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LazyGirl
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Kinds of paper to compost?

First, I really appreciate all of the information found in this forum. I am a total newbie and am relieved to find a place where other people have already asked the questions that were in my mind.

It sounds like there are a few people like me out there who have a hodge-podge sort of pile (low temp I guess). I have been adding paper to it but would like some advise on the types of paper that are acceptable. Here's what I would like to add (and in some cases already have):

- Paper towels (how bad is the bleach from the white ones?)
- Cardboard (not just pizza boxes but the sturdy white mailing ones)
- Junk mail including envelopes (but not any shiny magazine-type paper, and of course removing the plastic windows)

Thanks in advance and I look forward to everyone's advise! If there is any other paper product I left out, feel free to add it.

Tania

cynthia_h
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Your suggestions all sound good. Don't forget toilet-paper tubes and paper-towel tubes. Cereal boxes.

All of these need to be shredded (not necessarily through a shredder, just torn up into small pieces) and mixed into your other stuff.

Alameda County is EXCELLENT for compost support. Check out www.stopwaste.org for discounted compost and vermicompost bins/boxes available to residents of Alameda County. The City of Livermore may also have a program, or there could be one through your waste-management company.

Welcome to the Helpful Gardener! Glad you've found us.

Cynthia H.
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brewerjamie15
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I've often used old mail or paperwork in my compost bin. I just put it through the paper shredder and use it for the garden. I've even used it directly on the soil as a mulch! Works out fine for me. it is kinda strange having white paper shreds in the garden in July though. It looks kind of like snow.
Holds moisture quite well and breaks down quickly.

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brewerjamie15
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Oh! I almost forgot! When I am peeling veggies or whatever in the kitchen and there's too much waste for my food scrap container, I pile it all up on some newspaper. I then dump the whole thing into the compost bin, and just tear the paper up into smaller pieces.

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LazyGirl
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Thanks for the great tips! I'm glad you brought up the cereal boxes because I had wondered about those as well. The website you suggested is great, I will be converting to some native plants (to be treated someday by great compost). I'm also glad they offer discounts to bins.

I like the idea of shredded paper mulch. We don't get snow in the bay area so maybe this would be a good effect for winter. :D

I was kicking around the idea of getting a worm bin but am concerned with the temperature swings around here. I don't want to keep it in the house and am concerned that the garage or outside would be too hot in summer and cold in winter. Does anyone have experience with worms in areas that get 95-100degF in the summer and down to 35degF in the winter?

Thanks again!
Tania

cynthia_h
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Maybe the Alameda County Rot Line (sorry; the number is at www.stopwaste.org ) has a "live person" who can help you out.

I'm in El Cerrito (Sunset Zone 17), while you're in Livermore (Zone 14), so your summer and winter temps are more extreme than mine. Although my worm box is in the shade on the north side of the house, that might not work for you.

Good luck! Maybe start another thread for more worm information, so this one can stay with paper/greens/compost?

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

TZ -OH6
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Bleached paper does not contain any bleach. It has been treated to chemicaly remove lignin from the fibers, which browns and acidifies with age. The bleaching process leaves the cellulose behind. Cellulose is completely broken down by microbes into into sugars over time. Lignin is what turns into stable humic acid/humus, so you want lignin, and therefore bleached paper is of limited long term value for your soil.

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LazyGirl
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Cynthia - Thanks for the suggestion. I will start another thread on temperatures for worms.

TZ - Thank you for the info! That makes sense.

I did a google search on lignin sources and found this cool technical article:
https://www.css.cornell.edu/compost/calc/lignin.html

I'm going to search for some good - quickly decomposing lignin sources.

TZ -OH6
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The table of lignin values in the text is misleading. There is no way straw has more lignin than maple chips, so go to the original table for correct values https://compost.css.cornell.edu/lignin.table.html


Hardwood only sawdust or wood chips are your best bet for a big pile of stuff high in lignin, newspaper would work, but it would bog down a lot when it gets wet. You will have to add a lot of nitrogen to speed up composting times. I use high nitrogen lawn fertilizer at about 5-10 lbs per cubic meter of wood chips, mixed in during three turnings to keep the temps up. This gives me usable compost in a year... Summer --> Spring. I would wait longer for some of the bigger chips to crumble but I need the structure to loosen heavy clay soil in a new garden.


Unfortunately you can't say "Fast" and "High Lignin" in the same breath because lignin is one of the things plants produce to resist decay. If you do not add nitrogen it will take years for the fungi to respire off all that carbon until the C:N ratio gets down to the stable 10:1 of finished compost.

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LazyGirl
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TZ - Thank you for that website recommendation. It looks like a great source of information for all areas of composting. There's a lot of stuff there and I'm slowly making my way through it. :D

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LazyGirl
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TZ - I almost forgot to comment on your suggestion for adding nitrogen. Since I'm a total newbie here I'm going to have to chew on that idea a bit, but it really makes sense. I like the idea of adding structure from smaller wood chips to the soil too, as I also have heavy clay.

Now where to get hardwood chips... my first thought is the charcoal from the fireplace but I believe this ends up being alkaline; and is only suggested to add in small quantities. We get firewood delivered every year so I think I'll ask if they have chips left from splitting the logs. I was also thinking that people who use the wood chips for landscaping may give them away - I'll do a craigslist search for free wood chips...

Thanks again for the suggestions!!!

Tania

TZ -OH6
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Check with private tree services, and your county website for community composting facilities. The guy I hire to chip my brush offered me free compost from chip piles he has sitting in his back yard. Getting rid of the chips is a problem for most people, my guy was surprised that I wanted it. Here chips get hauled to the county's community yard waste-compost area. Brush gets hauled there too and the county chips it. If you don't have a truck you could probably hire the tree service to deliver. They just point the chipper tube into the truck bed and fill it up as they go. You might be able to sweet talk the county into delivering as well depending on how lax their regulations are.


I also stopped at my local county fair grounds the other day and asked about manure. There was a pile the size of a house left from the fair. was told to take as much as I wanted whenever I wanted. It was full of sawdust from livestock bedding.



This might be useful, check out the North Dakota SU method for nitrogen use

https://www.fao.org/docrep/007/y5104e/y5104e06.htm#bm06.3

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LazyGirl
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Thanks again TZ. Again - great suggestions. :D

Tania

MichaelRodriguez
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TZ -OH6 wrote: This might be useful, check out the North Dakota SU [url=https://originalcialis.com]online[/url] method for nitrogen use

https://www.fao.org/docrep/007/y5104e/y5104e06.htm#bm06.3
Thank you so much for the link! Helped me a lot!
Last edited by MichaelRodriguez on Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Bobberman
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Greens are tuff to get outdoors in the winter but pine trees are green all year. Grind up som pinetree limbs for a hot compost!
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rainbowgardener
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I often think we need different terms than green and brown.

In the world of composting, green has nothing to do with color and stands for soft, moist, nitrogen rich. Manure is very "green" to a composter, not a "brown." Brown stands for hard, dry, carbon rich. Pine trees/needles at any season are a "brown." They are also oil rich (why they go up in flames like a torch) and do not break down easily.

Greens outdoors are harder to find in the winter, but I cook all winter, so always have kitchen scraps... Coffee grounds are another good example of a "green" that looks brown and the Starbucks type places have them year round.
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Organicanarchy
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Re: Kinds of paper to compost?

Do not use any oil saturated paper (critters) regular cardboard or multi layers of newspaper however works great b/t seasons to keep weeds out and then you can work it into the bed once it's rain soaked..

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Re: Kinds of paper to compost?

Other carbon sources around the house : egg cartons. I reuse them for eggs and they can be used to start seeds, but when they get old and stained, they are a good addition to compost.

It is important if you want to get hot compost to balance the greens and browns. Newspapers, cartons, and such are very high carbon so you don't want a lot of that. Plant stems, bark chips and things that are less processed will have a lower C:N ratio. You want the final pile to be 25:1 (C:N) ratio otherwise it will cold compost and not be thermophillic. Good sources of N are greens but you can use fresh manures (cow, sheep, goats, swine, rabbit, but not carnivores) Horses are wormed and the wormers may persist but it can be used but should be composted because it has a lot of weed seeds. Fertilizer is a good way to boost the nitrogen content of the pile and heat it up. The bacteria don't really care about the source if it is synthetic or not but if you want to stay more organic blood meal, feather meal, crabmeal, alfalfa meal (horse food pellets), fish emulsion or fish meal, cottonseed meal, and soybean meal are the better sources of nitrogen.

People don't really understand organic.
Organic gardens should feed the soil so the soil can in turn feed the plants. Inputs must balance outputs to be sustainable. If it takes more inputs than what the soil can provide to grow a crop then it is not organic because you are essentially feeding the crop and not the soil.

When making a compost pile you are creating an environment to grow the soil organisms. Those organisms need a balance of nitrogen, carbon, air and water in order to grow.

You cannot make a pile only out of carbon, and if you make a pile only of nitrogen you will get a slimy, smelly mess. If you cut a tree and chip it branches and leaves you will end up with a pretty balanced pile of greens and browns but it is from a single source. It is better to have trees of different kinds chipped and mixed in a pile so you will have a balanced source of nutrients. Better yet to have at least 5 different sources of greens and browns. The more the better.

I found making a pile slowly works but ends up being a cold pile since it does not develop the height fast enough to cook and nitrogen is quickly lost from a pile. So, it is better for me to stockpile browns and then when I have enough greens, I build the pile in a day. I get a hotter pile that finishes faster. I layer about 8 inches of brown and then 8 inches of greens and I water that down. Throw a shovel full of soil to provide the starter organisms and repeat the layers. About a foot up, I put in the air shaft and keep filling around it. I end up with a brown layer on top.

I do this pile at my community garden especially when someone has dumped illegal waste in front of my plot. At home, I don't have a lot of browns or room so I prefer vermicomposting. It is much easier since they only need to be fed once a week and I use newspaper for bedding.
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toxcrusadr
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Re: Kinds of paper to compost?

Strap yourself in for more than you wanted to know about paper pulp bleaching. I was surprised to read the post above that said the purpose of paper bleaching is to remove lignin.

It turns out this is correct - part of the time. There are two kinds of pulping processes for wood, mechanical and chemical. Chemically produced pulp (aka 'kraft' pulp) has relatively little lignin and bleaching can remove it. The mechanical process leaves a LOT of lignin in the pulp, too much to remove by bleaching. So basically they try to destroy only the stuff that turns color, and certain bleaching techniques work best for that. I got this all from Wiki:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleaching_of_wood_pulp

Chlorine (either chlorine gas or hypochlorite, household bleach) was a problem because it would form organochlorines like dioxins when it reacted with the organic matter in the pulp (tiny traces form and it was never that much of a problem in the paper itself, but it would end up in the waste stream from the pulping plant; the stuff never goes away and can accumulate in the food chain). Most bleaching now is chlorine-free using oxygen, peroxide, ozone, sodium sulfite (which is the stuff they bleach fruit with so it doesn't get brown while drying), sodium hydroxide (lye) etc. All of these are much safer in terms of byproducts.

And the original statement was true, there is nothing left in the paper itself - either bleaching agents or byproducts - that will harm the compost pile. Think of it this way: if you can wipe your mouth with it, surely it's safe to feed to the compost critters for them to decompose.
Tox

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