Tag Archives: browns

Composters Still Need More Browns or Carbon

My composter, the Compact ComposTumbler still needs more browns or carbon to finish the job of composting.  The compost is still very wet from all the kitchen scraps that I have put in.  In other words they need  more shredded leaves because that is what I have saved in bags from the fall. But they need to be shredded to compost quickly and efficiently.

Yesterday was a perfect day to shred up some leaves that I had saved from the fall.  It was sunny with a nice breeze so as I emptied the bags the leaves would dry out.  It was a little hot so it was a hard job.  My leaf blower/shredder worked great!  It is a  EMax EVB200W with a 200 hp motor  that we bought at Wal-Mart.

I ended up with 3 black trash bags stuffed with shredded leaves.  I have already been throwing them into the composters and the compost is looking better already!  I do  have a bag of old peat moss but I am trying not to depend on it because it presents environmental challenges.  Mike McGrath says that you need a 4 to 1 ratio for compost making.  4 of carbon or browns to 1 of greens or nitrogen.  So we need lots of shredded leaves to be successful with compost unless you have some other great carbon source available.  Please post other sources and ideas in the comments below.  In the meantime we are good.  It is amazing how many bags of leaves can fit into 1 bag after you shred them.

UPDATE: 6/1/11  I turned the composter today and looked inside.  It was giving off steam when opened.  The compost is much hotter.  So all those shredded leaves are doing the trick.  I need to get a thermometer to see how hot it is.  Any good advice on compost thermometers??  Please post below.


Greens and Browns in Composting

Greens and browns in composting-Finished Compost

It is important to understand about the ratio of greens and browns in composting. Greens have a low carbon to nitrogen ration.  So they are high in nitrogen or protein.  Examples of greens are vegetable scraps from your kitchen, animal manure, green leaves and cut grass.  All “greens” are not actually green with coffee grounds being an example of this.  See finished compost in the picture to the right.

Greens help the bacteria and fungi grow and multiply creating a high temperature in the compost pile. The bacteria and fungi and other micro-organisms are responsible for the decomposition of the plant materials.

Browns have a higher carbon or carbohydrate content.  They decompose at a slower rate and include fallen leaves, sawdust, paper and straw.  Browns also supply food to soil organisms.  In a compost pile browns absorb odors and function to keep the pile from getting too wet.

In order to compost successfully you need to have a combination of greens and browns.  In the summer it is harder to obtain a lot of browns unless you have leaves saved up from the autumn.  See this link for a chart of what you can compost or not.  Also check out the whole website.  It will teach you a lot about composting.

This summer my compost bin was way too wet and smelled rotten.  As I was examining it one day I noticed a lot of white worm like things.  I was really grossed out.  After some internet research I discovered that they were maggots!  Ugh!  And that this can happen if your pile is too wet.

My problem was that I didn’t have enough “browns” or carbon to balance out the mix.  I added more leaves and that really took care of the problem.  The compost dried out a little and the maggots died.  Hurray!  I wouldn’t have wanted to see all the flies that would have come from those maggots!  Now they will just be part of the compost and fertilize my garden.  Has this happened to you?  Next week I will post about a worm composting experience this week that really surprised me!