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Are these materials Greens or Browns?

Posted by mike_jw London. UK (My Page) on
Fri, Mar 28, 14 at 12:17

Whilst searching around, I found this very informative page on gardenweb entitled 'How do I know the difference between GREENS and BROWNS?"

"A simple test to determine if your organic matter is a "green" or a "brown", is to wet it, and wait a few days. If it stinks, it is definitely a green. If not, it's a brown."

This has probably answered my query - I'll definitley have to do some 'testing'- but no harm in throwing it open to the community.

I forage around for the occasional wicker-work basket, laundry basket, bamboo screen etc, take them apart (definitely 'compost nut' territory, owing to the time and labour involved), and they make good composting material.

It's interesting to see the different materials that are used, and how they're constructed. As my photos show, a bundle of flat fibres, or hollow stems, is overwrapped with another material to form a long 'coil', which is used to make a laundry basket.

The first two photos are of a thickish material which becomes 'spongy' when soaked. Could this possibly be Water Hyacinth?
Although it's 'brown', it would still be classed as a Green.

In the 3rd photo, the longitudinal fibres are all solid, like some sort of grass.

In the last two ptotos the materials are hollow, showing a longitudinal and an end view. Amazing construction, as the completed 'coil' is the thickness of a human thumb.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Are these materials Greens or Browns?

And to think I could have composted that huge willow (?) chair that was falling apart! Actually I think it may still be out in the barn so may do an experiment. Being inherently lazy I'll likely put it in the compost whole and see how long it takes to disappear.

I am aware that the color of materials has no relationship to whether they are 'green' or 'brown' but had never thought of composting wickerwork. Thanks for the info. Let us know how long your wickerwork takes to disappear.

RE: Are these materials Greens or Browns?

the does it stink when piled up rule is a good one. and i think that all of those are browns.

manures, plants that are still green and growing, coffee grounds, hair, feathers, and anything else with high protein/nitrogen content (legumes and many other foods)

the woody parts of plants, plants that are brown, straw, fallen Autumn leaves, newspaper, cardboard, sawdust, sugar, and those pictures you posted.

the pros break it down by carbon to nitrogen ratio. if it is greater than 30:1 it is brown, if it is less it is green. so wheat flour is green because it is 15% percent protein which puts its ratio at something like 5:1 but table sugar is a brown because it has no nitrogen/protein at all. green grass is something like 15:1 and horse manure something like 20:1

to get cooking your pile needs to balance out at around 25:1 but trying to figure it all out is silly. just pile it all up and if it stinks add more browns and if it doesn't heat up add more greens.

RE: Are these materials Greens or Browns?

luckygal: Wickerwork (such as pet baskets) is woven branches, so they do take a long time to rot down even when I shred it. Being a hard and dry material, it takes its toll on my shredder blades!
If you have the space and time, leave such items out in the garden to weather for a year, the same goes for Bamboo. After several months in my bin, thin bits of Bamboo look the same (apart from being a darker colour), but they pull apart in the hand which shows a part-rotting. I don't like my bin to get too wet, so if they get too dry, harder materials just sit there without a lot of decay going on.

Currently my back is not good, so my composting activities are restrictive, which is frustrating as the weather has turned warm.

For the first time, last year has seen a colony of compost worms growing in the bin. For some reason, they're all on one side, and they favour the ex-coffee sacks that cover the compost. My problem is that I need to empty the bin in order to start a new one, and I'll need to disturb them. The new bin will heat up, so I can't just put them back. I'll have to remove as many as I can, empty the bin, fill it up with new materials, then put a layer of old compost on top (to act as an insulator) and put the worms on the top, hoping that they don't start crawling down towards the middle.

Here's my bin, along with my trusty manure fork - which is a 'must have' for composting.

RE: Are these materials Greens or Browns?

Sorry - duplicate posting!

This post was edited by mike_jw on Sat, Mar 29, 14 at 13:18

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