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Thread: Projek Cinta: Fertilizer and Insecticide - Garrett Juice

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Projek Cinta: Fertilizer and Insecticide - Garrett Juice

    Garrett Juice (ready to spray):

    1 cup manure based compost tea
    1 ounce molasses
    1 ounce natural apple cider vinegar
    1 ounce liquid seaweed

    For disease and insect control add:

    ¼ cup garlic tea or
    ¼ cup garlic/pepper tea
    and 1 ounce of orange oil

    For homemade fire ant killer add:
    2 ounces of citrus oil per gallon of Garrett Juice

    The ready-to-use solution should not have more than 2 ounces of orange oil per gallon


    Garlic Tea


    Yield 3.5 3.5cups

    Units: US | Metric

    • 3 cups water
    • 3 garlic cloves, cut in half
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
    • Directions:

    • 1 In a saucepan, bring 3 cups of water and the 3 cloves of garlic to a boil. Turn off the heat when the water boils, and add 1/2 cup of the honey and 1/2 cup of the fresh lemon juice. Strain.

    • 2 Sip 1/2 cup, warm, three times a day.

    • 3 Refrigerate extra to use the next day.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    NPK in Vermi-compost

    Stone Creek Castings

    November 23, 2012 ·

    The subject of NPK in vermicompost has always been a very
    interesting one with much research done, from finding the best
    combinations of feed to use, to the optimum mix of vermicompost
    to be used in plants.

    Before we start we need to understand the difference in terms of
    NPK value and the real potential value of casts and organic

    NPK value is a scientific measure of soluble Nitrates, phosphate
    and potassium.

    It is a measure of a ready soluble form of NPK in the tested
    fertilizer, which when poured into soil it is immediately ready
    for plant uptake. In a laboratory, the way scientists measure NPK
    values in some soil is to dissolve much of the soil in a solution
    which is then filtered.

    Free standing nitrate, potassium and phosphates will be dissolved
    in this solution, while the other solids will be filtered off.

    They will then put the solution into a machine which then detects
    the concentration of the NPK.

    This is a great technique with chemical fertilizers because all
    NPK is free and ready to be dissolved and detected.

    In soil, composts and casts it is slightly different, because
    most of the NPK is 'locked up' in an insoluble form, which is in
    the filtered off solids. That is why you will see that in many of
    these casts and organic fertilizers, the NPK value is relatively
    low. I will later explain why this is not important.

    Back to the research, an experiment was led by a team headed by
    K. Muthukumaravel, A. Amsath and M. Sukumaran in Tamil
    University, India. Their research was based on finding the NPK
    values in different vermicompost made from different feeds. The
    three primary different types were:

    ~ Casts made from vegetable waste alone
    ~ Casts made from cow dung alone
    ~ Casts made from both vegetable waste and cow dung

    What they found out was that the difference in terms of nutrient
    value was 87% more potassium, 9% in Nitrate and 33% in phosphate
    in the cast made from vegetable waste and cow dung together,
    compared to casts made from cow dung alone.

    The mixture when compared to casts made from vegetable waste
    alone can be as much as 52% Potassium, 17% Nitrate and 45%

    This means, in order of highest NPK value to the lowest, would be
    cast made from the mixture, cast made from vegetables alone, and
    casts made from cow dung alone being the lowest in value.

    From these results it shows that casts made from cow dung alone
    is highest in nitrates and Phosphates while casts from vegetable
    wastes were highest in potassium. Therefore in conclusion a
    mixture of dung and vegetable waste creates a great combination
    with each making up for the deficiency of the other, and will
    provide the highest in NPK value.

    Now back to our little discussion about the relatively low NPK in
    wormcasts as mentioned in the beginning.

    You will hear many people and sources claim that the NPK value is
    not important in casts, and it is true.

    As I have mentioned, in cast alone the nutrients are locked up in
    insoluble form. Which means it needs to take time to break down
    into the soluble form in order for it to be readily available for

    Then why shouldn't we just use chemical fertilizers with pure
    soluble NPK ready for uptake?

    Now imagine you are invited to a meal by a world class Michelin
    Star Chef. You are ready to clean the plates of what ever the
    chef cooks, but in the starters he has already made you 20
    different appetizers. You are already full by your 7th plate, and
    there is still the main course and desserts to go! Will you
    really fully enjoy the whole experience of the dinner without
    letting it all go to waste?

    The same goes for plants, you can feed it as much soluble NPK as
    you want, but there is always a limit a plant can uptake with the
    rest leaching out of the soil. For NPK to be in insoluble form,
    the nutrients can be released step by step as the plants need it.

    Guess what controls this release?

    It’s the micro-organisms!

    Guess where these micro-organisms can be boosted up from and


    The important thing and main benefits of wormcast is the
    microbial life it contains to provide for your garden and
    plantation. These help release the natural NPK from the cast and
    the environment of the surrounding soil. Not only does it help to
    unlock NPK, it also breaks it down and helps feed it to your
    plants. Some also produced micronutrients (e.g., calcium,
    magnesium, manganese, copper, iron and zinc) which are not found
    in "complete fertilizers".

    In the Department of Crop Science and Technology, University of
    Rajshahi, a team researched the effects of mixing chemical
    fertilizers with vermicompost, compared to vermicompost and
    chemical fertilizers alone.

    Unsurprisingly, vermicompost mixed with 50% NPK fertilizer gave
    the best yield, a 14% increase compared to vermicompost alone,
    and a massive 20% increase from fertilizer alone! (M.N. Alam,
    M.S. Jahan, M.K. Ali, M. A. Ashraf and M.K. Islam, Effect of
    Vermicompost and Chemical Fertilizers on Growth, Yield and Yield
    Components of Potato in Barind Soils of Bangladesh, 2007)

    So yes, you can try and maximize the NPK in wormcast as much as
    possible by using a mix feed of vegetable waste and manure, but
    in the end there is a limit to the amount of soluble NPK it can
    contain and it will never be as much as chemical fertilizers, so
    people focus on the main benefit of wormcast which is the
    microbial life and other microbial elements it contains.

    If strict organic farming is not the case, then the controlled
    mixed use of chemical NPK with wormcast has been proven to
    produce desirable results.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    What is the Best Organic NPK Fertilizer?

    What is NPK?

    Alfalfa Meal NPK
    © Steve Masley…Click IMAGE to Enlarge
    An npk fertilizer is usually thought of as a chemical fertilizer, but npk applies to any soil amendment that supplies Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and K, Potassium, including organic fertilizers.

    The numbers are always in the same order, and refer to the percentage of each element in the fertilizer.
    Plants need nitrogen for leaf growth, phosphorus for root formation, stem growth, and fruiting, and potassium for flowering and plant immunity.

    An organic npk fertilizer can be slow-releasing or fast-releasing. Many have both quick-releasing “labile” nutrients, and more “recalcitrant” nutrients that break down slowly and supply a steady stream of nutrients over a longer period.

    Many organic npk fertilizers need soil organisms to break them down and release their nutrients, so they release more quickly when the soil is warm and the soil food web is at its most active. This is also when you get the most rapid plant growth, and your vegetables really need it.

    If you’re growing cool-season vegetables, choose an organic npk fertilizer that breaks down under cooler soil temperatures. See Organic NPK Fertilizers for Cool-Season Vegetables.

    - See more at:
    Balanced Organic NPK Fertilizers

    A “balanced” organic npk fertilizer is one that provides nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—the main macronutrients needed by plants.
    If you’re looking for a balanced organic npk fertilizer, your choices are generally plant-based, manure-based, or blended. Plant-based npk fertilizers include alfalfa meal, soy meal, and cottonseed meal. Note: Use only cottonseed meal from organic cotton. Conventionally grown cotton has some of the highest pesticide application rates in the country, and usually contains pesticide residues.

    Worm Castings are probably the best single-constituent organic balanced npk fertilizer. They provide quick-release nutrients for early growth, as well as slower-releasing nutrients to sustain growth through the season. They also provide beneficial bacteria and fungi to help your plants assimilate these nutrients.

    Alfalfa Meal is a close second. It’s a balanced npk fertilizer that provides a steady release of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and some sulfur throughout the growing season, with most of it available during peak growth, when crops need it most. It’s also widely available, relatively cheap, light enough to use in container gardens, and doesn’t attract animals.

    - See more at:

    For most vegetables, I amend the soil with good compost or worm castings, and a blend of alfalfa meal for early growth, feather meal for late-season growth, and several other organic npk fertilizer components, for phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and trace minerals. For summer vegetables, I also inoculate the seedling roots with endo-mycorrhizae, to help the plants assimilate nutrients from the soil.

    Sound complicated? It needn’t be. There are several good organic npk fertilizer blends on the market, that include mycorrhizae, as well as basic organic soil amendments. Dr. Earth Organic Tomato, Vegetable, and Herb Fertilizer is a reliable standard, as is Foxfarm’s Peace of Mind Organic Tomato & Vegetable Fertilizer. Both contain mycorrhizal inoculants.

    Down To Earth All Purpose Blend and Fox Farm Marine Cuisine Fertilizer are also good balanced blends. Any one of them will serve as an npk fertilizer for your garden.

    Soil Amendment N-P-K Description Lasts Application Rate
    Alfalfa Meal 2-1-2 A quick-to-mid-release, balanced source of N, P, K, and some Sulfur. In my experience, one of the best balanced organic npk fertilizers. 3-4 Months Up to 16lbs/100 sq ft, 1 cup for 5gal pot
    Worm Castings 3.2-1.1-1.5 Excellent quick-release source of N, with a long-term, slow-release component. Inoculates soil with beneficial fungi & microbes from the worm gut. 3-6 Months 1” layer

    (10-15lbs/100 sq ft)
    Use up to 1/3 volume in container mixes.
    Soy Meal 7-2-1 Be sure to mix into soil. If left in clumps you will have maggots. 3-4 Months Up to 16lbs/100 sq ft, 1 cup for 5-7gal pot
    Cottonseed Meal 5-2-1 Slightly acidic, a good choice for acid-loving plants like berries. May contain pesticide residues, although organic sources are available. 3-4 Months Up to 8lbs/100 sq ft
    - See more at:
    Poultry and Animal Manures

    Poultry and animal manures have been used as organic fertilizers for centuries. If used correctly, they remain among the best npk fertilizer options for organic gardeners today.

    Horse Manure with Sawdust Bedding
    © Steve Masley…Click IMAGE to Enlarge
    Manures are nicely balanced, providing small amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, in a base of predigested organic matter. Mixed into the soil, this is a soil food web banquet. Remember the organic gardener’s mantra: “Feed the soil to feed the plants”.

    For most manures, only about 33% of the nitrogen is available the first year. The remaining nitrogen is bound up in organic matter—the bodies of soil organisms that multiply when you mix manure into soil—and mineralized into plant-available form at about 5% per year.

    If you’re adding manure every year, be sure to factor in this 5% annual contribution from previous applications in determining how much manure to apply.

    Poultry manure is an exception. Up to 75% of the nitrogen it contains is available in the first year.

    See Improving Garden Soil for ways to increase soil organic matter (SOM). See The Soil Food Web to learn how increased SOM becomes fertilizer for your vegetables.

    Poultry and animal manures should always be composted prior to use around food crops—especially any edible part of the plant in contact with the ground. For organic farms, the last raw manure application has to be at least 120 days (4 months) before harvest. There are few restrictions on applications of composted manure.

    Composting Manure:

    • Kills pathogens like e. coli and salmonella.
    • Kills weed seeds that make it through the digestive systems of livestock.
    • Degrades and denatures antibiotics, hormones, and vermicides that are given routinely to poultry and livestock in factory farm settings.
    • Degrades pesticide residues that may be present in partially digested feed or bedding.

    - See more at:

    Note: The NPK numbers for manure listed below should be seen as ballpark figures.

    Actual NPK depends on

    • The health of the animals
    • The quality of the pasture or feed used
    • The amount and type of bedding mixed in
    • How the manure was handled and stored
    • How it is applied to the soil

    Manure with bedding mixed in has fewer nutrients by volume, but provides a better boost to soil organic matter. Poor storage can result in nitrogen losses up to 60%. Surface application, without incorporation into the soil, can result in losses of 20-30% in a few days.

    As an npk fertilizer on farms, manure has several problems.

    Excess or untimely application can contaminate groundwater with nitrates. Manure also tends to acidify soils with continuous application, and in some soils, salt concentrations increase, especially when steer manure is used.

    These problems are rarely an issue for home gardeners, but you should be aware of them.

    - See more at:

    Soil Amendment N-P-K Description Lasts Application Rate
    Chicken Manure 1.1-0.8-0.5 Excellent quick-release source of N. Poultry manure releases up to 75% of its N the first year in the soil, compared with 33% for most other manures. 3-12 Months 1/2-1” layer

    (5-10 5-gal buckets/100 sq ft)
    Steer Manure 0.7-0.3-0.4 Cheap and readily available organic N source. May contain excess salts. 3-12 Months 1-1.5” layer

    (10-15 5-gal buckets/100 sq ft)
    Dairy Cow Manure 0.25-0.15-0.25 Less N-P-K than steer manure, but also less salt. More can be applied, so dairy cow manure is better for increasing SOM. 3-12 Months 1-2” layer

    (10-20 5-gal buckets/100 sq ft)
    Horse Manure 0.7-0.3-0.6 High N, but bedding mixed in (especially saw-dust) may limit availability. May contain weed seeds or pharmaceutical vermin-cides. Composting first eliminates all of these problems. 3-12 Months 1” layer

    (10 5-gal buckets/100 sq ft)
    Pig Manure 0.8-0.7-0.5 Good, balanced manure source of N, P, and K. Because some pig parasites and pathogens can infect humans, pig manure is not allowed in many organic protocols. If it is used, it must be hot-composted prior to use. 3-12 Months 1” layer

    (10 5-gal buckets/100 sq ft)
    Sheep Manure 0.7-0.3-0.9 Good manure source for N and K, with some P. Superior to cow manure, if you have a good local source for it. 3-12 Months 1-2” layer

    (10-20 5-gal buckets/100 sq ft)
    Rabbit Manure 2.4-1.4-0.6 Richest manure N source, more than double the N of chicken manure. Will burn plants if not composted first. GREAT addition to the compost pile, if you know someone with bunnies. 3-12 Months 1/2” layer

    (5 5-gal buckets/100 sq ft)
    - See more at:

    Trace Minerals

    Trace Minerals are minerals—like boron, copper, magnesium, and manganese—that plants need only in small quantities. They’re important for specific enzymatic reactions, and adequate levels improve plant immunity and adaptability to temperature and drought stresses. Most become toxic in larger amounts.

    Soil Amendment N-P-K Description Lasts Application Rate
    Kelp Meal 1-0-1.2
    Trace Minerals
    Important source of organic potash & trace minerals. Excellent in seed starting mixes--boosts growth & reduces damping-off & fungal problems in seed starts. Encourages microbial populations. Contains plant growth hormones--do not over-apply! 6-12 Months Up to 1lb/100 sq ft
    --but no more!
    Rock Dust (Crushed Granite) 0—3-5—0,
    trace minerals
    Granite fines, the dust from rock grinding and sorting operations. Very slow releasing P source, good source of trace minerals for plant immunity and tolerance of temperature extremes. 5-10 Years Up to 8.5lbs/100 sq ft

    Top of Page

    Top of Trace Minerals Section - See more at:

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Chemical side of worm casting

    Posted on August 15, 2011 by Ludovic BourdonI do realize that the chemical and microbial content of each and every worm farm would be different and I am sure everyone accepts that, but as a general guideline what is the norm for worm casting. I myself have had a few bad experiences, like planting a pot plant into pure worm castings with great expectations as I thought this was the best stuff in the whole wide world, the plant did not do well at all, even with potting soil 50:50 mixture no fireworks. I am sure you have heard many such stories. My point being please points us with a general rule of thumb to follow using our worm farm harvests. Thanks” ~ Kevin Elphinstone

    Hi Kevin,

    There is so much that I can talk about with this topic that I will dedicate this weeks and next weeks newsletter to your question. We will focus more on the chemical side of worm cast this week.

    First of all, I have mentioned before that NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potassium) values is not important in wormcast. In fact, compared to normal fertilizers it is very low, but it does not matter. NPK value is a scientific measurement of the readily soluble forms of NPK in chemical fertilizers. These can be directly absorbed by plants once it is used in the soil. However in worm casting, the NPK are locked in the cast, and is released into the plants slowly as micro-organisms break it down. This is much better for plants, as it takes time for plants to uptake nutrients rather than all at once.

    Having said this, the NPK value in wormcast is much higher than soil, and I will explain its importance later.

    Let’s start by understanding what kind of nutrients there are in soil, and how the deficiency of each particular mineral will affect plants. I will list out the minerals one by one, and explain the plant symptoms when there is a lack of this mineral. The following is taken from Virginia Tech publications on hydroponic plants:

    Nitrogen – Entire plant is light green in color; lower leaves are yellow; growth is stunted.

    Phosphorous – Entire plant is bluish-green, often developing a red or purplish cast; lower leaves may be yellow, drying to a greenish-brown to black color; growth may be stunted.

    Potassium – Leaves have a papery appearance; dead areas along the edges of the leaves; growth is stunted.

    Magnesium – Lower leaves turn yellow along the tips and margin and between the veins; the lower leaves wilt.

    Calcium – Young stems and new leaves die.

    Zinc – Leaf tissue between the veins is lighter in color; yellowed; papery in appearance.

    Iron – Leaf tissue appears yellow, while the veins remain green.

    Copper – Leaf edges appear dark green or blue; leaf edges curl upward; young leaves permanently wilt.

    Sulfur – Young leaves turn pale green, while the older leaves remain green; plant is stunted and spindly.

    Manganese – Growth is stunted; lower leaves have a checkered pattern of yellow and green.

    Molybdenum – Leaves are stunted, pale green, and malformed.

    Boron – Young leaves are scorched at tips and margins.

    Now you can guess why worm cast is great to use in plants, because they do contain at least some of each of the minerals listed above. Of course there are some more than others, but the plants don’t use all of them in the same amounts. Take Molybdenum for example, it converts nitrate (NO3) into amino acids (building blocks for plant protein) and it is used within the plant more than once. Too much molybdenum will be toxic to plants.

    Just to give you an idea, here is an example of the percentages and composition of nutrients and minerals in vermicompost:

    • Organic Carbon 20.43 – 30.31 %

    • Nitrogen 1.80 – 2.05 %

    • Phosphorus 1.32 – 1.93 %

    • Potassium 1.28 – 1.50 %

    • Carbon : Nitrogen 14-15 : 1 %

    • Calcium 3.0 – 4.5 %

    • Magnesium 0.4 – 0.7 %

    • Sodium 0.02 – 0.30 %

    • Sulphur Traces to 0.40 %

    • Iron 0.3 – 0.7 %• Zinc 0.028 – 0.036 %

    •Manganese Traces to 0.40 %• Copper 0.0027 – 0.0123 %

    • Boron 0.0034 – 0.0075 %

    • Aluminium Traces to 0.071 %

    • Cobalt, Molybdenum Present in available form

    The above is to give you an idea only, you are correct in noting that all vermicompost is different because the composition does truly depend on the type of feed you give to the worms. But from the above table you can see which kind of mineral and nutrient is more abundant within wormcast.

    However I know all these figures makes no sense by themselves. So how does vermicompost compare with normal garden soil?

    Other than Aluminium and Magnesium (which is about the same in both) and iron (which is less in vermicompost), the values of all the other nutrients/minerals are significantly much higher (with Nitrates up to 9 times higher) in vermicompost than garden soil.

    This poses a problem in its electro-conductivity, because this is also much higher than garden soil which means there is more salts in vermicompost. When there is too much salt in soil, it sucks out water from the plant roots resulting in the ‘burning’ of plants. Although there isn’t enough salts in vermicompost to do that (it is much more common in chemical fertilizers), using too much wormcast at any one time can stunt plant growth.

    It has been studied what the optimum ratio of wormcast to potting soil is. Researchers potted plants starting in different ratios of cast to soil, and found the plants with the optimum growth were planted in a cast:soil ratio of 1:4, or 75% soil. However they have shown that even 10% of wormcast shows significant difference in plant growth.

    Once the percentage of wormcast is over 40%, plant growth performance is stunted and may even appear worse off than having no wormcast at all. So your use of 50% wormcast is definitely too much!

    You will need to use a less amount of worm cast, and hopefully you will start to see your plants flourish!

    Kennethc/o WormMan Newsletter

    on December 1, 2012 at 7:18 am said:

    Best analysis of the subject of worm poo nutrient content I’ve ever read! But the simple truth of the matter is that 99% of the folks out there are overlooking the simple truth of the matter…we’re all just making it all too complicated and scientific and analytical. Just do this with your worm bin, and all will be well:

    Build a new worm bin, throw out the old one as it probably is not made correctly.

    Get a 25-36 gallon Rubbermaid Tote, drill some 3/16″ or 1/4″ holes in the lid and sides not lower than 6″ from the base of the bin and PLEASE do not drill any holes in the base.

    Drill a 3/4″ hole near the vertical base of one end of the bin, set it in a garden chair at a slight incline, install a valve of some sort into the hole (or don’t, but leave it “open” if you do), set a mesh bag of gravel inside to block this hole which will serve as a filter.

    Then add the customary start up stuff some garden soil, lots of paper and cardboard shreds and kitchen food waste, stir everything up and then add at least a pound (1000) of Red Wigglers. Give your worms a week or so to adjust to their new home, then start pouring from 2 to 10 gallons of water over it daily and catch it out the drain hole for use in watering your garden plants.

    As time goes on, this “unprocessed worm tea” will become better and better fertilizer as it will be dissolving the increasing amount of worm poo, pee, sweat, etc. and creating the perfect liquid food for your garden. I have been using this for years with no addition of anything but household waste and my plants just seem to love it.

    I also occasionally take out some handfuls from the worm bin as it fills up and distribute to my various garden spots and containers. Leave the worm bin open-topped except in extreme cold to let the spiders and lizards jump in and eat whatever flies and gnats might try to invade. If you try to close and control everything, you’re just asking for trouble, as this is not nature’s way.

    This large volume of water poured through the worm bin daily washes away any possible salt or other problem buildup and doesn’t hurt the plants either as excess of everything is just drained away through the hole in the base of the container or down into the soil — nature’s way. Nature’s way really is the simplest and best as we are beginning to learn after spending billions of dollars and decades of trial and error on agricultural research. Mess with Nature and She will mess you up…Guaranteed!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Professor Rot says:

    You gotta know this Carbon/Nitrogen Ratio stuff. Why?

    Because just about anything you compost has Carbon and Nitrogen in it.
    The other reason is that many problems with compost piles are solved by adjusting C/N inputs.
    Did you know that all organic matter has a ratio of Carbon to Nitrogen (C:N) in their tissues? For microorganisms, carbon is the basic building block of life and is a source of energy, but nitrogen is also necessary for such things as proteins, genetic material, and cell structure.

    Balance of C:N is Key

    Decomposition of organic materials in your compost pile is greatly increased when you create the proper balance between the carbonaceous materials (called BROWN because they are dry) and the nitrogen-rich materials (called GREEN because they are more fresh and moist).

    In compost lingo, this balance is referred to as the Carbon-Nitrogen ratio, and shown as C:N.

    Now, it is true that most people simply don't give a hoot about this scientific hocus-pocus stuff. Waste is waste! And when you just want to throw the stuff away, you're not inclined to stop a moment to ask, "Gosh, is this Carbon or Nitrogen?"

    But magic is afoot out there in nature. And much of the sleight of hand of composting, whether you are aware of it or not, has to do with the organic materials' content of Carbon and Nitrogen. Blow this stuff off and you might get a surprise when you open the lid to your bin: it may reek to holy hell, like rotten eggs or ammonia, or it may just be sitting there doing absolutely nothing! Which is to say your pile has become a cold couch potato, and it ain't going nowhere fast!
    So, back to this necessary balance between the Carbon content of your waste material and the Nitrogen content. For best performance, the compost pile, or more to the point the composting microorganisms, require the correct proportion of Carbon for energy and Nitrogen for protein production. Compost scientists have determined that the fastest way to produce fertile, sweet-smelling compost is to maintain a C:N ratio somewhere around 25 to 30 parts Carbon to 1 part Nitrogen, or 25-30:1. If the C:N ratio is too high (excess Carbon), decomposition slows down. If the C:N ratio is too low (excess nitrogen) you will end up with a stinky pile.

    A Fast Food Restaurant!
    Think of the microbes in your pile as teenagers with voracious appetites.
    These microbes know that the sugar-rich CARBON gives them energy and the enzyme-rich NITROGEN gives them protein.
    (Yeah, right! Get a teenager to tell you that the next time they order a burger, fries and shake!) Fast food, yum-yum!! Thinking about my compost makes me kind of hungry.
    If you want to learn more about microbes and how they eat themselves out of house and home, see my Famous Lecture #2,432: The Stages of Composting.
    A Little More Science Behind the C:N Ratio

    Microorganisms that digest compost need about 30 parts of carbon for every part of nitrogen they consume. That's a balanced diet for them. If there's too much nitrogen, the microorganisms can't use it all and the excess is lost in the form of smelly ammonia gas. Nitrogen loss due to excess nitrogen in the pile (a low C:N ratio) can be over 60%. At a C:N ratio of 30 or 35 to 1, only one half of one percent of the nitrogen will be lost. That's why you don't want too much nitrogen (fresh manure, for example) in your compost: the nitrogen will be lost in the air in the form of ammonia gas, and nitrogen is too valuable for plants to allow it to escape into the atmosphere.

    Scientists have determined four conditions that are constant for all residue decomposition:

    1. A maximum of 35% of the carbon in fresh organic material will be converted into soil humus IFthere is sufficient nitrogen present.

    1. A minimum of 65% of the carbon in fresh organic material will be given off to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide due to microbial respiration. (Uh-oh! An argument could be made that composting contributes to greenhouse gases and warming of the Earth's atmosphere. However, consider this, nature is always decomposing everywhere; so, what you are doing in your little compost bin is a mere iota of carbon release compared to nature's vast compost bin in forests, rangeland, etc.)

    1. The humus formed from the decomposition of fresh organic material will contain approximately 50% carbon and 5% nitrogen. In other words, the C:N ratio of the humus is 10:1.

    1. Most fresh plant material contains 40% carbon. The C:N ratio varies because of differences in nitrogen content, not carbon content. (Note: Dry materials are generally in the range of 40 to 50 percent carbon, and sloppy, wet materials are generally 10 to 20 percent carbon. Therefore, the most important factor in estimating the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of plant or food waste is how much water is present).


    Principle #1: The Ideal 30:1 Ratio

    A hot, fast pile (with temperatures up to 140°F/60°C) is obtained when the C:N ratio of all the materials you add averages 30:1 (50:1 is adequate for most slower, lower-temperature piles). You can be sure, then, that the little microbes are stuffing themselves. Of course, this is ideal: you may not necessarily obtain this!

    Don't Make This Mistake: This ratio describes the chemical composition of a material and does notmean that you need a volume of brown materials that is thirty times greater than the amount of green matter! Don't make this mistake!

    Graphic courtesy of University of Missouri Extension Service

    Principle #2: 2 Parts Green to 1 Part Brown

    (The best stragey to mix your compostable materials)

    Generally speaking, you can get C:N ratios of 30:1 to 50:1 by adding two parts of a GREEN material to one part of a BROWN material to your bin. A "part" can be defined as a certain quantity of the material, such as two 5-gallon buckets of GREEN and 1 packed bucket of BROWN.

    Play with the chart below. For example, food scraps, grass clippings and leaves come close to an average of 30:1. How? Add-up the Carbon side of the ratio for all three materials, i.e. 15, 17, 60, and divide by the number of materials, i.e. three. 92/3 = about 31:1.

    Experiment (this isn't a perfect world!) to find your own style. Many people have very good success with equal parts. Just don't have too much brown or too much green!

    QUESTION: "Can I use 1-part GREEN and 1-part BROWN?"

    ANSWER: Yes you can. The best combination would be a mixture of GREEN sources, as shown on the left of the chart below and a BROWN source such as leaves (notice that leaves have a fairly low C:N ratio compared to other carbonaceous materials shown on the right of the chart. Leaves are ideal for composting!). Researchers have determined that effective compost can be made with equal parts GREEN and BROWN, or with 2 parts GREEN and 1 part BROWN.

    QUESTION: I am confused. Half the articles I read suggest using 2-parts BROWN to 1-part GREEN. The other half say to use 2-parts GREEN to 1-part BROWN. WHAT IS CORRECT?!

    ANSWER: When authors/researchers call for 2-parts BROWN, they are considering the fact that common BROWNS such as leaves or hay, etc. have a lot of fluff or air in a particualr volume as compared to the more matted volume of GREEN. So, they might say use two shovels full of BROWN and one shovel full of GREEN. We don't dispute this advice if you use unshredded leaves or hay. However, when shredded, a large volume of leaves/hay is cut to about 1/4 its mass. Therefore, 2-parts of such shredded BROWN would be too much carbon for the 1-part volume of GREEN. Experiment to see what happens.

    Our caution to using the 2-parts BROWN to 1-part GREEN approach is that one can easily overestimate the volume of BROWNS whereas in fact the GREENS are vital for getting the pile heated (but not too many or you get smelly material). Too much BROWN and the pile is too dry and will not heat up. We attempt to use the scientifically known make-up of Carbon and Nitrogen in materials and use the the C:N Ratio formula for computing the balanced ratio. This is why the 2-parts GREEN to 1-part BROWN has been promoted. Our best advice is to try both formulas for GREENS and BROWNS. You may be surprised at what you find: probably good compost!

    Use this Rule of Thumb when viewing the chart below

    • Any organic matter that has a C:N ratio generally smaller than 30:1 is considered a GREEN.
    • Any organic matter that has a C:N ratio generally larger than 30:1 is considered a BROWN.

    Common Home Compostable Materials & C:N Ratios

    (Example: Food Scraps has a Carbon:Nitrogen Ratio of 17:1,
    meaning 17 parts Carbon to 1 part Nitrogen)

    GREEN (Nitrogen)
    BROWN (Carbon)
    Aged Chicken Manure 7:1

    Fresh manures are way to hot and can burn your plants and roots!
    Leaves 60-80:1
    One of the most important ingredients for composting, especially shredded or broken down (leaf mulch).
    Food Scraps 17:1

    Vegetable Scraps 25:1

    Straw, Hay 90:1

    The best way to use is to shred for faster breakdown.
    Coffee Grounds 25:1
    Sawdust 500:1

    Commercially produced compost is high in sawdust or shredded bark chips. Use very sparingly!
    Grass Clippings - Fresh 17:1

    Dry clippings would be higher in Carbon. Therefore, use as carbon source if necessary.
    Woody chips & twigs 700:1

    Be sparing. Best use is small material at bottom of bin or pile.
    Fresh Weeds 20:1

    Make sure you don't compost weeds with seeds, unless you insure that your pile gets hot - over 140°F/60°C.
    Shredded Newspaper 175:1

    Has no nutrient content. Best used in vermicomposting. Always shred and soak in water for fast breakdown.
    Fruit Wastes 25-40:1
    Nut shells 35:1
    Rotted Manure 20:1

    Horse manure should not be used because it contains undigested seeds that can sprout in the bin.
    Pine Needles 80:1

    Use sparingly. Very acidic and waxy; breaks down slowly.
    Humus (soil) 10:1

    This is nature's natural ratio. Usesparingly in pile. Best used to "seal" the pile by putting a 1-2 inch layer on top.
    Corn Stalks 60:1

    Shred or cut up in small pieces for fast break down.
    Seaweed 19:1
    Peat Moss 58:1

    Has no nutrient value. In the bin it is mostly filler.
    General Garden Waste 30:1Clippings from plants, stalks, dead flowers, etc. Excellent mix with leaves
    The C:N Ratios given in this chart are average and may slightly vary according to source, researcher or scientist!
    • The 2-to-1 ratio of Greens to Browns is your best bet when creating a Batch Pile. This will aid you in creating about a 30:1 C/N Ratio. Adequate enough to get a hot pile.
    • A 1-to-1 Ratio works well with the Add as You Go Pile as well as the Batch Pile. This will aid you in creating about a 50:1 C/N Ratio, adequate enough to get a warm pile.
    • Stockpiling of leaves and food scraps or yard waste is perhaps the best composting strategy to make a heap large enough for the microorganisms to get hot and bothered.

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