Compost Materials - Knowledgebase Question

Name: Julie Houk
Dublin, NH
Question by juliemhouk
April 20, 1999
I ordered the black compost bin from Burpees. Do I need to wait until I have a sufficient amount of green material before starting to fill up the bin? I live in a woodland area and have lots of leaves I can already add. Someone told me I cannot start the compost bin until I have the sufficient ratio of all the green and brown materials ready to go. I also bought some of the compost starter from another supplier hoping to speed things up.

Answer from NGA
April 20, 1999


I like to tell beginning composters that you don't need a calculator to compost. Everything rots eventually! However, the process does work much faster if you mix about an equal volume of green and brown materials and keep it uniformly moist. Leaves are terrific carbon sources. I live in the desert and we don't accumulate many leaves, so I know many composters who would be jealous of you! Here are some green, or nitrogen, sources in addition to kitchen scraps:

fresh garden and landscape trimmings, manure (don't use dog, cat, or pet bird droppings, which may contain parasites), grass clippings, hair (yes, very high in nitrogen. I know someone who collects a big bag of it periodically from a hair salon!) and weeds, but not if they've gone to seed or spread with runners.

The compost starter will probably also contain a nitrogen source. If you still don't have much green matter, I would recommend trying to shred the leaves as much as possible before putting them in the bin. If you don't have a shredder, throw them on the lawn and run a lawn mower back and forth over them. I don't see any reason why you can't get started as soon as your bin arrives. Just mix in the green materials when you get them. Remember to keep the pile uniformly moist and to turn it to provide oxygen for all those little microorganisms doing the work. Good luck!

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