What’s green and brown?

compost served up in a tea cup

The good news about composting as in starting your own is that you can be Mr. Science if desired or take a more passive approach and those microorganisms and invertebrates will find you, or it.  Decomposition is the word.  Basically start thinking brown (those would be carbon sources) and green (the nitrogen sources).  Brown would be your dry leaves,  grass, those plants that died, straw, and limited amounts of paper.  You get the picture.  Green is your other yard clippings, fruit and vegetable remains from last night’s dinner, coffee grounds, and other, well green stuff.  I’ve read that a 30: 1 carbon to nitrogen ratio is ideal but I don’t know anyone who’s garden and kitchen cooperates that exactly.  So as best one can layer it up, brown, green, brown.  You can’t really mess up the process too badly.  I would add that you don’t want the addition of plants that are diseased or invasive weeds that have gone to seed.  Your compost is also not the spot to dump the dog crap.   I just happen to be a dog person but the same principal applies to cats.

A friend was asking if it’s a seasonal process and my answer would be “not so much.”  If it’s Winter you can take advantage of the rain providing the necessary moisture or if it’s Summer just hit it with the hose.

So you’ve got your brown and green, and you’ve been providing some moisture so what’s left is getting some oxygen in there which is just turning the pile over periodically.  If this description is making you tired there is always pit composting.  Pick an area of your garden where the soil needs some help, dig a hole and drop it in, the brown and green that is.  That’s it.  There’s also sheet composting which also functions as mulch.  Layer the brown and green alternating with either newspaper sheets or cardboard.  Maybe not something the neighbors will visually appreciate in your front yard but it works. I like keeping the architectural review committee on their toes myself.

There are certainly many compost bins and barrels out there in retail land.  These work too and can be a good way to test out the decomposition on a small scale.   I confess to purchasing a not cheap large barrel composter a few years back.  Between two moves I lost a few of the key parts albeit not the barrel which is now pretty much decorative.

We know the stats.  I’ve read that 30% of our waste stream is from food and yard sources.   There’s that but it’s fun to create something from sort of nothing that only benefits the garden.  Spread the love.

If purchasing the love is more your gig check out Point Reyes Compost Company.  They’ve got a humorous website http://prcompostco.com with great visuals.  Plus they’re just nice people.  I was chatting with them at Sunday’s Farmer’s Market.  As their website states, “Our products are mostly crap.”  Cool t-shirts too, Henry approved even.

Pt. Reyes Compost Co.

Food for compost…

I usually out of habit skim letters to the editor in the same way that I always check on the obituaries.  My copy (and free it is) of Marin Magazine was waiting for me in my mailbox.  September’s issue had one letter in particular that caught my fancy, and the skim became a read.

“I read with interest Jim Wood’s August POV regarding food waste composting laws passed by Marin’s government that tell citizens how to live their lives.  It is a stupid law, one that takes us backwards.  So no more garbage disposals, right?  Instead, we take our buckets of uneaten, unpleasant food we could easily get rid of down this marvelous invention and put them into the compost pile.  Let’s see how many rodens and other animals we can attract with this practice.  Don’t you leftist people ever give up?  Of course we are doing this for the billions-of-years-old planet that just can’t get along without our “taking care” of it.”

The Editor’s note replied with, “Food waste composting is strictly a voluntary program in several southern Marin communities.  It is not a law, there are no fines for noncompliance.”

The author of this letter must be thankful she’s a resident of Sonoma County and not subject to the communist plot that is composting.  Who knew?