Charlie MV
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Simple Compost Ingredients List -Browns and Greens

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.
Last edited by Charlie MV on Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:19 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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applestar
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BROWNS:
Definitely brown paper bags.
I've also started adding toilet paper core, paper towel core, bottom (unprinted) half of paper egg cartons, and drive-thru drink holders (i.e. formed paper pulp products). Only catch is -- I started tearing them up one day, then decided it's silly to do this when I can just put them in the gerbil cage and the gerbils will tear them up into itty bitty pieces AND add a little "GREEN" as well. :wink: By next day, everything is torn up into a nice fluffy pile. What can I say, I'm lazy. :roll:

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Jess
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As per my council list (I have excluded those already mentioned)

GREENS---tea bags, old flowers, spent bedding plants, veg peelings, salad leaves, fruit scraps, annual weeds, rhubarb leaves.

Browns---crushed eggshell, cereal boxes, ashes from wood, paper and charcoal, wood chip, string and cotton thread, feathers (huh!) vacuum cleaner contents and old natural fibre clothes, wool, straw and hay.

Wish I had a gerbil!
Knowing without doing is like plowing without sowing."

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JennyC
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Adding a few things I've used that I don't see listed yet. Somebody correct my sorting if I get it wrong (likely):

Greens: vegan leftovers, coffee grounds, old bread, stuff I left in the refrigerator too long (if it was vegetarian) :oops:

Browns: dryer lint, dried grass clippings

Both Green and Brown: aged horse/cow manure with old straw in it (usually goes in the garden, but should be a good "starter" for compost)

Editing to ask for clarification: I though dry grass clippings were browns? I see grass clippings as greens. Did I just get it wrong, or does grass change when it dries?
Jenny C

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Jess
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JennyC wrote: I though dry grass clippings were browns? I see grass clippings as greens. Did I just get it wrong, or does grass change when it dries?
I think it changes as my council lists 'hay' as a brown which is dried grass.
Knowing without doing is like plowing without sowing."

Charlie MV
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My understanding of science of any kind is Star Trek. :lol: Once somebody pronounces it green or brown, I'll put it up there. Live long and prosper. :?

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Jess
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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.
Knowing without doing is like plowing without sowing."

Charlie MV
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Jess, I know as much about gardening as you told me you know about cars. :) If you tell me bricks ate browns, I'll put them on the list. That's the reason I started this list because I know I'm not alone. I have been very lucky with my first venture into gardening I have about a quarter acre of vegetables boiling out of the ground and it's hard to keep coming up with compost. Eating is near and dear to me. You guys have helped me tremendously with this.

rot
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mo' better list

This thread got linked to another one for the list of ingredients. Thank you.

Here's a good list and if you just want to reduce it to just browns and greens, just compare values to grass clippings, the green, and saw dust, the brown.

The link has remained constant for 3 years or so.

https://compost.css.cornell.edu/OnFarmHandbook/apa.taba1.html

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Dried grass is a Green. The reason being that it was cut while growing. Straw and Hay are Browns they were dead when harvested. Hope this helps. Regards Scott

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applestar wrote: I can just put them in the gerbil cage and the gerbils will tear them up into itty bitty pieces AND add a little "GREEN" as well. :wink: By next day, everything is torn up into a nice fluffy pile. What can I say, I'm lazy. :roll:
That is a spectacular idea! I hope my pet rats will do the same thing! :D
-Cell

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Celeferguson
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Jess wrote: 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 go get some feathers every time I visit the community duck pond. Now I know what to use them for!
-Cell

TZ -OH6
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Hay is a green, straw is a brown. You can feed hay to livestock but not straw. Hay was living grass (and seeds) when cut, straw was dead when cut, and the grain was removed. Like autumn leaves, most of the nutrients were transported out of the straw stalks and into the grain before they died in the field.

It all has to do with nitrogen content. Nitrogen is a component of proteins/enzymes and is so needed for growth (growing livestock or increasing the numbers of microbes in your compost).

Secondarily, greens refer to water content and fast acting carbohydrate content (sugar and starches). So greens can boost microbial growth quickly.

Browns refer to high lignin materials. Lignin is the stiff component of woody material, and is a glue holding cellulose fibers together. Cotton fibers are 100% cellulose, nut shells are mostly lignin. Lignin, unlike cellulose, is a polyphenolic compound and only partially broken down by soil-compost fungus, and forms long term stable humus (humic acid, humin). Like starch, cellulose is made up of sugar subunits, and although it is difficult for microbes to break down it will be 100% metabolized eventually (just not as fast as simple sugars and starch) (= no humus). Fall leaves are high in phenolic substances and thus form humus as well.

Polyphenolic compounds act like antioxidants and bind to nitrogenous compounds (like proteins released by living and dead microbes) so finished humus is 10-15:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio. So the nitrogen in your greens goes into forming microbes that break down cellulose and lignin, and also into the chemical composition of humus. When your compost is done, most of the microbes are dead and the nitrogen is bound to the polyphenolics. This nitrogen is slowly released to plants as the humus is further degraded in the soil over many years.

The dark brown color of compost/humus is due to the nitrogen+lignin. Bleached white paper has had much of the lignin removed by an acid reaction, while brown paper-cardboard and paper that yellows with age (newsprint) is fairly high in lignin and better for your soil (the dark color is due to the lignin).

Hair, feathers, and wool are made of protein, so are high nitrogen, but they resist decay so people think of them as browns. Flesh (fish and meat scraps) act as greens. If you have a bug zapper over your compost pile you are adding greens to it.


Was it soft and alive when harvested = green
Was it dead and brittle/woody = brown

2cents
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Thank you TZ-OH6
that puts alot into perspective
IMHO

annafaie
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I don't reommend using the contents of your vaccuum cleaner bag. When I did there was so much and it was so densely compacted that I couldn't tear it all apart and now I've got the grossest wet, muddy, hairy clumps in my compost. We've got 2 dogs and 2 cats and all are indoors...not to mention I've got long hair so most of our vaccuumm cleaner bag is filled with hair and dust and it is NASTY in my compost. Absolutely nasty, I tell you. Especially when you're sifting your compost....blech!

On a more positive note, I also add leftover pasta noodles (cooked) if I make too much. Free of sauce, of course....
Thanks! Anna

Charlie MV
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Annafale, I edited out the vacuum cleaner bag contents. Thank you. Having vacuumed new carpet for the last year I realized upon reading your post that most of what I've been vacuuming up was synthetic anyway.

cissy jackson
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COMPOST????????

HI EVERYONE, I HAVE BEEN READING ALL THE STUFF U R TO SAVE FOR COMPOST. I HAVE STARTED TO SAVE SOME OF THIS. I NOW HAVE COFFEE GROUNDS AND EGG SHELLS. MY QUESTION IS NOW WHAT DO I DO WITH IT? PUT IT IN THE BED OR SOMEWHERE ELSE? THEY SAY U CAN TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS SO WILL U PLEASE TACH ME TO GARDEN USING COMPOST? THANKS CIS

mommyduckie413
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composting basics?

Hey All-
I've just moved from the suburbs of NYC to the mountains of SC...think "Green Acres" here! I turned to the composting section of this site in order to be a bit more "green" in my gardening...I'm already trained in recycling and want to go further. Now I'm seeing lists of "browns" and "greens"! Can anyone give a brief tutorial on what I'm getting into? I have a little bit of dirt to call my own and can't wait to get gardening! Thanks for any help! :?
I do have gardening experience....just have never had the space to embrace all the aspects of it that I'd have liked....
mommyduckie413

cynthia_h
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This particular thread is meant to be a Sticky on compost "ingredients."

I don't want to trample on your enthusiasm, but please see the 4- or 5-page index of threads re. compost at

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=35

Several of them involve discussions on

--How Do I Make Compost?
--What does green or brown mean?
--Do I need a bin?
--Hot vs. cold composting

I hope this helps.

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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rainbowgardener
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for cissy and duckie re compost

Cynthia is right that you need to do a little reading and homework. I'll try to give you the 50 words or less version to get started. Composting is a way to rot down all the organic materials that people usually throw away, including yard waste and kitchen scraps, among other, to be good rich soil amendments. Basic principle is you need some kind of container so that your compost materials stay piled, this can be a simple wire or wood frame or you can buy compost bins in the garden catalogues of varying degrees of elaborateness. Your container needs to be open to the air (if wood the slats need to have spaces between) and your pile needs rain and sunshine, but not to dry out, bake, or wash away. Then you just keep throwing all your organics in. You need a mixture of fresh green things like kitchen scraps, pulled weeds and dry brown things like fall leaves. I keep a tightly covered compost bin in my kitchen and not only the kitchen scraps go in it, but coffee filters, used paper towels (as long as they weren't used with any chemicals) everything. Every time I dump this into the pile, I cover it with a good amount of leaves, weeds etc. That way the pile never smells and I have the mixture. In dry spells you need to water the compost pile, just like you water your plants... It won't keep composting if it dries out. There's lots of high tech ways to do composting with recipes, turning, etc. I just keep piling things for a few months. About 3 times a year, I open up the frame, move all the uncomposted stuff on top of the pile to a new spot to be the bottom of a new pile. Near the bottom of the pile, where all the earthworms will be (my pile sits directly on the ground) is the finished or almost finished compost. Stir it around a little, expose it to air and sunshine and it will rapidly be finished. ... Easy and simple. Hope this helps.

mommyduckie413
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re cynthia and rainbow

Thank you Cynthia and Rainbow!
I have already begun my research....looking forward to a fabulous garden :D
mommyduckie413

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I didn't read every post, so sorry if this is a repeat, but my barber saves up all his clippings of hair for a guy who puts them around his veggie gardens.

Charlie MV
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Papa Duece, my wife cuts my hair. I save the clippings and put them on a table in the yard in early spring. They end up in the local bird nests. The birds don't mind grey hair apparently.

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gixxerific
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Here is a huge list if you would like to add some to your list.

https://www.plantea.com/compost-materials.htm


Dono

Charlie MV
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Wow Dono, great list. The one I started on this post is separated into greens and browns. Sorting your list is way out of my pay grade. If anyone cares to sort it, I'll be happy to cut and paste it at the top. I'm quite sure I'd get it wrong if I tried to sort it.

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TZ -OH6 wrote:Hay is a green, straw is a brown. You can feed hay to livestock but not straw. Hay was living grass (and seeds) when cut, straw was dead when cut, and the grain was removed. Like autumn leaves, most of the nutrients were transported out of the straw stalks and into the grain before they died in the field.
I was hoping someone would correct that. Ask any cattleman if they've ever fed their cattle straw, and they'll tell you how may catlle died that year. (feeding straw is a big indication of lack of good feed, money or water)

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Compost: Browns and Greens

I am an avid composter. Browns have been a concern of mine as well. Just recently I read where spagnum moss can be layered into the greens. I have just done it and will post my success.

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Can bread be added to a compost??
I was told it shouldnt be added by some, while others told me that they do it all the time... with no problems..

so whats up with composting bread??Is it considered a green or brown??

Also what about plain old corn flakes?? Can i add this? and is it a green or brown?

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Diane
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top_dollar_bread wrote:Can bread be added to a compost??
I was told it shouldnt be added by some, while others told me that they do it all the time... with no problems..

so whats up with composting bread??Is it considered a green or brown??

Also what about plain old corn flakes?? Can i add this? and is it a green or brown?
I don't know the answers. I did put half a loaf into my pile. It had some mold on it. Every time I turned the pile, once or twice a week, I saw even more mold and the bread stayed the same for too long.
So I don't put it in anymore.
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Hmm. I just put in 3 or 4 heels (about fist sized) of homemade bread that had been forgotten in a bag and gone completely moldy (I mean completely :oops: :roll: ) I'll let you know what I find when I turn the compost again in next few days -- I have a brown bag full of corn cobs (BROWN) and husks (GREEN) that has to go out but we've had some rain + heat = muggy + MOSQUITO HORDES = don't go out there (and laboriously turn over the compost pile no less) unless I want to get eaten alive! :shock:

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rainbowgardener
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bread

I don't compost a lot of bread, because usually it all gets used. If the end of the loaf gets stale, then it becomes bread crumbs for cooking. But sometimes it gets by me and gets moldy and then definitely gets composted. But I have a compost bucket (tightly covered) under the sink where all the kitchen scraps go. They stay in the bucket for a few days to a week to even more in the winter. If it's really cold and snowy (hard to imagine right now, isn't it ? :) ) the bucket just sits til there's a break in the weather. In dire circumstances, I've been known to just put a full bucket out on the screen porch and start a new one. Anyway the point of all that is that the bread and everything else gets mixed up together, it soaks up juices and starts breaking down (my compost bucket contents often heat up nicely, more so than the big compost pile). So by the time the bucket is dumped onto the pile (and then covered with weeds and such), everything is pretty ready to break down. In this process, I've never had any problem with the bread not turning into compost as readily as anything else.

top_dollar_bread
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thanx for the feed back..My bread isnt moldy just hard
I opened the plastic bag to a new loaf and found that it was hard??

So ive been letting it sit in the sun (hopping birds will get to it) and its gotten a lot harder...I plan on breaking it down to crumbs (in my hands) before adding it to my compost...
Any idea if its a green or brown??im guessing green?

I will only add half the loaf to my compost, the other half will given to my worms....I finally started a worm bin :D
(will be posting my vermicomposting exerince, in a soon to come thread)

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gixxerific
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I give my bread to the birds. They like it and maybe it will keep them off my plants they sometimes like. It may also keep them off the tons of worms (in my tilled garden) 8)

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Diane
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applestar wrote:Hmm. I just put in 3 or 4 heels (about fist sized) of homemade bread that had been forgotten in a bag and gone completely moldy (I mean completely :oops: :roll: ) I'll let you know what I find when I turn the compost again in next few days -- I have a brown bag full of corn cobs (BROWN) and husks (GREEN) that has to go out but we've had some rain + heat = muggy + MOSQUITO HORDES = don't go out there (and laboriously turn over the compost pile no less) unless I want to get eaten alive! :shock:
Corn cobs take a while too and newspaper. I wonder if the browns just take longer than the greens and maybe we can tell what is brown by that?
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top_dollar_bread
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Diane wrote: Corn cobs take a while too and newspaper. I wonder if the browns just take longer than the greens and maybe we can tell what is brown by that?
I don’t think browns take any longer then greens to break down, by just being a brown. The C/N ratio is how I determine brown from green. I also personally believe more carbon/browns are necessary for speeding up the decomposing process in the compost.

What I think makes certain organic material to break down faster, is its size or surface area exposed to the micro herd. When adding news paper/cardboard for example. I either shred it up (news paper) or ripe it into smaller pieces (cardboard). By doing this extra step, my news paper/cardboard sometimes breaks down faster then some of my grass clippings. (well mostly the news paper)

Also think about bones, if you threw a bone in your compost, it most likely wont break down at all. But if you grind it to a powder like bone meal, the microbes will defiantly be able to break it down.

I threw the bread in my compost, but i lazily/stupidly left the crumbs at the top of my compost bin. Then next day when I went to add some egg shells I had ants all up in my pile…man I hate ants..so I buried the bread crumbs, in hope they break down faster, but the ants are still swarming my compost..I tried cinnamon but that worked only for a day and I tried spraying with a concentrated caribbean red hot pepper spray…they ran for the hills but again came back..any one got any ideas???

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bananabat
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I see toilet paper cores and paper towel cores come up a lot on these lists. I used to work at a parrot shop (a very interesting first job) where we would use those items as toys that the birds would shred up. Well, we had to stop because birds were becoming ill and turns out those cardboard cores contain lead, i think it was. Maybe not lead, but it was something rather bad (arsenic maybe?). Still okay to compost?

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applestar
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Bananabat, you should not scare people like that without verification. :evil:
Apparently the metal in question was zinc:
https://www.theparrotuniversity.com/papertowels.php

I'll look around some more, but for now, am breathing a sigh of relief. :roll:

I did come across a good point -- we only use fragrance-free products around here so I don't have to worry about that, but if you use toilet paper with additives, you ARE adding trace amounts to your compost.

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bananabat
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Huh, I guess my boss was just taken by parrot-keeper fads/rumors. Sorry if I scared you badly, applestar!

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Zinc CAN be a build-up metal in soils, and it's really toxic to make... :(

Bread is a green. Comes from grain, which is a grass, which is a green... All the carbon is in sugars rather than locked down stuff like wood. And I think browns DO take longer to break down as most of our compost systems are no fungally dominated but bacterially dominated, but I suspect that too is part of Natures design; she shifts the whole ecosystem to get to fungal dominance, not somewhere we really want to go with our piles...

HG
Scott Reil

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applestar
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OK we need a chemist among us to test a toilet paper tube and see how much Zinc comes out per tube! :shock: OK sort of kidding. :wink: Do you think there might be a significant amount? Zinc is a micro-nutrient at appropriate levels.... Is there a plant zinc OD symptom or a zinc-sensitive plant that could be used as an indicator?

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