Getting Down with Brown: The Secret to Great Compost

This blog post comes to us courtesy of the North Shore Recycling Program. Check out their website for great tips and to connect with a compost expert!  

Poor brown, always playing second fiddle to its popular eco-partner, green. When you’re talking sustainability, everyone aspires to greenness. Few are down with being brown.

Thankfully, we have compost, where brown can claim its rightful spot on top of the heap.

compostIn compost parlance, green refers to anything colourful, wet and fresh that is ready to be added to the compost pile. Things like fruits and vegetables and fresh grass clippings fall into this category. These items provide the nitrogen source to the compost equation and on their own rot into a soupy, smelly mess.
compost_carbon_2Browns, on the other hand, are anything rich in carbon, like dead leaves, shredded newspaper, and straw. They are the backbone of the compost pile, giving it structure, allowing oxygen to get through and providing food and energy that the bacteria need to thrive.

A layer of browns also soaks up moisture and keeps fruit flies and odours to a minimum.

In its most basic terms, the recipe for composting is this: add equal parts of greens and browns, sprinkle with oxygen, water and bacteria and you’ve got rich fertilizer for your garden, for free.

Browns are essential to composting and fortunately are plentiful this time of year.

By collecting and storing about four garbage bags of leaves, a family of four can have enough browns to last them until next autumn. A larger family will need more.

_DSC1032Extra garbage cans with lids are a tidy way to store leaves, keeping them dry and ready to use.  The leaves don’t have to be dry to work but it makes them easier to deal with. Even if leaves are stored in a pile open to the elements, they will work just as well providing the all-important carbon to the compost.

To help keep composting even less messy, some gardeners store a pair of barbecue tongs near their browns to use to place the layer of leaves on top of the greens without getting their hands dirty.

Composting is an easy, sustainable way to both get rid of food scraps and provide nutrient-rich fuel for your garden.

The North Shore Recycling Program has GardenSmart compost experts who can help North Shore residents learn more about composting. Along with selling subsidized backyard composters and aerators, GardenSmart compost experts provide free yard visits to solve common composting problems, help set up Green Cans and show how to use them, and teach techniques to compost safely in bear-country.

Whether one-on-one, with a group of neighbours or at a club meeting, GardenSmart compost experts love to talk about compost.

To book a visit or purchase a composter, go online to www.northshorerecycling.com or call 604-984-9730.

Photo Credits:North Shore Recycling Program; http://blog.joshuafeyen.com/2011/11/winterizing-urban-garden.html

 

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