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Green Hills

Composting 1-2-3 - do's and don'ts of summer composting

This time of year composting, at least for us at Linwell Farms, takes a new turn - materials for the bins change from season to season, and how to deal with them should too.

One of the most basic principals of composting involves understanding "green" and "brown" materials. Balance of these is important - it helps the various living components of your compost do their jobs. Too hot and you are essentially cooking the compost which can kill or keep away some of the worms nad other "helpers" that make for a healthy end result. Too "cool" and the compost will take far longer to decompose and become usable. Like most everything else in life, balance is the key.

Green materials refer to kitchen and food waste, lawn clippings, coffee grounds and similar high nutrient high nitrogen materials that will break down quickly, feed the helpers in the compost faster, and can create a much hotter environment.

Brown materials could be more thought of as more fiber material. They include dry leaves, cardboard and paper. These are less nutrient heavy, but just as necessary to balance out the mix and, really, to keep it from just rotting - that isn't the goal. Controlled decomposition is!

In the Fall and Winter finding brown materials is easy - they literally fall around us everywhere. In the Spring and Summer months, not so much, so either holding some back or finding a source is important since this is also the season we tend to get a lot more green materials. We get bags of leaves as we see them in our neighborhood, though as the summer moves forward we see less and less of them at the curb. For that reason we save cardboard as we get it, or talk to local businesses and friends to get it, as needed. For our large bins we just add layer and layer of green and brown - at some point we choose one bin or the other to quit adding to so it will be ready for use in a few months. This is a very effective way of composting, but also the most passive.

We also have smaller commercially sold bins that rotate and can more quickly decompose well mixed and well balanced materials - for those balance is even more important. Those bins can generate great dark soil in just a couple weeks to a month after ending the "Feeding" of new materials in the heat of summer. We keep them in shade, actually, to keep them from overheating and killing the large populations of worms that call them home.

The balance of any of these isn't exact and you don't have to fret if you aren't sure if you are keeping balance or not. Your nose will tell you most often if you aren't, vegetation will smell like it is rotting or is "bad" if too much green, and won't really have much of a smell - well, maybe something like the woods if anything. Also don't fret if you've gone to far with the green, nature is fairly forgiving with all of this - just stop adding new green stuff and either let it all settle or mix in some brown.

It's all worth it - from composting you get great natural garden food packed with nutrients while keeping materials that are useful out of the garbage/waste system!

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