Saturday, September 12, 2015

How to Start a Compost Pile - Composting 101

I started a compost pile this past month. Here is what it looks like currently. Hubby built from wire and wood.

When composting, you should keep in mind the carbon (brown) to nitrogen (green) ratio which as a general rule is 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Here is a chart that shows the C/N ratios of many composting materials:

Estimated Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratios

Browns = High Carbon C:N
Cardboard, shredded 350:1
Corn stalks 75:1
Fruit waste 35:1
Leaves 60:1
Newspaper, shredded 175:1
Peanut shells 35:1
Pine needles 80:1
Sawdust 325:1
Straw 75:1
Wood chips 400:1

Greens = High Nitrogen C:N
Alfalfa 12:1
Clover 23:1
Coffee grounds 20:1
Food waste 20:1
Garden waste 30:1
Grass clippings 20:1
Hay 25:1
Manures 15:1
Seaweed 19:1
Vegetable scraps 25:1

Note: Many ingredients used for composting do not have the ideal ratio of 25-30:1 as shown above. As a result, most must be mixed to create “the perfect compost recipe.” High C:N ratios may be lowered by adding grass clippings or manures. Low C:N ratios may be raised by adding paper, dry leaves or wood chips.

To reiterate:
Common brown (carbon) materials are fall leaves, straw, pine needles, cardboard (shredded), corn stalks, wood chips, sawdust and newspaper strips (dry). Chop up larger materials for faster decomposition.

Common green (nitrogen) materials are grass clippings, food scraps (uncooked fruit and vegetables), coffee grounds, manure, filters, tea bags and egg shells.

Remember compost also needs Air + Water. Your compost bin should let air flow through and be able to drain water well. You will need to add water to your pile and turn frequently. Don't let rain wash it away, cover with a tarp if needed.

A well-constructed compost pile built with the proper dimensions and maintained correctly will heat up fast, decomposes uniformly and quickly, kills many diseases, insects, and weed seeds, doesn't smell and is easy to turn and maintain.

Make sure that whatever you are putting in your compost pile is free of chemicals and pesticides! I never put weeds or any kind of meat in my compost.
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