The Q&A Archives: compost

Question: I am starting my compost pile and so far all I have is 1 yd. of compressed compost, grass clippings, 5 salvia plants, soon to be tomato plants, and shredded papers and newspapers to put in my pile. I will mix all these on Monday and was wondering - I have redwood needles and branches all over. Can I use them? And what do you think of my plan? Any hope??? Thanks again Dave

Answer: You're on the right track with your compost pile creation. You'll need both green and brown material - green for nitrogen and brown for carbon. Grass clippings, dead annuals, and anything else that's green will supply nitrogen. Dried leaves are excellent, but failing a supply of leaves, you could use newspaper for the carbon portion of your compost pile. Tear the sheets into 2-3" strips and they'll decompose faster. I'd start by tossing green material into a pile, adding brown material and topping it off with a few shovelfuls of soil (or compressed compost). Water it down well. Wait a few days to a week and turn everything to mix it together. Water again if necessary. (You want the material to be damp but not soggy wet). Remember to turn the contents of your compost pile every week to 10 days, moving the warm center to the sides and the cold sides to the center. This will keep it cooking. I wouldn't include a lot of redwood needles and branches - they take a very long time to break down. Instead, I'd separate the needles from the branches and use them as mulch around woody plants.

Best wishes with your compost pile!

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