Compost Materials

Compost Materials

Most organic material are suitable for a compost pile. The compost pile needs a proper ratio of carbon-rich materials, or “browns,” and nitrogen-rich materials, or “greens.” Examples of the the brown materials or carbon are dried leaves, straw, and wood chips. Examples of the the green materials or nitrogen  are fresh or green, such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps.

Mixing certain types of materials or changing the proportions can make a difference in the rate of decomposition. The art of achieving the best mix is   gained more through experience than an exacting scientific procedure. The ideal ratio of browns and greens approaches 25 parts browns to 1 part greens or roughly by equal weights. Too much carbon will cause the pile to break down too slowly, while too much nitrogen can cause odor. The carbon provides energy for the microbes, and the nitrogen provides protein.

Leaves are usually a large percentage of total yard waste. You can grind them in a gas or electric chipper shredder or mow over them, to reduce them in size, making them easier to store until you can use them in the pile, and they will decompose faster, which can be an issue with larger leaves. They are loaded with minerals brought up from the tree roots and are a natural source of carbon. Some leaf species such as live oak, southern magnolia, and holly trees are too tough and leathery for easy composting. Try to avoid all parts of the black walnut tree as they contain a plant poison that survives composting. Don’t use poison oak, poison ivy, and sumac.

Pine Needles should be chopped or shredded, as they decompose slowly because they are covered with a thick, waxy coating. If large quantities are used, they can acidify your compost, which would be a good thing if you have alkaline soils.

Grass Clippings will usually break down quickly. They contain as much nitrogen as manure. If fresh grass clippings are clumped together, they become anerobic, and start to smell. Mix them with plenty of brown material. If you have a large volume of grass clippings to compost, spread them out and allow them to bake in the sun for at least a day. Once it begins to turn pale or straw-like, it can be used without danger of souring. Don’t used grass clippings that contain pesticide or herbicide residue.

Most Kitchen Refuse such as melon rinds, carrot and potato peelings, tea bags, apple cores, banana peels – almost everything that cycles through your kitchen is good for the compost pile. The average household produces kitchen waste weighing more than 200 pounds every year. Most forms of kitchen waste can be successfully composted. Don’t use meat, meat products, dairy products, and high-fat foods like salad dressings and peanut butter. They can present problems. Meat scraps and the rest will decompose eventually, but will smell bad and attract pests. Egg shells are ok, but decompose slowly, so should be crushed. All additions to the compost pile will decompose more quickly if they are chopped up some before adding.

Collect your kitchen waste a small compost pail in the kitchen to bring to the pile every few days. Keep a lid on the container to discourage insects. When you add kitchen scraps to the compost pile, cover them with about 8″ of brown material to reduce visits by flies or critters.

Wood Ashes from a wood burning stove or fireplace can be added to the compost pile. Ashes are alkaline. Add no more than 2 gallon-sized buckets-full to a pile with 3’x3’x3′ dimensions. They are especially high in potassium. Don’t use coal ashes, as they usually contain large amounts of sulfur and iron that can injure your plants. Used charcoal briquettes don’t decay much at all, so it’s best not to use them.

Garden Refuse such as spent plants, thinned seedlings, and deadheaded flowers should make the trip to the pile. Most weeds and weed seeds are killed if the pile reaches an internal temperature above 130 degrees, but some may survive. Try to avoid weeds with persistent root systems, and weeds that are going to seed.

Spoiled Hay or Straw makes an excellent carbon base for a compost pile and can be used if leaves are not available. Hay contains more nitrogen than straw. They usually contain weed seeds, so the pile must have a high interior temperature. The straw’s little tubes will also keep the pile breathing.

Manure contains large amounts of both nitrogen and beneficial microbesand is one of the finest materials you can add to any compost pile. examples of manure for composting can come from bats, sheep, ducks, pigs, goats, cows, pigeons, and any other vegetarian animal. Most manures are considered “hot” when fresh, meaning it is so rich in nutrients that it can burn the tender roots of young plants or overheat a compost pile, killing off earthworms and friendly bacteria. If left to age a little, however, these materials are fine to use. Don’t use manure from carnivores, as it can contain dangerous pathogens.

Manure that is rotted, aged, or composted is easier to transport and safer to use. Manure should be layered with carbon-rich brown materials such as straw or leaves to keep your pile in balance.

Seaweed is an excellent source of nutrient-rich composting material. Use the hose to wash off the salt before sending it to the compost pile.

The list of organic materials which can be added to the compost pile is long. There are industrial and commercial waste products you may have access to in abundance. The following is a partial list: corncobs, cotton waste, restaurant or farmer’s market scraps, grapevine waste, sawdust, greensand, hair, hoof and horn meal, hops, peanut shells, paper and cardboard, rock dust, sawdust, feathers, cottonseed meal, blood meal, bone meal, citrus wastes, coffee, alfalfa, and ground seashells.