Composting is similar to managing a popular restaurant. Before a chef gets down to business, they have to ensure they have the right set of ingredients needed to deliver amazing dishes. Composting is an art too and you ought to carefully select what forms the pile.
Similar to a chef meeting the needs of their loyal customers, your compost must cater for the nutritional needs of your plantations. Similar to preparing a meal, you must include adequate amounts of green and brown clippings in your compost bin.
“Greens” and “browns” are the commonly used to refer to all the organic matter that goes into creating a compost bin. The key difference between these two ingredients is not necessarily on the appearance but rather on the basic components of the organic matter. Green organic elements are naturally rich in nitrogen and protein while the brownies are organic materials that have a high concentration of carbon or carbohydrates.
The green organic matter provides a conducive environment for microbes in compost to grow and thrive, due to their high concentration of nitrogen and protein. Green matter is also crucial because it generates heat in the compost pit. The brown organic materials, in turn, provide the energy that soil micro-organisms need to facilitate decomposition. Due to their high carbon concentration, browns act as an air filter that absorbs any odor emanating from the pile. Carbon components also accelerate the formation of humus from the pile as well as preventing the escape of organic nitrogen.
Differentiating between greens and browns
It can be a daunting task trying to differentiate between a brown and a green organic material. The best way is to soak the elements and wait a for a few days. If the component emits an odor, then it belongs to the green category. However, checking the color is not always a reliable way of distinguishing the two.
An excellent example of why the color is not a reliable distinguishing factor is the fact that all leaves whether brown, green or red are categorized as browns. Leaves are naturally rich in carbon. Leaves from evergreen plants tend to have a higher concentration of carbon than leaves from other plants. The only exception is the Oak tree leaves which are not classified as browns. Oak leaves boast a high amount of nitrogen which places them squarely in the green category.
Kitchen leftovers, grass clippings, and animal waste are other examples of materials classified as greens. Clippings from grass are desirable as long as you do not apply hazardous chemicals in the form of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers on your grass. On the other hand papers, wood chops, tree barks, mulches, and sawdust fall under the category of browns.
Wood products aside, sugar products also fall under the browns category. Syrups, molasses, brown sugar and carbonated beverages are examples of sugar products you can include in your compost pit. Sugary products come in handy when you intend to accelerate microbe activity in your compost pit.
Fruit peels, vegetable residue, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, and filters are other examples of greens. Straw, hay, corn stalks and pine needles are other examples of browns. However, pine needles ought to be used sparingly, too much of this material is likely to tip the scales in favor of the browns.
The secret to creating an excellent compost lies in the ratio of greens to browns you apply in your pile. A rule of thumb is to combine browns and greens in a ratio of 3:1 to achieve a proper compost. This translates to having three parts of the pile made up of carbon-rich components and one part rich in nitrogen.
How long does it take for the compost to be ready for use?
It is important to exercise patience when handling compost material. However, it takes roughly between a month and a year before your first batch of decomposed humus is ready for harvesting. Generally, the time it takes for a compost pile to be ready will depend on factors such as the size of your pit, compost materials, the method of composting (hot or cold) and the weather. It is also crucial to consider how you intend to utilize the humus. It is possible to use the organic materials at different stages of the composting process.
Allowing your compost to decompose for an extended period leads to a finer, darker and nutrient-rich humus. However, it is not mandatory to wait until the final stage before using the manure. If you have flower beds that require mulching, you can apply the compost mulch while still in its chunky form. Mulching helps to regulate soil temperature while deterring the growth of weeds.
If your plantations require mature compost, it is advisable to wait until the later stages of decomposition. Below are a few things that will help you know if your compost is ready for use.
1. if the amount of organic material in your pit reduces to half its original size.
2.if the final material is unrecognizable
3.if the pile is no longer as warm as it initially was (apply when you are using the hot composting method)
4. if the compost material changes color and now appears dark.
Having a two-bin system will ensure that you have a constant supply of compost material throughout the year. You can use the double bin system to host organic materials at different stages of decomposition.