Composting - Stupid Question

adameJuly 21, 2014

Hi all!

I've finally decided to start doing some vegetable gardening. I'm planning on starting out with two 4'x12' raised beds.

This got me thinking about starting a compost pile. I've got over two acres with all of the grass clippings and fallen leaves I could possibly use. I wanted to start it now, but I realized that I have zero browns and won't until fall, but then, I won't have greens!

Do you folks shred the leaves in the fall and keep them piled up for use during the summer? Or...


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I do. I have a 10 by 20 foot shed filled about 5 feet deep with shredded leaves. I also have wheat straw bales from my own fields as back up to that. I occasionally get people who know I'm a bit of a compost enthusiast asking to "borrow" some browns from time to time.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 3:34PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

I save leaves in big piles on my garden beds or in circular wire fence corrals.

In the meantime you can use sawdust or wood shavings, wood chips from a municipal mulch site or utility tree crew (often free), straw, shredded paper and more.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 3:42PM
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You will be out front come next spring if you start one or more piles of clippings now and turn them the 2 following days,again 2 & 3 days later,again 1 & 2 weeks later then any time you like thereafter or not at all. The volume will srink dramaticly alowing piles to be combined for convinuence. By the time leaves are falling your clippings will be near finished compost suitable for mixing with leaves or digging into your beds if they are to remain without plants until spring. When leaves fall you can do as Tox does then keep them moist to again be out front when clippings become available next spring.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:50PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Or you can buy soil amendment wood in a bag at home depot or any nursery. I use up all my leaves every fall right way, I don't like bothering to store them somewhere.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 12:48AM
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Composting grass clippings without "browns" is a bit tricky, because unless you keep them turned a lot, they rot and stink.

Let them dry out in a thin layer, then compost them. And those fallen leaves from last fall should still be there ... unless you raked them up and hauled them off last fall.

I have three bins full of dead leaves, not a "green in any of them, and they are composting nicely.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 8:57AM
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"... unless you raked them up and hauled them off last fall. "

Isn't that what all of us did before coming over from the dark side? Now many of us view snatching a bag of leaves from the curb right up there with rescueing orphan puppies. LOL

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 3:51PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

We sure did. My dad used to rake all the leaves to the curb and let the city suck them up in a truck. Then in summer, he would use the bag on the mower (you know, so as not to get 'thatch', which we later found was a myth) and would pile the grass clippings in a stinky heap called 'the mulch pile', which I later learned was not a mulch pile but a mismanaged compost pile that should have had all those leaves in it. :-D

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 11:45AM
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Let me clarify that there is no "stupid" question except the one not asked.
At this time of year getting high carbon material can be a problem, especially since so much is needed. A compost pile needs roughly 3 times as much high carbon material as high nitrogen material and is one reason many of us do not make compost in the summer unless we have a facility to store material.
Some here have suggested sources of high carbons, "browns" that could be used if making compost now is necessary.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 6:41AM
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Do you get a newspaper? Shred it up and use it for browns. Or find neighbors that do and will save theirs for you. I started composting in February of this year by wrapping food scraps in newspaper and my compost is looking good.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 3:00PM
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You also can get free cardboard from any store-grocery, dollar store, etc-that gets weekly shipments of merchandise.

Almost all of them still discard the cardboard.

Find out what days "the truck comes", & at what time they've emptied & broken down most of the boxes, &, as kelm said, rescue that wonderful stuff from going to the landfill!

The trick to using cardboard, I think, is to soak it in a bucket or rubber maid tote of water until it's saturated & easy to tear up.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 7:58PM
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I have a recycling box in my kitchen and then I have a compost box. I fill the compost box with used napkins, egg cartons, brown paper lunch sacks, and brown cardboard. Then I wait for a rainy day and scatter it in a loose pile on the back lawn, rain makes it soggy. Then I take my push mower and mow over it and shred it into my bagger. Wa-la, shredded broken down browns for my compost pile. YUM!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 10:53AM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

You guys remember the poster awhile back who presoaked cardboard in a bucket? Except the bucket was stacked pretty full of cardboard pieces BEFORE wetting, and after a couple days, the cardboard swelled up so much it was wedged in the bucket and could not be pulled out! That was a good one. :-D

So don't do that.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 12:38PM
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Wow folks! It's been a while since I posted this question and this is the first time I checked for follow-ups - my apologies...

Thanks for all of the great info.

I didn't realize that I could use paper and cardboard. Is carbon all I'm looking for when it comes to browns? What other summertime browns do you use?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 5:40PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

I compost paper towels and coffee filters, but it does not make enough browns to give me heat that I want. I have to use bagged woody products.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 7:24PM
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If you see a tree trimming truck, especially one that's nearly full...
grab 'em!

I mean, ask them if they'll drop the chips off at your house, assuming your house isn't far away.

It'll save them a trip to the landfill, save landfill space, & get you some excellent organic material (heavy on carbon).

Offer them something for their trouble when they get there-bottled iced tea, Coca-Cola, water, $10, etc-& be sure the crew leader has your phone #.

Sometimes they'll say no, they use chips themselves, & sometimes they say they'll call or come by at the end of the day, & they don't (they get busy & forget, which is why it's so good to find them when the truck is nearly full or at the end of the day), but sometimes you get a whole season's worth of mulch/compost materials.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 9:40AM
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I realize some here would think it sacrilege to actually purchase your browns, but in a pinch for about 5 dollars you can get 40 lbs of pelleted pine horse bedding. This is an incredibly compact product with 40 lbs taking up about the same space as a medium sized bag of dog food--compared to the space it would take to store 40 lbs of leaves...

This should be readily available at a local co-op or farm store.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pelleted pine horse bedding

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 12:00PM
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same problem here but worse.
several months ago, i had put about 80lb of coffee grounds in my new (very large) compost box. not knowing, i had added a couple of bags of grass clippings.
its now a black gooey cold mass.
i have no browns at all to add.
i will have to look for "pine horse bedding" but seriously doubt i will find it in New Orleans.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 2:01PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Hey! Horse bedding season is here!
I just went to our county fair with animal bedding galore! They change it often to keep the animals clean! Also the horse race paddocks!
There might be a way to get a truckload or 2, I didn't ask today, but I sure did "eye" that pile! LOL Nancy

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 9:00PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

Adame - click on the FAQ link at the top of the forum and look for the entry on Greens and Browns. It will give a comprehensive list.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 11:48AM
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