Monday, October 12, 2015
The Greens and Browns of Composting (part 1 of 2)
Imagine yourself as a chef of a fancy restaurant. To cook a delicious meal, you carefully measure the ingredients and combine them to create wonderful dishes. The same can be said when creating composts. This time, however, instead of the people in the restaurant as your customers, you will be answering the needs of your plants. And just like cooking, you are given the task of putting together in equal amounts the “greens” and “browns” of composting.
“Greens” and “browns” are nicknames which are used to refer to the organic materials used in creating compost. The major differences between these two elements are not so much on the colors of the organic matter themselves but rather on their basic components. The Greens are organic materials rich in nitrogen or protein. Meanwhile, Browns are those organic matters that have high carbon or carbohydrates contents.
Because of their high nitrogen and protein contents, Greens allow micro organism in composts to grow and multiply. Also, the Green components generate heat in compost piles. The Brown elements on the other hand contain the energy that most soil organisms need. Furthermore, because of their high carbon contents, the Browns function as a big air filter, absorbing the bad odors that emanates from the compost pile. The carbons also help prevent organic nitrogen from escaping and also aids in the faster formation of humus from the compost.
In case you’re stumped whether an organic waste or material belongs to the Greens or Browns variety, one of the easiest way to test it is to wet the material. If you find the material to stink after a few days then it belongs to the Greens variety. Again, remember not to be fooled by color.
For example, although leaves come in green, brown, red, etc. colors, they are classified as Browns. Leaves are high in carbon. The evergreen leaves for example have higher carbon contents than any other leaves. However, there is always an exception. Oak tree leaves do not fall under the Greens classification. Oak leaves contain high amounts of nitrogen which makes them fall under the Greens category.