To ensure a successful compost, a healthy balance of green and brown materials are necessary. While “green” and “brown” materials can be decidedly misleading titles, there’s some truth behind the color-coordination. If you get lost, though, green and brown materials can most easily be explained by their chemical contribution to the process: Nitrogen and Carbon.
Green Materials Are Nitrogen Rich, Colorful, And Wet
This list of green materials, while not all green in color, are splendid nitrogen contributors:
- Fruit scraps
- Vegetable scraps
- Coffee grounds
- Tea bags/leaves
- Fresh green garden trimmings
- Grass trimmings
Such items are jam-packed full of nitrogen, providing a hefty offering of both nutrients and moisture. The benefits cannot come from green materials alone, though. There has to be a balance in dry and wet contributions for a compost to develop structurally sound.
Brown Materials Are Dry Carbon Contributors
This list of brown materials is much simpler to identify by color. Many of these items, though, are common household trash that could easily be contributed instead to a kitchen waste compost.
- Dry, brown leaves
- Straw and hay
- Corn cobs and stalks
- Egg shells (crushed)
- Paper towels and napkins
- Brown paper bags (non-glossy)
- Dryer lint
The benefits of brown materials come in several different ways. Brown materials uphold the structure of your compost, preventing it from becoming too matted and, therefore, slowing the composting process. These dry, carbon materials also contribute energy and absorb excess water.
Balancing Brown and Green Materials Makes for a Quick, Effortless Compost
As you are adding to your compost, be conscious of balancing out your green and brown materials. As both halves function best in fairly equal portions, composting can become as convenient as simply tossing your trimmings in the garbage so long as you remember to contribute both. If you do happen to find yourself lacking in one department, do not fear! Composting will happen either way, it simply boils down to speed and efficiency. An overload of green materials will cause your compost to smell a bit stronger than normal and take a bit longer. An easy way to combat the smell? Add more brown materials.
For best results, utilize a rotating composter to work the brown materials into and around the green materials. This will keep smells at bay as well as contribute to a quicker compost by melding the two materials together.
As you can see, identifying green and brown materials can be a tad more complicated than just color coordination. If all else fails, remember the common association of green with Spring, life and growth. Brown’s association is Fall: crunchy, dry leaves, browning corn stalks and paper products which follow suit. And, of course, it’s all about the balance!