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Green and Brown items

What do people mean when they talk about green and brown items when composting?

Green items are materials that are rich in nitrogen or protein. They are also the items that tend to heat a compost bin up because they help the microorganisms in the bin grow and multiply quickly.

Brown items are carbon or carbohydrate-rich materials. The main job of brown items in a compost bin is to be food sources for all of the lovely soil-dwelling organisms that will work with the microbes to break down the contents of your compost pile.

List of Brown items for your compost bin

  • Fall leaves
  • Pine needles
  • Twigs, chipped tree branches/bark
  • Straw or hay
  • Sawdust
  • Corn stalks
  • Paper (newspaper, writing/printing paper, paper plates and napkins, coffee filters)
  • Dryer lint
  • Cotton fabric
  • Corrugated cardboard (without any waxy/slick paper coatings

List of Green items for your compost bin

  • Grass clippings
  • Coffee grounds/tea bags
  • Vegetable and fruit scraps
  • Trimmings from perennial and annual plants
  • Annual weeds that haven't set seed
  • Eggshells
  • Animal manures (cow, horse, sheep, chicken, rabbit, etc. No dog or cat manure.)
  • Seaweed

 

 

You will often see recommendations for an ideal ratio of brown to green items. Generally a ratio of three to four parts brown to one part green is great, but you do not need to be exact about it. Decomposition happens. It is a natural process. Pile your compostables up, turn them (or do not) and in time you will have compost. It really is that simple.