Your home composting bin needs to have a balance of greens and browns or in other words nitrogen and carbon. Nitrogen comes from “greens” such as grass clippings, kitchen scraps and manure even though it is not green! Carbon comes from “browns” such as dead leaves, straw, and paper. See my post on Greens and Browns in Composting for more details on this. My compostumbler always seems to need more browns.
I knew I had it bad when I was in the Goodwill the other day and saw a small bag of pine bedding for a guinea pig or hamster. I really wanted to buy it for my compost bin! To try to soak up some of the moisture and to provide more carbon to balance out the kitchen scraps. In the end I didn’t buy it because some of the pieces were colored a brilliant lime green and I didn’t know what kind of chemical might be in there to control the odor. Also Mike McGrath says don’t use sawdust. Sawdust would be equivalent to pine shavings. Both are highly concentrated in carbon. Shredded, dead leaves are a much better choice.
In my compost bin and the worm bin I constantly seem to need more browns to balance out the nitrogen and the moisture. And for me, browns or carbon materials are not as easy to come by as kitchen scraps! If you read Mike McGrath’s article (link is above) he recommends 4 parts of shredded leaves to one part kitchen scraps. So actually you need a lot of leaves., much more than I have been putting in.
In the book The Complete Compost Gardening Guide (for more info click on picture on the right), they say that most compost gardeners will say that they need more high-nitrogen greens. I guess we all have different needs.
I am seeing on the internet that not having enough browns is a common problem. Unless you collected lots of leaves in the fall then you might be out of luck. Leaves need to be shredded in order to work well. So that involves another step. They will compost whole but it takes much longer and they get matted.
One thread on the internet involves mulch fines. Mulch fines are the by-product of making mulch. Mulch fines sound like they would work very well if you can find some. Veteran Compost in Aberdeen Maryland uses mulch fines. I had a tour of his operation and his compost piles with the mulch fines looked great.
I do have some bagged autumn leaves. I just need to spread them out to dry and then shred them up with my vacuum/shredder and then I will be in business. Here is another link to a thread where people don’t have enough browns. This link has lots of good information. Please post any great sources of browns that you have found.