Sheet Composting – Gettin’ My Hands on Green Matter ~ Part 4

Greens are nitrogen rich materials that are an essential ingredient
for a compost pile or bed. Greens help the friendly composting microbes to grow, breed, and multiply fast in the pile,
thus creating the hot internal temperature necessary
to “cook” a compost pile. Greens are materials such as
vegetable and fruit wastes, eggshells, coffee grounds,
filters, and tea bags, certain kinds of animal manure,
yard and garden waste, and grass clippings.
~~The Shoestring Gardener eBook

Part 4

OK … by now you ought to have gotten the idea that I lacked a lot of greens and browns to build up my sheet composting bed’s pile. But after all, it was pretty large. For those of us with only one or two people in the household, accumulating enough kitchen scraps in the amount I needed for this bed is probably impossible. I guess unless you live on nothing but vegetables and fruits, and drink tons of coffee to have pounds and pounds of grounds left over! Highly unlikely … I am sure. 🙂

Also, if you don’t have a pretty large garden where you can accumulate and store a lot of garden clippings and such, it’s hard to amass enough greens to tackle a huge fall time composting project.

So, back to the issue at hand was the fact I’d really lucked out and had located a mother-load of wonderful dry, brown leaves (as discussed in Part 3). So my hunt for “browns” was able to be checked off my list.

Now it was on to trying to find a huge source of greens to round out the cow manure and browns to make a lovely combination of layers for my sheet compost bed. I went and asked three local grocery stores if I could have the discarded veggies and fruits that they are constantly pulling off the shelves and throwing out!! I told the managers I’d come with my own 30-gallon trash cans to haul the stuff away, and that I’d be there any time they told me to, to come and pick up the “refuse.”

No way! Each manager told me they had to throw the stuff out due to store rules. (What “rules” I wondered to myself?) One manager said they used to have a man who would come every few days and pick up all the wilted and rotted produce for his pigs. But, whatever happened, the store soon put a stop to that. So … what a shame. Here was a huge supply of perfect “green stuff” for my compost pile, yet it was all going to end up in a trash bin.

Well then, I moved on to plan “B” — and that was to find a lot of used coffee grounds. As much as I didn’t want to use a huge amount of coffee grounds, due to the fact they’re not the same as adding in lots of plant material, which does produce a more friable lovely texture to the finished compost, nevertheless I had the cow manure and enough greens I’d saved so I had no choice but to opt for grounds as the additional greens source.

This was also a pretty easy way to solve my dilemma — coffee houses and cafes seem to be on every corner nowadays and many save their used grounds for people who want to use them for composting. I, once again, lucked out because a Starbucks was just a few miles up the road. They have a large bucket at the front door where they place bagged-up used grounds.

So … for 6 or 7 days I made a nightly trip up to Starbucks in order to stock up on the amount of coffee grounds I needed to layer my compost pile. Those plastic bags weighed quite a bit, too! I’ll bet 30 or more pounds per bag. That’s a LOT of grounds!

So, I do suggest you start thinking now about where you’ll get the amount of browns and greens needed to build up a sheet compost bed, especially if it’s going to be a large one.

I’ve not mentioned it in the other posts, but I piled mine up 16-inches high with all the layers. That may not sound very high, but I can assure you it is!

I now had more than enough kitchen and garden refuse, manure, and coffee grounds for my nitrogen-rich matter, and leaves and straw for carbon-rich matter to make nice thick layers in my composting bed. Things were going to cook quite well over the winter, I was very sure of this.

In Part 5 ~ Layering the Compost Pile I explain how I layered my garden bed and ended up with wonderful, friable soil when spring rolled around.

If you want to learn more about composting, and lots of other eco-friendly gardening methods and great DIY projects, please head over to The Shoestring Gardener information page. Thanks!

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