Composting, Part 3

Now that you’re thinking about composting and which method is best for you, let’s talk about what exactly you are composting and what to do with it.

It is important to get a balance of carbon-rich “browns” and nitrogen-rich “greens.” By layering and mixing these two together, you will eventually get a nice, balanced compost.

Greens
Your greens are going to be most of your kitchen waste and a lot of your yard waste. These soft, moisture-filled materials will include raw vegetables and fruit, their peelings, grass cuttings, and other such plant material. It should be added to your compost relatively quickly and layered with browns.

Browns
Browns are your drier yard waste, such as dried leaves, branches, and even cardboard and paper. Larger branches should be saved for firewood. Browns will decompose faster shredded and layered with greens, but they will eventually decompose on their own if you leave them.

Animal Products and Cooked Food
These will attract animals and should only be used in closed, airtight composting systems. Cooking oils and fats should only be composted in small amounts and with absorbent materials. Dairy and meat can be composed in closed systems, just make sure it doesn’t get too wet.

However, bonemeal can be composted openly (and is preferable to whole bones). Bonemeal can be made by boiling the bones for stock, drying them in the oven (such as in the bottom after cooking) and grinding the bones up in a mortar and pestle. Eggshells can also be composted.

Manure from herbivores can be composted (especially the bedding of rodents), but feces from omnivores or carnivores (like cats and dogs) can have parasites and should only be composted if you are using a hot heap that will get hot enough to kill anything you don’t want on your food. I wouldn’t recommend taking the risk. If you are composting manure, make sure you layer it properly with dry materials.

Now what?
After you’ve layered and built up your compost, you need to let it mature. How you do this will depend on the composting method you’re using. Once it’s mature, it can be used in a variety of ways. You can create a no-dig garden, use it as mulch, put in on your potted plants (especially perennials), or a variety of other things. You should probably sieve it first and make sure you do some research on how to use compost in certain contexts, especially since in certain circumstances, like planting new seeds, the compost may be too strong and hold too much water.

However you compost, whatever you compost, and whatever you do with it, the important thing is reducing your kitchen waste and other waste in your life.

Resources:
Composting: An Easy Household Guide by Nicky Scott
This is a great resource for starting out or just to have as a reference. It summaries many different composting methods and has an A-Z guide of what you can and cannot compost.

How to Make and Use Compost: The Ultimate Guide by Nicky Scott
This is essentially a more in depth version of his other composting book.

Rodale Book of Composting Edited by Deborah L. Martin and Grace Gershuny

Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin

Most importantly, gardeners and composters in your area! They will know better than anyone what works and what doesn’t with your region’s soil and climate.

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About How We Flourish

Welcome! I'm Chloe. I have a passion for creating a healthy life and a healthy environment. Join me as I explore homemade and reusable products, essential oils, and real food. Look around a bit. I look forward to getting to know you.
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12 Responses to Composting, Part 3

  1. Being new to composting, I didn’t realize that it could be “too strong”… I am so glad I read this to learn that! I really like your series and have learned a lot from it – thanks!

    • healthypeoplehealthyplanet says:

      I’m really glad you like it! I’ve really only scratched the surface of what you can do, so I would definitely recommend checking out some of the books I listed.

  2. I’ll try to do that. Being on a tight budget, there usually isn’t much money for books. I do listen to audio books that I get from a program through the state library free of charge (for the handicapped and blind), I’ll check and see if it’s something that’s in audio in my list of what’s available. I’ll be back around, you can be sure of that!

    • healthypeoplehealthyplanet says:

      I feel you on the budget. I borrowed all of those books from the library. I hope you can find something.

  3. Me too! I’ll look some of those up today, thanks again!

    I just wrote a new post and hope you don’t mind that I linked to your composting series, as well as your blog’s main page!

    ~M

    • healthypeoplehealthyplanet says:

      Not at all! I really like your post. The “Bag It” movie is what got me into going green as well!

  4. Isn’t that funny that it was the same thing for both of us?? Amazing! After reading this post I meant to tell you that I think you may have written out what is wrong with our compost – too many “greens” and not enough “browns”. For the past week or so, I’ve made it a habit to tear up things like the roll from the T.Paper and the egg cartons to throw in there. I wish we had trees in our yard for the leaves – I miss it as it’s part of autumn, but also think it would help our composting efforts greatly!

  5. I’m back again, ha ha! We experienced our first snowfall last week here in Maine and although it didn’t stay more than a day, it’s a reminder that it’s coming soon. I had met someone a while back who told me that her and her neighbor (they garden and compost together) always have two different compost piles, one for spring, summer & fall, as well as one for winter. I thought of this when the snow started falling. We won’t be able to use the pile we having going right now until spring planting time and once there is snow, it isn’t feasible to shovel that much snow to make a path to that pile. So, I’m thinking that since that pile isn’t doing the greatest at this time anyway, it might be time to start a new “winter” pile. This time, I’ll know to use some torn newspaper, etc, as well as having learned a few other things that we did wrong with the first pile. I think compost will be forgiving, I mean it will have to eventually break down and I’ll be happy when it does, but until then I think we’ll call that pile our “experimentation compost pile” and move onward. I want to thank you again for all your help with this, we’ve benefited from your posts!

    • healthypeoplehealthyplanet says:

      I’m glad to have helped and I hope everything works out. And that’s the great thing about compost – it will break down eventually!

  6. I wanted to update you on how we’re doing with the compost in the yard. On another blog I follow, there was a long list of what the blogger composts and it gave me ideas. Many of the things on that list, I had been throwing away! Since reading it (I gave the link to your posts, too), I have been putting in junk mail, torn up cardboard (paperboard, maybe?), toilet paper rolls, post-it notes, etc. and it has helped a lot! I think we just had too much garden and kitchen waste and not enough of other things. I mean, eventually it would have broken down, but this way seems to have sped it up. I do wish we had trees so I could put the leaves in, but oh well… I guess I’ll have to take the good with the bad – I mean we don’t have to rake the leaves, right? 😉 OH, and here is where I shared your link (in the comment section) http://mygreenishlife.com/2012/10/19/why-does-my-compost-stink-and-a-long-list-of-things-that-can-be-composted/

    • healthypeoplehealthyplanet says:

      I’m so glad you found a solution that works for you! Isn’t it amazing all the things that you can compost?

      And thanks for the link to that blog. I love finding new green-living blogs.

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