Baking_Pan
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Too much green - help

Hi - new to composting - here's my story and question...

In July I nailed together 4 pallets, put them in the corner of my yard and started throwing kitchen waste and lawn clippings into it. Then it started to fill up faster than I expected - we have a new build home and therefore no trees so no dead matter... but a ton of unwanted weeds which got pulled and piled in there. Now it is overflowing and mainly only green matter as I understand it.

I bought a pitch-fork so I could get out there and turn it. I know the advice is to add brown matter but I am not really in the position to be raking my neighbor's yard... so here's the question - can I break down some moving boxes (I have a ton of those), strip them, and layer them in the pile as I turn it? Ink isn't exactly organic but neither is all the round-up that my up-hill neighbor pours all over his lawn...

What's a girl to do? The weeds really out grow the dead matter, and there is a whole lot of kitchen waste - lots of veggies eaten here so lots of corn husks, apple cores, orange and banana peels... Will my green pile eventually work itself out? I live in the Northwest so it is going to start raining regularly... is my pile in trouble? I understand that it will smell but is that just an inconvenience or is my compost doomed?

Lots of advice appreciated - anyone's ideas are welcome.
Baking_Pan

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Jess
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Use any cardboard (including moving boxes) you can get your hands on and newspaper. Make sure you tear/shred it as otherwise it will take a long time to break down. You can toss it through your existing pile so that it has an even distribution of greens and browns.
You mentioned the smell that would come from a green heap. The smell is caused by putrifying matter. Without the browns there is no aerobic activity which is needed to break everything down into sweet smelling humus. What you would be left with would not be very good for your garden and may even cause the death of some of your plants.

If you have the space make another pallet compost bin so you can close one off once full and start to fill the other. That should take care of all the waste you produce.
Knowing without doing is like plowing without sowing."

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smokensqueal
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Go ahead and add your boxes. Rip, shred or tear them would be best but if you lay a piece every few inches and put more greens on it, it will break up fairly quickly. If you have any junk mail or newspaper do the same thing. If it's not smelling yet your doing fine but It will take longer and a lot of turning to get it to be happy if you don't have enough browns. Soon it will be the other way around the temps will get cool and trees will lose their leaves and you will have to many browns and not enough greens. :) but that's the dealings of compost.

Your compost is NEVER doomed. No matter how far out of wack it gets it still will decompose. If you have to much greens it will take a long while and might smell but it will still decompose. If you have to many browns again it may take a long while but it will still decompose. The perfect mix will give you nice compost in a relatively short amount of time while the not so perfect mix will take a longer time.

Baking_Pan
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Another question...

So for clarification... weeds are "green" - what makes them "brown"? Dying first then pulledup? or can I pull them, dry them then throw them on the pile? Does that make them "brown"?
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applestar
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I think it's the cellulose/fiber content.

Best steady household carbon source is pressed paper products -- tubes from toilet paper, paper towel, wrapping paper, egg cartons, and fast food drink trays. Every time you go to a fast food place, ASK for a drink tray (it's FREE!). They break down VERY easily when wet. Plain brown paper bags are great too -- ever go grocery shopping on a rainy day and had your bag fall apart on you?

I try to stay away from anything printed or colored. I sometimes cut away the printed parts from the grocery bags if I'm desperate for browns. I don't use newspaper either, though I DO use newsprint paper that a lot of mail orders are using for package filler lately. Black ink is supposed to be OK but I don't want the ink, period. Any paper that's smooth/slick is most likely coated. It makes them harder to break down, especially if the coating is plastic-based..

Oh, paper napkins. I always put them in the compost when using recycled ones. Less often when using white, and never colored. I'm a bit leery of putting in paper towels since I use Bounty and I don't know what makes them tear resistant -- they don't break down so easily in compost either, but I do occasionally throw them in as well, especially after wiping up a food spill!
Last edited by applestar on Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

cynthia_h
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"Greens" generally have more nitrogen; "browns" have more carbon. It's the carbon:nitrogen ratio in the compost pile that keeps the microbes happy and the odors non-existent or even pleasant.

If you want to set the weeds aside until they're good and dead--concern about roots sprouting, for example--go ahead and do it. But add the cardboard and paper to the pile, too. If you have access to them and space for storage, keep bagged leaves handy throughout the year to add to the greens.

But I made compost for years with no access to leaves, so it can definitely be done.

Cynthia H.
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buddy110
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I have a similar problem. what I do is add some finished compost to balance out the nitro. I'm not really sure if that makes the compost more complete, but the smell gets better.

rot
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shredded office paper

..
All kinds of paper and cardboard will work. The smaller bits the better. I will use newspaper but stay away from color inserts that may have been printed overseas. Most domestic newspapers use soy inks because then they don't have haz mat and health and safety issues and that saves money.

I can get shredded office paper. Shredded office paper comes almost entirely from photocopiers and laser printers which use toner and not ink. You may not like toner because it is essentially plastic. After going through about a hundred MSDS sheets on the Xerox website, I'm confident that toner is non toxic. When I queried Xerox about composting the stuff their only reply was that the paper will break down but the toner will not. I don't care for plastic at all but I've overcome my willies from toner. If I blend shredded office paper with grass clippings neither the paper or grass clippings will clump. If that's all your using, it will reduce down to nothing quite rapidly.

I'm not sure I trust junk mail because I fear some of it, at least, is printed overseas. Shredded bills go in the bin anyways.

The leaves will be coming soon and I can put the shredded paper in storage and save them for spring.

Bounty paper towels have been no problem for me whatsoever. Newspaper has a lot of lignin and wads up on me. Tea bags and coffee filters digest quickly. Haven't used too much cardboard, most of it is tainted with tape and glues and again I fear inks form overseas.

Sticks take forever to break down. I can never break them up enough. I've hear good things about sawdust but you want to go directly to the saw mills before any wood is treated with god knows what. Peanut shells can work too but I've never used them in any serious amounts.

In any account it's not a major disaster. It just takes longer before you can use it. Like smokensqueal points out, it will all rot.

let it rot
..

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smokensqueal
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If I'm not mistaking Bounty and other paper towels are made from a combination of paper products and cotton. With that being said some people will even throw their old cotton cloths into the compost. I have a t-shirt that is about shot that I'm going to try this with.

Depending on your concerns vs. your needs and supplies depends on what you might throw into you compost bin. I ran out of leave but typically I wouldn't throw in cardboard, newspaper, and junk mail but in time of need and to keep things from smelling that's what I ended up using. This fall I'm going to keep a stock pile at my step dads so If I need more leaves throught the year I can go get them from his place or just let them go and compost on their own. Hopefully I won't have to used that stuff and risk putting in inks and glues and other things that are not so good for the compost.

sixshooter
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i know i have too much nitrogen because the leaves ahvent started fallint here yet. my compost literally smells like crap. is this normal? its not so much from a distance, but i put my hands in it to feel the texture and whoooo weeee. my hands were fowl. normal?

cynthia_h
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Perhaps "normal," but not "good."

When you're short of leaves and other browns, go ahead and shred newspapers, cardboard (cereal boxes are good, too), and the like to balance out your compost pile. "Stir" them in.

The odor and texture of your compost-in-waiting will improve tremendously.

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

rot
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turn baby turn

If you keep turning your compost and watch the moisture level, the pile or bin will getter better after a awhile. The foul smell indicates it has gone anaerobic so it needs air. Mixing in browns will help too but if you keep adding ingredients you are delaying the day when it will all be digested and you can use it.

Plan 9 From Outer Space: cap it with a heap of coffee grounds to contain the smell and occasionally water it. In 6 to 8 months or more depending on conditions, you will have something to spread around without doing anything else. In the meantime, space permitting, you can start a new bin or pile.

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applestar
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If you don't have the energy, time, and/or inclination to turn/aerate it very often, there are a couple of solutions 8)
(1) If you have an open bin, stand a length of drain pipe (pvc pipe with holes along its lenght) in the middle of the pile like a chimney, being careful not to let the inside of the pipe get clogged up. Especially effective if you put a layer of sticks in the bottom of the pile. Downside to this is that the pile ends up losing a lot of heat. (There's an illustration in an Organic Gardening mag with these pipes buried sideways in the pile at 2 different levels -- so that maybe the correct way to use these piles.)
(2) Stick a rebar or a pointed 1" pvc pipe in the middle of the pile. When you are out in the garden, grab hold of it and wiggle it. If you're feeling ambitious, pull it out and plunge it in different spots. It's a good therapy if you take out your frustrations out on the pile by pulling the rebar/pipe out, VICIOUSLY stabbing it, and GRINDING (i.e. wiggling) at it. :twisted: :lol:

I used to do both. I now have a "compost stirrer" which has a T-handle and winged flanges on the ends that are closed as it is plunged into the pile and wiggled, then flips open as it is pulled out -- pulling up bits from the inside. I can also use the T-handle to push-twist the stirrer deep into the pile. It's really a great workout, and I can vary the exercise by holding the handle "under"handed. :wink:

For some reason, I always start out thinking I'm just going to poke at the pile a little bit -- you know, 2 or 3 times... and I end up THOROUGHLY going over the pile with the stirrer, "feeling the burn" as it were.... :roll: it's definitely easier to do with the stirrer than with a fork, and takes less time than taking apart the bin and completely turning it -- I only do that once a month or so. :D

astevn816
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Turning the compost pile does help to speed up the process but it is not needed.

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