The Best Recipe for Compost

How do you create a recipe for compost?

Imagine yourself as a chef.

recipe for compostTo cook a delicious meal, you select the best ingredients and combine them in a certain way, and in measured quantities to create wonderful dishes. The same can be said when creating compost. Just like cooking, you are given the task of putting together in measured quantities the “green” and “brown”  ingredients that make the best recipe for compost.

“Greens” and “browns” refer to the organic materials that are used in creating compost. The major differences between these two elements are in their basic components, and have nothing to do with their color. Organic materials rich in nitrogen and protein are referred to as “green”. The “brown” ingredients are those organics that have high carbon or carbohydrates content.

Material rich in nitrogen and protein  allow micro organism in composts to grow and multiply. These micro organisms generate heat as they multiply, further encouraging decomposition. The brown elements  contain the energy or carbon that most soil organisms require. With their high carbon contents, these also function as filters, absorbing odors that occur from the decomposing compost pile. The carbons also bind organic nitrogen, for faster formation of humus from the composting materials.

How do you decide which components are green or brown?

The easiest way to test is to wet the material and allow it to sit a few days. If it gives off a bad odor, it belongs in the green category. Remember not to be fooled by color.

Although leaves come in a variety of colors, they are classified as brown. Leaves are high in carbon. Evergreen leaves have higher carbon contents than any other leaves. Paper, wood chippings, sawdust, bark mulch and other wood products also are considered brown, with their high carbon content. Hay, straw, and cornstalks are also high in carbon, so brown. Pine needles fall also under this category, (but using too much of them in the compost pile is not good.)

One exception is the leaves of oak trees, which contain high amounts of nitrogen.This puts them in the green category. Vegetable and fruit wastes, eggshells, coffee grounds, filters, and teabags are also considered green waste. Other examples of greens include animal wastes such as manure, grass clippings, garden waste and left over food. Only add grass clippings to your compost if you do not use chemical pesticides on your lawn

recipe for compost

Sugar products are also classified as browns. These include molasses, syrups, sugar and carbonated drinks, which we generally would not consider adding to compost. However, these sugar products can activate or kick start the activities of microbes in your compost pile.

Ideally, the best recipe for compost has a ratio of  3 brown to 1 green, to ensure successful compost.

This means, you will have three parts or the pile made of components high in carbon  and one part of it made up of nitrogen-rich ingredients. If your compost pile contains mainly brown category ingredients, it will decompose rather slowly. On the other hand, having too much of the green ingredients in the pile may make the pile smelly and slimy.

Other elements to consider when making compost are the air and the amount of water your pile will need. Keep your compost pile damp to help in the decomposing process. You may have to cover an open pile during the rainy season to prevent too much water from slowing the action. Air is also needed by the aerobic bacteria that are busily producing that humus for you. Make sure your pile is properly aerated. Do this by forking over your pile every few weeks, or if you have a commercial bin, rotate it every few days.

Over time, some ingredients in the compost heap may dominate over the others, so make it a point to replenish your compost bin and check it frequently. You may have too much of the greens, since these are easiest to come by. Collect leaves from your trees, and bag them or store them in a wire bin. That way, you’ll always have some of the “brown” ingredients available to add as needed to your perfected recipe for compost.

Have your compost in a single place to increase its chances of growing and thriving. This could be an enclosed home-made bin, a commercial composting bin or just a single heap in a corner of the yard. By building up a larger pile, more reaction takes place. Ideally, your recipe for compost includes a single “oven” for cooking it just right.

It takes some effort in figuring out the best recipe for compost, but your gardens will love the dark crumbly results once you’ve got it cooking!