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New to composting, have questions.

August 12 2017 at 10:50 AM
Ken  (Login 5strings)
Hummingbirder 2010

Hello!


It is about time I learned the final stage of the gardening process! I have been putting it off for years as I am confused about it. It would be better for my garden, better for my wallet, and better for my town if I started soon.

I have been watching a bunch of YouTube videos and some Ted lectures on composting and it seems that there are as many ways to compost as there are videos. sad.gif Since I have learned most of the things I know about gardening from members here on Bob's forum and from helping Ward at Palmyra gardens, and since all of us here are basically a similar type of gardener, I thought I would ask some composting questions here. I have a lot of questions, if you can answer one or more of the questions your replies would be appreciated. happy.gif

Background... I have 3/4's of an acre, a good amount of garden beds with plants that need to be cut to the ground by spring. I no longer have large trees as I lost a lot over the years. Luckily I can get leaves from my neighbors. happy.gif



Questions:



Available greens in my yard...


Grass clippings would be an obvious green, but I see different recommendations on using grass or not. Do you guys use grass clippings in your piles? Biggest concern for me about grass clippings is that I have no browns this time of year, and when the browns are available the grass clippings are basically not available anymore.

Our hummingbird perennials and annuals that get cut back/down, are these considered green or brown, or does it depend on when it is cut back? Two options for cutting them back here; after a frost, or at the beginning of spring. Would they be considered green in the fall, and brown in the spring?

Pat Brown, a friend of Wards, gave a lecture at Palmyra and she said she likes to cut her plants back in the spring and that is what I have been doing ever since. Her reasoning was that it adds interest to the winter view of the garden, especially after a nice snow. Another reason was that some insects use the plants to overwinter next year's insects and leaving the plants out till spring gives the insects a chance to be. If the cut plants would considered green after a frost, and it was the best time to add greens to leaves then I will cut them down late fall.

We do not produce a lot of green kitchen waste here, so that would not add much to the pile.



Available Browns in my yard would be...


Neighbors leaves

The cut plants if they are considered brown in spring.

Is paper or cardboard really considered brown?

I have heard some say to add soil.

Anything else?




Timing:

Some sites state that it takes a year for the final compost to be ready, some sites state much less. From your experience should I figure on the full year as some sites have said?



Coordinating greens and browns...

If using cut plants is considered green after a frost I would think that I could layer a good combination of greens and browns late fall for use in spring of '19?

If using grass is okay, and the plants are considered brown in the spring, how would one coordinate this? Would the leaves be useable in the spring? This would greatly increase the yield as I do have a lot of grass. I probably could get enough grass clipping to finish adding to the pile by mid may, June.

Thanks for any thoughts!

Ken
Central NJ
USDA Zone 6
:c)


    
This message has been edited by 5strings on Aug 12, 2017 1:24 PM


 
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Indy Steve
(Login SteveWnindy)
Hummingbird lover 2007

Re: New to composting, have questions.

August 12 2017, 3:00 PM 

Certainly grass clippings are considered a green and leaves a brown and you need a balance of these. These will break down on their own with proper moisture , maybe some food scraps added in. Some people will say not to add grass clipping if its been treated with chemicals, each to their own on this matter. If you want to kill all weed seed in the compost it needs to be "hot composted" to do this you need a ratio of 3-1 browns to greens. I prefer to hot compost and leaves are not easy to acquire for me, so I do go to my town park and bag up all I need. The park crew does not care and in the fall they pile all the leaves in one area, saves me a lot of raking. You will get all kinds of info on this issue and not everyone does it the same, so use the info for your own situation, good luck with compost.

Seems I compost year round anymore but it really starts when cut the leaves from my flower and vegetable gardens in the late summer/fall. If you have access to straw , sawdust , etc also helps. Using materials that can be cut up small speeds things up.
Steve
Martinsville In.
Zone 6

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Joni
(Login Yodlei44)
Hummingbirder 2008

Re: New to composting, have questions.

August 13 2017, 6:14 PM 

Ken,

I've tried this for quite a few years & really don't get as much as I need for my acre. Not that I've given up completely but to make a nice pile...well that comes & goes. It is hard to accumulate brown in the some but any dried prunings would help. I also add coffee grounds from Sis from time to time & wood ashes but those 2 you have to be careful with adding too much so I only do it very occasionally. Egg shells are really good & any old greens from the fridge are good as well....old celery, parsley, lettuce, watermelon & canteloupe rinds, banana peels, etc. I'm sure you read no meat or fish. Citrus isn't good either.

You are supposed to turn the pile often & it also needs to be damp so needs to be watered during a dry spell. I am very bad at it.

Anything cut that has dried that was green but is now brown is considered brown, where fresh green is green. Pretty cut & dry. Fall leaves are a great brown & oak, especially good. Chopped up twigs are brown.

I don't have any plan & I just dump stuff in a pile on top of some newspaper or cardboard & try to remember to turn with a pitchfork when I'm out back. The more it is turned, the faster it will break down. I usually have some compost by the following spring but again, no where near what I need. It normally is incorporated into holes of new plantings along with some worm castings, a bit of Root Blast & a bit of Espoma PlantTone.

Some add weeds to the pile but I have been fighting a battle for so long that I wouldn't dare add weeds back in. I only fertilize with Milorganite so I use my grass clippings but since I mulch, most of my greens are prunings from flowers, trees & shrubs & kitchen scraps.

I noticed at my local Garden Center when I went back in to July to spend my earned dollars, that they had bags of Leaf Mold Compost. Never saw that before & it was pretty cheap & always heard it was good. I am leaving it to Brother-In-Law to test. He hadn't used it yet but told him I wanted to see what it looked like.

Worm castings are always touted as being great so I have added them to plantings for the past few years. Would like to farm like Steve, but I started reading about it & some of the problems you can have deterred me for now. Can't keep up with what I already have going on.

Joni
Elwood, IL
Zone 5b
[linked image]


    
This message has been edited by Yodlei44 on Aug 13, 2017 6:18 PM


 
 
Ken
(Login 5strings)
Hummingbirder 2010

Re: New to composting, have questions.

August 21 2017, 4:02 PM 

Thanks Steve and Joni!!

Told the wife that I am going to compost and she got upset. She said not only is it ugly, but it smells and attracts bugs and animals. I told her that if it smells something is not right. Gonna find a spot for it. happy.gif

Not sure how I will coordinate the greens and browns, nor how much it will yield, but I think it will be nice not to throw out the tons of plants I have growing.

For sure I don't want anything growing from the compost, gonna get a thermometer.

Ken
Central NJ
USDA Zone 6
:c)

 
 
 
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