Thursday, March 31, 2011

More about compost

Some of you (if there is anyone actually reading this that is) may be confused when I said 3 parts brown to 1 part green.  In most charts talking about carbon to nitrogen ratios the talk about a C:N ratio of 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen.  But you have to remember a few things.  First everything has some carbon and nitrogen in it.  Also, brown stuff, such as dried leaves are fluffier and drier than green things, such as kitchen scraps or well rotted manure.  Since the leaves I have left over from last autumn are not very well shredded and still have a lot of air in them that it takes about 3 handfuls to 1 handful of greens (kitchen scraps, tea leaves and coffee grounds) to keep the balance of carbon to nitrogen.  My experience is that in the fall and early spring there is too much of the brown available and I have to find other sources of nitrogen, such as manure (again not the fresh stuff). This spring I am going to try using alfalfa meal, a bio-activator that is high in nitrogen and has bacteria in it already and gets the compost heated up.  I will report back on what I think of using it.  Last year I used manure bought in a bag to get things cooking.  I think the alfalfa meal should be a bit more cost effective and since only a small amount is needed it is easier to use.  While reading up on using it in composting I found that horse manure is not a good source because horses' digestion does not kill weed and hay seeds, unlike ruminants such as cows, goats, llamas. Apparently chicken and rabbit manure will also work. 

Of course in the summer with grass clippings I have a surfeit of greens, then I use straw for the place of browns.  Although the straw would compost better if it was shredded.  I'll have to look into another source of browns, maybe peanuts shells?  I'll have to check out Five Guys for the peanuts shells!

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