The Greens and Browns of Composting



Imagine yourself as a chef of a fancy restaurant. To cook a delicious meal, you carefully measure the ingredients and combine them to create wonderful dishes. The same can be said when creating composts. This time, however, instead of the people in the restaurant as your customers, you will be answering the needs of your plants. And just like cooking, you are given the task of putting together in equal amounts the “greens” and “browns” of composting.

“Greens” and “browns” are nicknames which are used to refer to the organic materials used in creating compost. The major differences between these two elements are not so much on the colors of the organic matter themselves but rather on their basic components. The Greens are organic materials rich in nitrogen or protein. Meanwhile, Browns are those organic matters that have high carbon or carbohydrates contents.

Because of their high nitrogen and protein contents, Greens allow micro organism in composts to grow and multiply. Also, the Green components generate heat in compost piles. The Brown elements on the other hand contain the energy that most soil organisms need. Furthermore, because of their high carbon contents, the Browns function as a big air filter, absorbing the bad odors that emanates from the compost pile. The carbons also help prevent organic nitrogen from escaping and also aids in the faster formation of humus from the compost.

In case you’re stumped whether an organic waste or material belongs to the Greens or Browns variety, one of the easiest way to test it is to wet the material. If you find the material to stink after a few days then it belongs to the Greens variety. Again, remember not to be fooled by color.

For example, although leaves come in green, brown, red, etc. colors, they are classified as Browns. Leaves are high in carbon. The evergreen leaves for example have higher carbon contents than any other leaves. However, there is always an exception. Oak tree leaves do not fall under the Greens classification. Oak leaves contain high amounts of nitrogen which makes them fall under the Greens category.

Other examples of Greens include animal wastes, grass clippings, and those left over food from your kitchen. AS long as you don’t use harmful chemicals like inorganic fertilizers and pesticides on your grass, then the use of grass clippings I is okay. Meanwhile, papers, wood chippings, sawdusts, bark mulches and other wood products are most often than not fall under the Browns classification.

Sugar products are also classified under Browns. These include molasses, syrups, sugar and carbonated drinks. You could use these sugar products to activate or increase the activities of microbes in your compost pile.

Some other Greens include vegetable and fruit wastes, eggshells, as well as coffee grounds, filters, and teabags. For the Browns, they have hay, straw, and cornstalks. Pine needles fall also under the Browns category. However, it is suggested that using too much pine needles on the compost pile will give the Browns too much of an advantage.

Once can achieve a successful compost with the correct ratio of Brown and Green components. Ideally, a “Browns” and “Greens” of composting ratio of 3:1 would ensure a successful compost.

This means, you will have three parts or the pile made of components high in carbon (Browns) and one part of it made up of nitrogen-rich ingredients (Greens).





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