All about Carbon and Nitrogen materials
OK. When it comes to getting started with composting, it can be a bit overwhelming if you read different gardening magazines, books or other sources about composting. It seems like every source has their tried and true “recipe” for creating the perfect compost.
Truth is, there is no perfect or exact recipe for creating rich, useful compost. There are some general guidelines you should try to stay within, though that will help keep the process running smoothly. It’s sort of like making a sandwich. Just as you could make a virtually unlimited number of different sandwiches that would all be edible, you can make compost in any number of ways and it will still turn out fine in the end.
By now, you probably have a general understanding of what compost is, but you may not know how to make it yet.
To get started here are a few tips on things to remember with composting:
Although there is no perfect recipe for creating compost, there is one rule of thumb that generally works the best. According to the EPA,
“Ideally, your compost pile should have an equal amount of browns to greens and alternate layers of organic materials of different-size particles.”
It’s really that simple. By weight, your carbon and nitrogen materials should be about even. What’s that mean? Basically, for every pound of food scraps you put in your compost bin, you will want to put about a pound of leaves, newspaper or combination of other carbon rich materials in as well. Do you need to buy a scale? No. It’s a science of “guesstimation,” really.
Compost is created by microorganisms that feed off of the materials in your compost bin or pile, breaking them down into finished compost. “Microorganism” is a big, ten-dollar word for bacteria, fungi and something called Actinomycetes. These microorganisms (which we also call “microbes” at random through this site) require four basic things to help them create the rich, organic compost we use in our gardens.
Now that you know the basics of carbon and nitrogen needs for a successful compost pile, let’s talk about what that means exactly in regular human terms.
We’ve compiled two charts of what you can and cannot compost and why. This should help you better understand the ins and outs of composting and help you have the best compost bin possible.
Go to the chart and see which carbon rich materials and which nitrogen rich materials are available to you, start putting them together in a composter, and you’re off to the races!