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What Are the Greens and Browns of Composting?from: Lawn and Garden Magic
As a chef in a fancy restaurant, to prepare a delicious meal, you carefully measure the ingredients and combine them to create your dishes. The same applies when creating composts. However, instead of people in a restaurant being your customers, you'll be answering to the needs of your plants. Just like cooking, your task is to put together, in equal amounts, the "greens" and "browns" of composting.
"Greens" and "browns" are nicknames that refer to the organic materials used when creating compost. The major differences between these two elements aren't so much on the colors of the organic matter themselves, but rather on their basic components. Greens are organic materials rich in nitrogen or protein. Browns are organic matter that has high carbon or carbohydrates content.
Due to their high nitrogen and protein content, "greens" allow micro organism in composts to grow and multiply. "Green" components generate heat in compost piles. "Brown" elements, on the other hand, contain the energy that most soil organisms require. Furthermore, because of their high carbon contents, the "Browns" function as a large air filter, absorbing bad odors that emanates from the compost pile. The carbons also help prevent organic nitrogen from escaping and also aid in the faster formation of humus from the compost.
If you're a bit confused whether an organic waste or material belongs in the "Greens" or "Browns" category, an easy way to test it out is to wet the material. If the material starts to stink after a few days, then it belongs to the "Greens". Again, don't be fooled by color.
For instance, although leaves are green, brown, red, etc. in color, they're classified as "Browns". Leaves are high in carbon. Evergreen leaves, for example, have higher carbon content than any other leaves. However, there's always an exception. Oak tree leaves don't come under the "Greens" classification. Oak leaves contain high amounts of nitrogen and so they fall under the "Greens" category.
Other examples of "Greens" include animal waste, grass clippings, and left over food from your kitchen. As long as you don't use harmful chemicals, such as inorganic fertilizers and pesticides on your grass, then the use of grass clippings is fine. Meanwhile, papers, wood chippings, sawdusts, bark mulches and other wood products most often fall under the "Browns" category.
Sugar products are also classified under "Browns", including molasses, syrups, sugar and carbonated drinks. You can use these sugar products to activate or increase the activities of microbes in your compost pile.
Other "Greens" include vegetable and fruit waste, eggshells, as well as coffee grounds, filters, and teabags. For the "Browns", there is hay, straw, and cornstalks. Pine needles fall under the "Browns" category. However, it's suggested that using too many pine needles in the compost pile will give the "Browns" too much of an advantage.
You can achieve a successful compost using the correct ratio of "Brown" and "Green" components. Ideally, a "Browns" and "Greens" composting ratio of 3:1 would ensure a successful compost.
This means, you'll 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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