Yummy, fresh compost from my pile.
I named my blog “Compostings” mostly for the play on the word posting relating to blogging. Blog post.
It’s pretty lame, but this was back in the early days of the internet and I hadn’t seen or lived enough to know that I should have called it “Shit My Veg Says” or “Amazon.Compost”. Those would have been awesome names.
I have a facebook page also called compostings. It’s actually where I put more stuff these days as the allure of blogging as lagged for me. (Blagging.)
With a name like “Compostings” most people who find me really just have questions about… composting. It wasn’t really my intent to imply a focus on composting only. I do compost, but really I wanted to blog about vegetable gardening in general.
But too bad! If people have questions about composting, I’ll answer it. After the 200th question about it on my Facebook page I decided to link to an old blog post that I had surely written on the basics.
I had surely not written any such thing, however.
So here it is! My basic guide to composting!
Composting Components (Compostingnents)
Compost is rich in nitrogen and carbon. You’re goal is to create a good ratio of the two in the ingredients you add. It’s not hard. Don’t sweat it too much. No need to measure or weigh. Just wing it. Nature does.
You’ll hear people talk about “greens” and “browns”. Greens are nitrogen sources. Browns are carbon sources.
Good Green (Nitrogen) sources: Grass clippings, vegetable scraps (uncooked, no oil), plant matter, cow/horse/chicken/rabbit manure, coffee grounds
Good Brown (Carbon) sources: Dead leaves, cardboard, newspaper, coffee grounds
The Magic Composting Ratio
This is it people. The simple truth. You want more carbon than nitrogen. 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Too much nitrogen and you’ll have a slimy, stinky pile. Too much carbon and the composting process will take too long.
My excellent New England environment provides me with everything I need. Lots of dead leaves in the Fall. Lots of grass clippings via my lawn mower. WIth just those two components, I can make compost that is pretty darn good.
Small Bits And Pieces
Stuff breaks down faster when it’s smallified. Chop it up. Mulch it. Tear it. Twist it. Snap it into bits. I like my mulching mower with it’s bag for this duty, but I do also have a stand up mulcher for big jobs. Your leaves and other browns in particular really need to be mulched.
Compost likes moisture, but not too much. Keep it moist, but not soaked. And if it dries out, it will still compost eventually. Most of the time I just let the rain take care of it.
Turning And Tumbling
Composting, the way we’re talking about, is aerobic. The bacteria and other sciencey stuff need oxygen to do their thing. As the composting process happens, heat is given off. It’s good! The center will get hot. Turning the compost pile or tumbler once a week or so moves the air around, mixes the ingredients and moves new stuff to the center to get heated. Don’t go crazy. Turn it a bit and call it a day.
Weird Stuff To Compost
Can I compost egg shells? Can I use oyster shells in my compost? Can I compost coffee grounds? Can I use my sister?
Yes to all of this, but don’t try and compost your sister.
I get a lot of “can I compost” questions. In general, if it is uncooked, not meat (or from a meat eater), if it is not oily you can compost it. You’ll find some folks who do compost dead birds and things, but I stay away from it as it takes high heat in the compost to really break that stuff down.
Don’t use dog poop. Don’t use cat poop. Don’t use your poop (unless you have a special composter). Meat eaters have nasty poop.
Do use shells. Do use seaweed. Go for it.
I got a question about using old tomato soup from a can. I didn’t have a good answer, but my instinct says hell no. It’s got other junk in it.
Don’t put yucky fertilized grass in it. Don’t put chemicals in it. Pee on it if you want. Seriously. It’s okay.
How To Make Compost Easily
- Mix brown carbon sources (like dead leaves and cardboard) with green nitrogen sources (like grass clippings and weed-free garden waste) in a ratio of about 25-30 to 1. You want more brown than green.
- Add shells or other weird things if you want so long as it’s not meat, oily or poison.
- Use manure from grass eaters like cows, horses and chickens. Great source of nitrogen and a bit of carbon.
- Mulch or shred things to let them break down faster.
- Pile it all up, add to the pile as you like.
- Keep the pile moist but not soaked.
- Turn it once a week or so to keep the oxygen moving and to move parts to the center for heating.
- It’s done when it’s cool or when it looks like compost to you! It will be full of worms when it’s good to go.
- Compost things like manure longer or the high nitrogen will burn your crops.
That’s it. Happy composting from Compostings!
Here are some links to some very good sites with more info: