Compost Ingredients

Adding assorted materials to your compost pile is the third and a very important requirement if you want your compost recipe to work well. Best results are obtained if 1) there is enough air to provide the oxygen necessary for the bacteria to carry out “aerobic” decomposition; 2) your compost pile is as damp as a wrung-out sponge, and 3) you have a mixture of both “brown” and “green” compost ingredients added to your compost pile.

Decomposer organisms work best with as varied a diet as you can feed them. The ingredients are all around us –almost anything that once lived is a candidate for the compost, so try for lots of variety to get a good mix of textures and plant nutrients.

In composting jargon, woody materials that are high in carbon (autumn leaves, paper, peat moss, sawdust, cornstalks, hay and straw, etc) are called “brown” .composting material

Other materials such as garden refuse, manure, tea and coffee grounds, feathers, hair, and food scraps that are high in nitrogen are labeled as “green” composting material.

Some materials can actually be both: for example, fresh grass clippings are “green”; however, dried grass is “brown”.

For successful results, you can use the simple rule that composting material need to be about half “brown” and half “green” by weight. Don’t bother to weigh your ingredients, though — an estimate is fine.

Composting soon becomes a matter of instinct, like the cook who bakes without a recipe. If the pile doesn’t heat up, you know there’s not enough “green” in the compost mix, but if you get a smell of ammonia from your pile, you know that it needs more “brown” compost material.

Here is a short list to help you understand which types of materials are “green” compostable itemsl and which are “brown” compostable items

GREEN Compost Material

Bone meal
Coffee grounds
Egg shells
Fruit and fruit peels
Grass clippings (fresh)
Tea leaves
Vegetables & peelings
BROWN Compost Material
Buckwheat hulls
Coffee filters
Corn Cobs
Cotton/wool/silk scraps
Grass clippings (dried)
Leaves (dead)
Peat Moss
Pine needles
Tea bags

Anything organic can, in theory, be composted — some more easily than others. You don’t need to have all of the above ingredients in a compost pile, but the important thing is that you do have an equal amount of green and brown composting material for best results.

The list above is far from complete, but common sense suggests a few exceptions. On my next post, I will make a list of the materials which can cause problems if added to a compost pile.

Till then, happy gardening!


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