Compost Greens and Browns

Compost Greens and Browns

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More and more people are starting to create their own compost. Instead of buying expensive fertilizers or chemical-packed soils, people are using their food scraps and kitchen waste to create nutrient-rich soil! This saves you money and lessens your overall impact on the environment by cutting down on the amount of waste that you put in a landfill.

While some people have space for whole compost piles or a compost bin, others may live in an area with little to no lawn space. In the past, this often meant that you’d have to put up with messy indoor composting bins that would smell bad and take up too much space.

Choosing The Right Composting Bin

Fortunately, products like Karfo have made home composting easier than ever. With Karfo, you simply gather some of your kitchen waste like meat scraps, tea bags and coffee grounds, and toss it into the countertop compost bin. Within two days or less, your table scraps get turned into awesome nutrient-rich dirt.

While you can toss many things into your Karfo and still get a great result, you can amp up the effectiveness of the resultant dirt by balancing your browns and greens to get a good mix. This means mixing a variety of food scraps and organic materials like yard waste into your compost pile.

What are Browns?

Browns are an essential but often overlooked part of the composting process. In science terms, the “browns” in your compost pile are dry, carbon-rich materials. Brown material is essential for providing energy to the microorganisms responsible for composting. Utilizing a healthy amount of brown materials prevents the resulting material from being clumpy and gooey, which nobody likes!

Examples of brown compost bin materials include:

  • Dried grass clippings
  • Woody plant material
  • Pine needles
  • Oats, grains, and feedstock
  • Autumn leaves
  • Oak leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Straw and hay
  • Uncooked pasta
  • Shredded paper (such as printer paper and newspaper, not magazines)
What are Greens?

Greens are the most frequently thought of materials for a compost pile. These are often “wet” materials that provide the moisture and nitrogen required for a good compost heap. You likely come across or even create a load of worthy compost greens mix in your daily life!

Examples of green compost bin materials include:

  • Many table scraps
  • Fruits, veggies, and leftovers
  • Fresh grass clippings
Perfect Ratio & Layering Techniques

Having the ideal ratio of carbon rich browns and nitrogen rich greens for your compost bin, also known as carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N), is important. Think of it as your compost’s diet. Having too much of anything is bad for you, and it’s just as bad for your compost pile! You want to have the right ratio of both brown and green material to create a nutrient food source for your compost.

The Perfect Balance

What happens when your composting ratio is off? A few things can result from this, but one of the most prevalent and unpleasant is that you’ll end up with a mushy, earthy smelling compost pile in your compost bin. This happens when you have too many green materials (or too much nitrogen) in your mixture. Your compost pile will come out smelling like what it is: an organic, slimy combo of rotting food waste.

On the opposite end of the scale, you could end up with dry, crumbly, and generally useless compost pile. This happens when you have too many brown materials (or too much carbon) in your compost and need more green material. This results in a mix that may not even bother breaking down; instead, it goes “dormant” and stays a hodge-podge of whatever dry, organic material you put in.

For the perfect compost pile and a perfect mix of carbon and nitrogen or brown and green materials, the best formula is to have thirty parts carbon (browns) to one part nitrogen (greens). This ensures that the microorganisms that power your compost have a nice, balanced diet. While you can do this at home, Karfo also offers add-ons to help make your life easier. Our replaceable filter and additives inserts give your compost pile the boost it needs and help the Karfo create the perfect ratio for usable compost.

Layering the Compost

In both traditional composting and more modern methods, like Karfo, the best way to get a wonderfully balanced compost pile is to layer your materials to get a good mix of browns and greens. This can be done fairly simply. First, put down a nice layer of six inches of brown material. This provides a carbon-rich base. Then, add two to four inches of greens. Try not to let these reach the very edges of your composting bin or your Karfo. Afterward, cover this with more browns, until none of your nitrogen-rich green material is showing.

If you have more materials for composting, a simple solution is to repeat the process. The third, brown layer becomes the next “base” layer. Add more nitrogen-rich greens, then some carbon-rich browns. The result should look like an old-fashioned poem rhyme scheme.

The Process of Composting

So, what does all of this mean? What is composting?

In the simplest terms, composting is a cycle of microorganisms feeding on waste and turning it into plant nutrients. If you use vermicomposting, it will also involve living organisms, particularly worms, that help speed up the process. Other organic critters that are frequently utilized in vermicomposting are mealworms, isopods (pill bugs or roly-polies), and nematodes.

Many modern composters, particularly ones like Karfo, are designed to work indoors. These often don’t fall into the “vermicomposting” category, as most people don’t enjoy sharing their space with creepy crawlies. In these cases, composting relies entirely upon microorganisms. Safe application of heat helps speed the process up.

Once the composting process is complete, the result is often referred to as “black gold”. This nutrient-rich substance is highly concentrated, so it’s not the best idea to immediately fill a whole pot with it! Instead, use some regular soil and mix the nutrient-rich dirt in. If you’re using Karfo, you’ll have mostly standardized results, meaning you can reliably mix at a 1:10 ratio; for every bit of nutrient-rich dirt you add, put in ten measurements of soil.

How To Speed Up Composting?

Traditional composting isn’t a speedy thing, however. Even processes known to speed up the creation of a healthy compost heap, such as turning your pile, only impact processing time by a few days. The old-fashioned method of composting can take months or years to produce anything useful. Moreover, many older methods rely on outdoor space.

Indoor composting methods tend to have the same processing time. They also run the risk of attracting critters and insects into your home. The market is currently inundated with newer, shinier e-composters, but these don’t make a true compost pile. Instead, they simply compress and heat your food waste into a bioavailable mixture. Often, you’ll then have to mix this into actual compost for this to properly work.


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