Return to the Soil Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
List of Browns and Greens

Posted by westy1941 z5 NO IL (cdwestg@att.net) on
Mon, Nov 23, 09 at 3:18

I started a new compost pile - DH put chicken wire around stakes - it's about a 8 foot diameter circle. We put about 2 feet of shredded leaves inside. My son who works for a commercial nursery said it won't decompose the same way my closed bin did (but that took two years to be perfect black gold) so he dumped 3 bags of garden soil on top to 'hold the leaves down so they don't blow out'. I think it just needs something besides shredded leaves and I'm not sure the soil is worth anything. I know I saw a list of browns and greens somewhere in here but can't find it. This is a new way of composting for me and I'm not sure I can put the same things (kitchen scraps, etc) in it.

Anyone know where that list is? And is there also a description of what works in the different types of piles?

Thanks,
Westy


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 23, 09 at 3:44

Not sure which list you are refering to, there have been a few over the years.

The FAQ has a list seems to be not too bad.

Most of the tutorials also have lists, google compost tutorials, I bet you get a few there.

Now go to bed, it's late (or early not sure which). :-)

Lloyd


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

Whether something is a brown or a green depends on what the Carbon to Nitrogen (C/N) ratio is. Some materials that are brown in color, manure, are greens because of the relatively close C/N numbers. The closer the numbers in that C/N ratio the more green the material is. Linked below is one chart.

Here is a link that might be useful: C/N ratios


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

Here's how it works in my house, if it's biodegradable, it belongs in the compost. If it isn't, and it belongs in recycling, it goes in recycling. If it can't be composted or recycled, it goes in the trash.

I never even think about whether something is brown or green. When it comes my way, and I'm done with it, it goes in the compost bin. Obviously if someone gives me 20 lobster carcasses to compost, I try to cover it until the odor is smothered, and I know to smother them with browns. My mother, who inherited her husband's compost pile, composted for 30 years contributing nothing but greens, had no clue what she was doing, and produced great compost.


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

I never even think about whether something is brown or green. When it comes my way, and I'm done with it, it goes in the compost bin.

I'm with you on that, annpat. I compost pretty much the same way...but I do keep an eye on things, and I've been known to do a little bit of ratio correction if I need to. Mostly, though, I take what I can get, and everything does rot in the end. In my experience, a proper moisture level has more benefit than a "proper" green:brown ratio.

Westy, I think you're right that you'll do better with something green added to a bunch of leaves. I wouldn't worry too much about exact ratios, though.


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

Westy: The main differences between a closed bin and chicken wire would be faster drying in the chicken wire and possibly more open to critters. I'd bury kitchen scraps well. Even if the added soil "isn't worth anything" it should be fine after everything decomposes. It just needs nitrogen, or "greens".

If you google "compost ingredients" you should get lots of hits. I think this compost calculator might be useful to you. Remember C:N under 30 is nitrogen, or "green", over 30 is carbon, or "brown".

Karen

Here is a link that might be useful: compost calculator


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

Cornell has the longest list I'm familiar with (5+ pages?).

Cornell Composting (On Farm something-something, as I recall.) I printed it out once.


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

Wow - incredible amount of really good info!!! Thanks so much. I did not know the CN ratio and knew there was something I should sort of go by. Although I'm pretty much like the people who just throw everything in the pile. I have bookmarked everything you guys referenced and I've also printed out all the comments....DH will be printing them out (we argue about this so I want it for him mostly!). He is definitely going to get a note hanging on the lawnmower next year!!!! Last Spring he threw shredded paper in the bin and forgot there was plastic (credit cards, etc) and I spent hours picking out thin strips of plastic when I went to put it on the garden this Fall! And pt03 you cracked me up. I'm a total night owl. That was 'late'. When it's daylight for only four or five hours a day, what's the point of getting up.

Thanks again everyone!
Westy

PS He also has bags of leaves he's putting out for the trash collector!!!! We have tons of maples and most are small and/or shredded, too. I wish I could find a place to hide six huge paper lawn bags. I need a farm.


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

  • Posted by paulns NS zone 6a (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 23, 09 at 19:03

Garden soil is loaded with bacteria, up to a billion bacteria per teaspoon. It's worth a lot if you don't mind removing it from your garden. I find it speeds up the decomposition of leaves in a way similar to horse manure. That said, I rarely add soil to compost piles except for what clings to plant roots. It's heavy, the garden beds need it, and there's plenty of bacteria on plant life.

Aside from a few trick materials like manure, the terms 'green' and 'brown', and carbon and nitrogen, are overall very useful simplifications IMO. At our place we make compost one of two main ways. In one bin we add 'greens' like kitchen scraps and weeds and whatever else comes along, from day to day, until they make a layer, then cover the whole with 'browns' like eelgrass, straw or leaves, kept in reserve next to the pile. In other bins we make compost at one go, also layering greens and browns to make a kind of torte, aiming for a light, fluffy, damp pile overall, with a layer of browns always on top. That seems pretty simple to me.

Here is a link that might be useful: soil bacteria


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 24, 09 at 0:28

"He also has bags of leaves he's putting out for the trash collector!!!!"

AAACCCKKKK! Does he want to tempt the wrath of the... whatever, from high atop the thing? Tell him he has to go outside, spin three times and spit.

"I wish I could find a place to hide six huge paper lawn bags."

What about those under the bed storage bags? A true whacko enthusiast would at least consider them! :-)

Lloyd


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

I laughed out loud! This is hilarious. And I AM a whacko because I dragged them today over to some huge arborvitae trees and put them behind - lying down. The tops were scrunched down well so the leaves won't fall out. I'm hoping it snows and covers them before he goes that way which he doesn't very often. He's a golfer....I'm from the woods of Northern Minnesota. We've been married 47 years....somehow....

Westy

PS You made my day!


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 24, 09 at 2:18

"He's a golfer"

Ah. Explains much.

I never could figure out whacking a ball away with a stick and then chasing after it. I prefer bowling, throw the ball away, it comes back. No chasing involved. Or even baseball, someone else chases the ball but golf, nope don't get it.

Lloyd

P.S. I get like this on midnight shifts.


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

It's the soil fungi more than the bacteria that do the leaf decomposing. I got carried away, thinking about the bacterial content of soil.
- Fun Gus


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

"I wish I could find a place to hide six huge paper lawn bags."

Use them to cover the body.

Yikes! That just recalled a horrible dream I had once. I was in a hospital bed, and my mean nurse burnt me with a cigarette, so when she was looking out the (third-story) window, I ran across the room and pushed her by the bottom right out the window. I looked down and saw her body land all crumpled up on the ground.

I was hysterical now. I'd KILLED someone! I didn't mean to do that. Ut oh. I ran outside and she had fallen by a huge pile of leaves, which I gathered and put on top of her dead body. I'm sure I was whimpering in my sleep. I was terrified in my dream. I had just gotten her body satisfactorily buried as a groundskeeper comes around the corner carrying a rake. I'm sure both my dream heart and my real heart were pounding. I was very shaken up.

I have this ability to redirect my dreams if they get too much for me, so right then the mean nurse sat up in the pile of leaves and said to me, "I played dead, because I thought someone should teach you a lesson."

(Phew!)

(Back on topic)
Westy, Lloyd mis-spelled 'whacko', because he knows it drives me crazy, and then you saw it and mis-spelled it, also. It's 'wacko'. It's in the FAQs.

Lloyd, I am so with you about golf. The thing that kills me is that they do it on nice days when you could be doing something fun!


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

'I never even think about whether something is brown or green. When it comes my way, and I'm done with it, it goes in the compost bin.'

Absolutely - annpat says it perfectly again.

I realise this is a rather heretical idea on here but the compost heaps in my family (and they go back generations) were always multi-purpose. Yes, you got good stuff for the garden, but they were also a fantastic waste disposal system. The idea of NOT putting organic stuff on the compost because it is somehow the wrong kind of organic stuff is just plain weird. As is the idea of storing stuff up until it's the right time to put it on. Personally, and I dare to assume annpat might agree, I am not in the makework business. As someone once said IALBTC.


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

  • Posted by paulns NS zone 6a (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 24, 09 at 16:53

The poster's interest in the composting process ought to be respected. So your responses Flora and annp amount to a kind of dumbing down, as well as being disingenuous, as you've both probably forgotten more about composting than your forbears ever knew.

Composting can be simple and a chore, at one end of the spectrum, or it can be endlessly fascinating and a pleasure - if not, the FAQ would be much shorter, the discussions far fewer, and there'd be no such thing as a wacko.

We 'store stuff up' because we have 3/4 acre of gardens, and live in the country near the seashore and near friends with a very large horse (named J.Lo), so have access to plenty of stuff. We make compost in pallet bins with the pleasure and finesse of bakers baking tortes. We have passive composting (no turning) down to an art.

My mother made compost the way you describe, and that was, is and always will be a great method, although if I could go back in time I'd cover the pile with straw or something. Never mind - it planted the seed in my head. But it was meeting a true wacko, who made large batches of compost in pallet bins and got them heating to 120F, that got me excited about the process, and made our gardens sustainable. To criticize a method at either end of the spectrum or anywhere in between is counterproductive, I think.


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

Leaves are one of the most variable ingredients. I think one site listed the C:N ratios of a dozen type of leaves and they varied from about 20:1 to 80:1. My basic formula is 1.5#s of fresh cut grass to 1 pound of dry FINELY SHREDDED leaves. My leaves are primarily sweetgum, maple and oak.

In the dispute of closed versus open bin containers, I like open-type mesh bins. The only really 'closed' bin I used was my tumbler, and I gave that up.


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

Would shredding bales of alfalfa "really fine" do the same thing for compost as adding alfalfa pellets ?
Thanks


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Wed, Nov 25, 09 at 2:36

I would imagine, heck it might even be better overall.

Lloyd


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

Paul, I agree with you that I was dumbing it down. I am a fan of this forum, but...I often think that we do more to discourage new composters than we do to encourage them. So, when Westy said, "This is a new way of composting for me and I'm not sure I can put the same things (kitchen scraps, etc) in it," I decided to share my method, which is:

In this house, it's easy; if it's biodegradable, it gets composted. Case closed. (My point being, it can be easy in your house, too, if you want.)

I do try to pay some teensy attention to the brown/green thing, if it's convenient for me. But if I haven't got the right balancer on hand at the time, the item is still---no questions asked---going to go in the compost. What else am I going to do with it? Take it to the landfill? I sure as heck am not going to stockpile my daily kitchen contributions, until a brown comes my way, I can tell you that.

Some people aren't necessarily into making compost into a dedicated hobby; they really just want to know how to deal with their household trash---which is the way that Flora and I were raised. So for those people, I would like them to know our more simplified philosophy.

I keep a pile near the house, as we have my entire life and before, simply to manage our waste. Everybody knows where that is, and that the pan of peelings and rinds in the kitchen sink gets dumped there by whoever is walking by it next. I will occasionally toss something brown (maybe my shredded bills) on the outdoor pile.

Over time, composting has become a hobby for me, not just a lifestyle. So, like you, I also gather materials and build balanced piles all in a day, with the intention of turning them in 10 days, and getting euphoric off the smoke pouring out of the heap. My fall is dedicated to making compost. We used to have one household/yard waste compost pile. Now I try to head into winter with between 4-7 bins, almost all of the materials coming from other, non-composting households, seaweed contributions excepted.

This is the thing. I swear to you that this is true. The women in my small town have a Garden Club. Almost all my neighbors on this road belong to it. They hired a Master Composter to come teach them about composting. Later I asked Marge T. how the composting was going. With no exceptions, my neighbors decided that it was too complicated for them. And it was the C:N ratio business that upset them. Good job, Master Composter.

So...anytime I feel that someone needs encouraging, I share with them that it can be easy and uncomplicated. And you can make compost without knowing a brown from a green. People do it all the time.

I know Westy wanted to know about browns and greens, but I thought I'd toss out my view---just in case it made her feel better.


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

Thanks Lloyd,I didn't mean to butt into this thread, but I tried to ask a new question and failed. I do thank you for a response.
Ken


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 26, 09 at 2:19

Not a problem Ken.

Don't read too much into lack of responses. Sometimes some people look at a response they agree with and just nod their heads to themselves. Often people hold back from posting "I agrees" or "me toos".

I've stayed out of threads that I have zero interest (or knowledge) in and some I post in just to get a chuckle. Although some folks take their composting pretty seriously and kinda miss my poor attempts at humor.

Now go to bed, it's late!

Lloyd


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

annpat has said it for me - again. I think that a lot of beginners with only small scale compost requirements can easily be put off. Anecdotally I have come across a lot of people who don't compost because it's 'too much trouble'. It really isn't. My kids grew up prepared for the wrath of parent to descend on them if I ever found an apple core in the rubbish bin. They understood compost from the start - it's not that hard.


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

I am very new to this. I started a compost pile in the late summer with shredded newspaper and kitchen scraps. Now that I have leaves, I keep a pile of them next to the compost pile, lay down a layer of leaves, then scraps, cover with leaves, and just keep layering as I get stuff to add. The original stuff from the summer decomposed much faster than I imagined it would. I'll post in the spring and let you know how it turns out.


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

This thread got pretty interesting! I am not offended by any answer...it's been really helpful to see how everyone does this. I just started saving kitchen scraps this week - never have before because DH didn't want the 'mess' (he's the most anal retentive person on the planet). But I just put it all in the bin every day even if it will be 40 below, I will take it out there. But I have ONE MORE QUESTION....is alfalfa nitrogen or carbon? I guess I should know...but I don't. I need greens bad cuz I have so many maple leaves shredded in both bins.

Oh - and I have a friend with a stable full of horses who claims stable bedding is good for compost bins and will give me some. Should I use it? I don't really know what it is but will see her at a party next week so I'll ask. I assume it's hay or straw and I think one isn't good for composting, right? I don't know what else it consists of but will report back!

Thanks,
Westy


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 26, 09 at 13:50

Westy, good to see ya in the daylight! Alafalfa is generally considered a nitrogen (green). C:N ratio seems to range a bit but pret'near all sites list it as a stronger green.

And I chuckled at the "one more question" comment and then proceeded to ask three! Yup, defineatly a compost whacko enthusiast! Are you talking just the bedding material or horse apples and everything? Find out what it is and report back. :-)

Diana, what you are doing is perfect.

Lloyd


 o
C:N ratio list (one of millions)

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 26, 09 at 14:02

And further to your original question re: C:N ratios. Note that there are often ranges given for any one item (horse manure for example). It isn't always cast in stone and there are variables.

C:N Ratio list

Lloyd

P.S. I hate it when they call it "waste material", it's not a waste, it's a RESOURCE!


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

OMG - you wrote 'pret'near' - that's how my father always prounounced it. I wonder if it's a Northern thing. He grew up 10 miles from the Canadian border in Minnesota - I think everyone said that up there. We used to fish on Namakin (sp?) and Kabitogama which I think are in southern Manitoba, right?
I wish I had all the fish guts I saw in my life - supposed to be great fertilizer. But I wonder how you bury it! Anyway, I agree it's not waste material....if someone throws anything away lately, I go nuts.

Appreciate the CN Ratio List. Thanks EVERYONE!

Westy


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

I love it that the party conversation will be horse poop. Welcome to the wackos!


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

That's why I joined up and stayed.If I need to know something the people on here know the answer or where to look it up,but more important to me they keep it light.

Curt :):0 :)


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Fri, Nov 27, 09 at 18:04

I have to chuckle at the mental image of Westy, holding a canap with some kind of green gunk on top in one hand, a flute of champagne in the other, berating her less than whacko enthusiastic husband whilst getting all the low down on the HM! I so hope this is a real 'high society' party!

Now I have a question...Is it just me or are golfers especially anal finicky about their lawns?

Some of the golf guys at work actually sit and discuss the greenness of their grass and all the stuff that the lawn care dudes do to it. Me, I just go "meh, it's a firebreak, who cares".

Lloyd


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

  • Posted by paulns NS zone 6a (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 29, 09 at 20:11

As long as you don't discourage potential wackos. Westy sounds like one of us: not faint of heart.

A couple of times a year a composting Expert is the guest on the CBC Maritimes phone-in show (like NPR in the USA). He's like that Master Composter you mention. He makes a compost pile sound like a ticking time bomb, a house of cards, an engineering feat. Some of the things he says are downright false. I emailed a protest once, and am waiting to pounce next time.

A google search of 'mischthufe' turned this up. Cover your eyes, Lloyd - I know how susceptible you are to temptation.

Here is a link that might be useful: alpine porn


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

  • Posted by paulns NS zone 6a (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 29, 09 at 22:38

Forgot that I'd deleted that tangent. Misthaufen is German for dung heap, manure pile, compost pile - the kind of throw-everything-on, anarchist pile my mother kept, similar to Flora's.
Mischthufe is the Swiss German spelling and pronunciation.


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

Lloyd - first of all, I don't play golf - because if I did, my friends would probably beat me up. It's just not a real man's sport, in my opinion. I get all of my "high dollar grass clippings" from the houses surrounding a local golf course, and that's as close as I get to golfing. Blech!

To the OP - I don't worry about ratios - just add anywhere from 4-5 different ingredients (leaves, grass clippings, UCG's, and vegetable scraps from the kitchen), and have excellent results. People make it too difficult, and it's really easy to do.

EG


 o
RE: List of Browns and Greens

My initial objective in posting was to learn what would become black gold the fastest. What I finally got this Fall took me two years but it was gorgeous...crumbly, black, friable, sweet-smelling perfection. (Except for the plastic he shredded and accidentally threw in that took me hours to pick out) but I'm SO glad I started this thread - it's been the high point of my week, except for the kick I got out of throwing veggie peelings in the compost bin. It WILL be a 'high society' party (sort of - the golf club) and I delight in shocking people so I have lots to talk about. I wish I understood German - that site looks juicy. I wish I could move to Canada. I'm trying to get out of here...we've lived in a 'maintained community' for 20 years because we both traveled for biz. Ready to move but don't know where - maybe back home to N. Minn. I didn't have to worry about ANYTHING up there. You guys with LAND don't know how lucky you are. And even though we're in a 'maintained' community, I have land I don't even own under cultivation with over 400 hostas and am a reg on the hosta forum, but this is becoming as fun as that one. I think we need a composting convention.

PS All I want for Christmas is a pitchfork. Or maybe it's called a 'hay fork' - it's got thin tines. Right now I use a pitchfork to turn the piles and it's too heavy. I need a lightweight one. But if I don't get it....I'm using a golf club.

Westy


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Soil Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here