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rainbowgardener
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I'm just your average home gardener, not a soil scientist, so I tend to go by several times as much brown (by volume) as green, as a general rule of thumb. But IMHO it's not rocket science. If it isn't heating up, try more greens and more moisture. If it is getting slimy or smelly or nasty, add more browns... It will compost, pretty much whatever you do.

Here's an article about it, that suggests anywhere from 5:1 to 8:1 brown to green ratio by volume:

https://www.plowhearth.com/magazine/compost_how_to.asp

mjweber54
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I don't spend a lot of time deciding if sometime is green or brown. I just put grass clippings, weeds,leaves and garden waist in my compost pile and leave it sit for 6 months. I get a lot of compost every six months.

Sometimes we can spend took much time trying to figure what potion of green or brown to add to the pile.

One of the most important things is keep your pile about 4'x4'x4' high. Too big and the center of the pile will not break down. Too small and it will not heat up enough.

My compost pile has two bins, one for new material and one for finish compost. After 6 six months I start removing the material that did not compose to the other bin. You will get to the finish compost at some point.

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Compost Question

I thought that adding grass clipping and leaves could transfer weeds into your garden. What are the chances of this happening and how big of a deal can it really be? Does anyone know of a relatively inexpensive bin that has an ample amount of storage space to accomodate a garden of 2000 sq. ft?
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rainbowgardener
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I have applied my compost to my garden for many years now. I routinely get volunteer tomatoes sprouting where ever I planted with compost and occasionally get volunteer squash. That's not all bad, sometimes I let them grow. I have never had any problems with any weed seeds sprouting from the compost, even though weed seeds do go into the compost pile at times. I try to be sure to pull the weeds before they go to seed, but it doesn't always happen. I put lots of fall leaves into the pile (the grass clippings usually stay on the lawn). The lack of weeds is despite the fact that my compost pile doesn't run real hot most of the time.
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This idea scares me to death... the rogue tomato plants that is. I am hooked on growing all heirloom tomtaoes, and from what I have been told, these rogue plants can cross pollinate my heirlooms, transforming them to another "hybrid" variety. I do not have a huge compost pile, but I NEVER add any of my tomato guts to the mix. They hit the bottom of the trash can. I do not know how serious this threat of cross pollination might be, but with all I invest (work and financially) I do not want to risk it. Are there any veggie scraps that can be detrimental to the success of my pile? What about ones that can be extrremely good for it?
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rainbowgardener
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The cross pollination is only a threat if you save the seeds. The tomatoes that grow on any of your heirloom plants will be true to the variety. If they got cross pollinated, the seeds in those tomatoes will be for some hybrid variety for next year.

No there's nothing particular in the way of veggie scraps that would be detrimental. Citrus peels can be harmful to some of the compost pile biology if over done (if they become a large percentage of what is in your pile), but are fine otherwise. What is beneficial is just a good variety of different stuff including greens and browns. Adding a bit of molasses in water can help feed all the bacteria that are breaking stuff down. Other things that are good for the pile is breaking things down into smaller bits, comfrey leaves, grass clippings, baby weeds, coffee grounds, watering the pile if it might not be moist, being sure you have enough volume of materials in the pile, adding a handful of good garden dirt now and then, turning it occasionally.
Last edited by rainbowgardener on Mon Mar 29, 2010 10:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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TZ described in some detail how to prevent cross pollination of tomatoes when saving heirloom seeds [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=120851#120851]in this post[/url]and subsequent posts in the same thread. Note that, without due precaution, a % of your heirlooms can cross pollinate each other and affect the resulting seeds.

As for the volunteers, they are easily recognized and can be weeded out or be allowed to grow, depending on location and your preference. Like Rainbowgardener said, letting them grow in your garden in of itself will not be a problem as long as you understand the process.

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Re: Simple Compost Ingredients List -Browns and Greens

Charlie MV wrote:I'm a relatively new vegetable gardener and find myself constantly looking for elements to add to my pile. In the summertime I run out of brown in particular. It would be a great help to me and probably to other rookies here to have a list on the sight for compost ingredients when I run low. I'll list a few that I know and keep the greens and browns in separate lists for easy reference. Please post any ingredients you use and be sure to state whether they fall in the green or brown category because I wont know. :o If I put something on the wrong list, let me know and I'll edit the list. Thanks in advanvce for the help.

GREENS

grass clippings, corn husks, tea bags, old flowers, spent bedding plants, veg peelings, salad leaves, fruit scraps, annual weeds, rhubarb leaves.


BROWNS


sawdust, brown paper bags. toilet paper core, paper towel core, bottom (unprinted) half of paper egg carton [shredded],
leaves, corn stalks and cobs, shredded black and white newspaper [not the slick papered advertisements or color print], crushed eggshell, cereal boxes, ashes from wood, paper and charcoal, wood chip, string and cotton thread, feathers (huh!) , old natural fibre clothes, wool, straw , hay.
We have hay from last winter that the cows pooped on and my husband pushed it around with some dirt and it is in a pile, will it be good as compost if I put it in the ground now?

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countrygal, I can't answer your question with certainty. Manure contains seeds. It has to be thoroughly cooked for the seeds in the poop to not germinate. I use the hot compost method which kills most if not all seeds.

I run all my spent crops through a chipper. I use lawn clippings, tree trimmings and my neighbor's yard waste. If I used manure and used the hot composting method, I think the seeds in the manure would cook .

Hot composting requires daily or every other day attention [tossing]. By hot composting, you greatly cut the cooking time but you have to pay attention to green to brown ratio and moisture content. If you cold compost, I'd add other organics and let it work for a year or two. You still need to toss it occasionally.

Long story short, I'd not use the manure and hay you describe any sooner than a year or more. Hopefully somebody will see this and give you more help than I did. I would love to have manure to mix in my hot pile.

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Jess wrote:Haha! Charlie I just noticed you added the 'Huh!' to your expanding list of greens and browns.
I had just not read the list and was a little surprised to see feathers listed, hence the "Huh!". Who has a pile of feathers to add to a compost on a regular basis?! :? (rhetorical!) I know someone who has chickens could but it just seemed a very strange thing to list.
I can't add to the list, but I'm adding my "Huh" to the thing about feathers, and perhaps give bit of an answer to that question. There are quite a few Abenaki people near me (a native American tribe in this area) and many of them do craft work. One guy I know is constantly picking up roadkill birds if they're reasonably fresh, for the feathers.

Pretty gross to me, but, it's his livelihood, I guess.
Time to learn how to get my hands dirty in the garden, to maximum effect.

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Is My Chicken and Horse Manure Brown or Green?

Interesting to view all of these posts on composting. Call me old fashioned as I haven't progressed to adding the brown stuff to my compost heap...need and consider that.

I just use vegetable matter - we eat lots of salad and fresh veg, egg shells etc - and add our chicken manure from our three chickens. Brews up quite nicely. Now and again I add some horse manure to set things off.

Perhaps after all these years I need to look at this approach again!

Thanks for all the great posts!
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I'm quite new at composting so "bear" with me - please. :oops: Why do you need to separate greens and browns? I had a compost pile last year and threw just left overs and banana peels in it. (no grass clippings) And absolutely no paper products.. This is great news! Less garbage in the kitchen. :D

What about pine needles?

This is a great thread! Thanks for the answers.. :!:
:wink: Happy gardening!

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No one is talking about separating greens and browns. You want them mixed. You just want to be sure that you have both in reasonable balance.

You will get much better compost adding browns, including the paper products, to your kitchen scraps (and presumably yard waste - were you not putting all your pulled weeds and trimmings in there too?)

Pine needles break down VERY slowly and are acidifying. They make good mulch for azaleas and other plants that like acid soil.
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Rainbowgardener, I let the weeds dry out and threw them in the fire pit. Now I will use every pulled weed and plant clipping including deadheads for the compost. (Very useful info!) Thank you :D

Ok, so no pine needles for the compost pile. Are the pine needles also good for the hydrangea?
:wink: Happy gardening!

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I use pine needles to mulch the blueberries, so I would think they would be equally useful and good for the hydrangea. :D

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:idea: Should I throw worms that I find in the compost also?
:wink: Happy gardening!

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Won't hurt, but if your compost pile is on the ground, the worms will come to it, so you could just add the ones you find to flower/ veggie beds.

Hydrangea is the only plant I know of that changes flower color depending on the pH (acidity) of the soil. So if you added (a LOT) of pine needles in the soil around it and made it more acid, it would bloom more blue. If it is blue flowering already, that may be just fine. If you make the soil around it more basic (by liming) the flowers will be pink...
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I did a search on the forum but didn't find an answer.

Do or can you put whole vegetables in your compost pile which may include seeds and all?

I just put a whole cantaloupe that a friend gave me which went way too ripe. I took the seeds out first though.


I really like this forum and have been reading it daily!

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If you wash and dry the seeds, you can put them in the birdfeeder. :wink:

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Feeding the birds with lope seeds is a great idea but you Applestar are one dedicated individual to take the time. :shock:
I guess I must be a bit on the lazy side cause I just chuck them on the heap along with pretty much anything else that will rot or at least provide needed loft.

Well back to digging Big-Ole-Holes in the woodlands for trees I don't even have yet..

I guess us gardeners all have problems but I think my BIGGEST is that I don't stop quite often enough to admire my own efforts although my wife disagrees and says I'm always sitting on a five gallon bucket staring..
Got anything good that's Z6 hardy?

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I put whole fruits and vegetables that are past their expiration date into the compost pile, seeds and all, making sure just to open then up first so that they will break down easier. (Not very often, I work hard to make sure all the produce is used, but every once in awhile something gets past me.) The worst thing that will happen if you have melon or pepper seeds in your compost pile is that when you use your compost, you will get volunteer melons or peppers, and what is so bad about that?
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Right on Rainbow!! My best winter squash years are the ones that plants sneak out of the side of a pile and I never know if they will be pumpkins, butternut, acorns or some unidentifiable garden mutent. :?

There are a few thing that go in my cold heaps that never die!!! Roadside daylilys, hosta, as well as a few nasty weeds just keep on going!! It's the forget-me-nots that are the worst offender!! Ones mans junk....... :wink:
Got anything good that's Z6 hardy?

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Heh, heh. I'm just cheap. :wink:

I only buy premium birdseed because I don't want the junk seeds and I don't want the junk birds :P But why pay the premium prices when you have even better bird food. I would offer them organic food to alleviate their toxic load if I could, and I can, if I grow them myself.

The compost pile doesn't need the seeds and only squirrels and chipmunks (and probably mice) benefit if I put the seeds in the pile -- anyway, they can eat the other parts of the melon, etc. if they can get their little paws on them. This way, I can offer the seeds to the birds that I'd like to have visit my garden, and that's less seeds I have to buy from the store. I grow sunflowers for the same reason.

This morning, I watched a goldfinch hanging upside-down from a multi-small-flowered sunflower that had gone to seed, pecking away. Heh, I'm lazy too. :> Now, I don't even have to harvest, dry, store, and fill the birdfeeder. :lol:

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rainbowgardener wrote:... The worst thing that will happen if you have melon or pepper seeds in your compost pile is that when you use your compost, you will get volunteer melons or peppers, and what is so bad about that?
Well not a bad idea on volunteers popping up if I had the space to transplant them since I have a small space for a garden. So far I've been shying away putting anything with seeds in my compost bin for this reason.
Thanks RG!


applestar wrote:If you wash and dry the seeds, you can put them in the birdfeeder. :wink:
We're slightly off topic but I don't have a bird feeder but I though about geting one to help with the insects. I don't want to get rid of the bees that are visiting my little garden.

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rainbowgardener
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Birds won't bother the bees, but they are really beneficial for your garden (as well as beautiful/ entertaining to watch).
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Reading about what are a green and a brown I think I have a shortage of browns. Mostly I am using food waste and lawn clippings but it seems to be composting any ways. Later I intend to get some manure from some of my neighbors as many of them have horses and have said I could take all I wanted. I would like to make a bin large enough to use my 5’ tractor bucket to turn it and bring it to my garden. If I read this right it looks like the straw in the bedding and the horse poop are browns. Is this right?
I also use lawn clippings as mulch especially in the meadows far from my house and near my garden.

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Manure of all kinds, being nitrogen-rich, is a compost green, regardless of its visual color.

You'll want twigs, sawdust, straw, shredded (news)paper, etc., for browns (carbon-rich ingredients) to balance the greens. If the pile goes smelly/slimy/nasty, you'll know it's time for browns to the rescue. OTOH, if the pile just sits there doing nothing, you'll know it's time for more water *or* more greens.

Cynthia

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That makes it real easy to understand Cynthia, thanks.

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Corn cobs , not a major part of my youth with the family ,Mother never grew or bought it ,
So whats the best way to compost the cobs after we have eaten the rest , we mostly bake the cobs husk on in the oven .
A gardener with a small shady back garden and a balcony with containers ,
biggest problem not enough sunshine !

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I just throw the corn cobs on the pile with everything else. They don't break down real fast that way. Three months later, when I turn the pile over, they are still there, but considerably softened up. At that point I break them up a little bit by hand (often there are earthworms in the middle). The next time I turn the pile over, they are gone.

If you didn't want them hanging around that long, if you have a way to grind/ chip them up, they would break down a lot faster.
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I'm confused! I have never had a compost pile but would like to start one. Do I separate the greens and browns? Can I use a container or does it need to be on the ground?
give me a sunny day and a flower bed and I'm happy

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rainbowgardener
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Don't separate the greens and browns. The whole point of having both is to mix them together so that both carbon and nitrogen are included in your compost.

One of our members wrote a nice piece on how to get started composting:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=161319&highlight=compost+101#161319

Read that and this thread and browse around in the Compost Forum and you will have all the info you need.

You can use a container if it has PLENTY of air holes. Composting is an aerobic process and oxygen needs to be able to get to your materials.
If you are composting in a container, it helps to throw a handful of garden dirt in every once in awhile, introduce some soil biology. Maybe find a few earthworms and add them too. Because of the earthworms and soil organisms, I prefer composting on the ground, but whatever works best for you so that you will compost is what you should do. :)
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dim
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I recently read that the printed coloured paper is suitable for the combost depending on which kind of paper and ink and the technique of printing in general. I suppose that the releaving of toxic substances during degradation is what we want to avoid. In other case the printed coloured paper is ok for the compost.
... and if this is right, how can we recognize the toxic and the non toxic for the compost appropriate paper ?
:D
thank you !

nakanj
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thanks, I'm gonna start mine this spring :idea:
give me a sunny day and a flower bed and I'm happy

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dim - from my understanding: newspaper okay; gloss ads/magazines: not okay.
Vanessa raising organic vegetables, livestock, wildflowers, and family in zone 5A.

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if I don't have enough compost, what can I buy to supplement it? :oops:
give me a sunny day and a flower bed and I'm happy

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nakanj wrote:if I don't have enough compost, what can I buy to supplement it? :oops:
I'm not going to exactly address your question, because I don't have personal experience with any of the commercial soil additives out there. You can find some discussions on the topic by typing bagged compost into the Search the Forum keyword box.

But one thing you can do to make your compost go farther is to turn some of it into compost tea. There's a whole HUGE thread in this section about ACT (sometimes known as AACT - activated, aerated compost tea). I haven't been motivated yet to do the whole pump, airstone, time the brew, sterilize all the equipment routine. So I've been making a compost infusion. Put a small shovelful of compost into a bucket of water (rain water or water that has sat open over night to outgas the chlorine) add some molasses and keep stirring it for awhile. Not as good as real ACT for having tons of microbial life, I'm sure, but the molasses and stirring should at least get some activity started, which hopefully will continue in the soil.

It does make a rich, lovely, good smelling, latte colored mixture which goes a lot farther in the garden than the original shovel of compost.
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rot
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coffee grounds anyone?

..
If you're just top dressing your compost you can use coffee grounds as compost helper.

You can either mix it in or do it in layers. If you do it in layers, leave the compost on top to mitigate the crusting of the coffee grounds.

I've put coffee grounds directly into the ground before when putting in something potted but i don't know if that's recommended. I just know the worms really dig the coffee grounds.

to sense
..

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Get paper from folks; they are saving for recycling anyway...

Garden waste from neighbors...

Produce from supermarkets; shouldn't just go in the dumpster...

Sawdust from sawmills (NO pressure treated!)

Coffee grounds ARE great...
Scott Reil

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Wow!Thanks for all the tips. :clap: I will try all of them. so glad I joined this site!
give me a sunny day and a flower bed and I'm happy



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