soil by eating decaying vegetation. Worms also aerate the soil by moving around the roots of plants. Corn cobs make excellent worm habitat.
Are corn cobs green or brown compost?
Corn cobs are a brown compost material because they have a high carbon content. When adding cobs to your compost pile, be sure to add green material too for a well-balanced compost pile.