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Thread: Adding fertilizer to compost?

  1. #1
    Sustainable Member toby the lesser's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Eastern WA

    Adding fertilizer to compost?

    One of my compost piles is mostly browns. It consists mainly of shreded paper and straw and woodchips from a bunny cage. I was planning on adding some nitrogen fertilizer(I have no idea how much) to get the ratio closer to optimal. Is this a good idea or should I just leave it alone?

  2. #2
    New Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    i'll let you know in a couple of months because I did this last fall.Just before I covered my compost pile for the winter.

  3. #3
    Do you not have any chicken shit you can throw in there? What about the bunny poop, isn't that high in nitrogen?
    "The wolf is made the way the world is made. You cannot touch the world. You cannot hold it in your hand for it is made of breath only."
    -Cormac McCarthy The Crossing

  4. #4
    Sustainable Pioneer Sally's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    From what I understand, and in our experience, compost finally decomposes no matter what you put in it. The only reason for the "brown/green layers rule" is to make it faster. We compost everything, including bones and meat and fat. It's all a no-no, but we do it anyway. We composted our pig's innards, and even cut the hide in strips and composted it. DH insists that it's probably going to be his final resting place if he goes before me. :-)

    He tends to do that whole scientific "brown/green" thing. I just want to get the stuff in the bins, and don't really care what order or how much or anything. Just get it done. We have 8 bins, all in a row made from pallets.

    Here's a picture. We use every bit we make, and have considered adding several more bins. With the addition of the cow, that's probably what will happen.


  5. #5
    Sustainable Regular
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    You can add nitrogen fertilizer to speed up the composting. Or you can wait and let it slow compost. Or you can apply the brown material to the soil as a mulch, and then fertilize the plants and soil. I believe the third method is most efficient.

  6. #6
    New Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    IN, US
    Yea, some lawn fertilizer would help, as the wood chips will probably eat up the nitrogen in rabbit urine. I use a handful or two of lawn fertilizer per 1 foot layer of brown per "square pallet bin". Water the layers well, cover and let 'er rip.

    For another organic nitrogen source, I have heard tell that some folks have had the menfolk "water the jug" and dilute urine 1 to 10 with water and water the leaf compost in spring with that and have had wonderful compost come June.

  7. #7
    Sustainable Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    If you've got rabbit poop in there, lack of nitrogen may not be the problem.
    It could be that the pile is too dry, or the weather is just too cold. I would
    hose it down with a garden hose and turn it at least once, before doing
    anything else. A compost pile is often moist to the touch. (But not soaking wet.)

    If it's cold outside, don't add any nitrogen until the weather warms and
    it's still not doing anything.


  8. #8
    There isn't enough nitrogen to get it going. Although they have simplified the compost formula to "green parts" to "brown parts" the actual thing they are aiming for is a C:N ratio range of 25:1 to 30:1. Here's the problem... and it is exactly what you are dealing with..

    Straw is 80:1
    Newspaper is 170:1
    wood shavings 600+:1 (although wood shavings it does vary because aged shavings will start to break down in time but even at several years old you are still looking at content of carbon being well over 100)

    The reason they aim for carbon content to be between 20 to 35 is because that is the most efficient range for getting a pile to heat up, minimize nitrogen loss, speed, and least release of greenhouse gas emissions.

    You can cold compost, although it takes a long time, cold composts bring to the party the ability to suppress several soil born plant diseases. Hot composting is the fastest way to break down materials into simple compounds available for plant use, as well if you get the right temps it will kill off many pathogens (weed seeds, various bug eggs- like squash bugs for example- etc.) .. but that is targeting 150 degrees for a few days which is realllly challenging unless you have a big pile. (Yes... size matters for hot composting!)

    I used to hit up coffee shops for the grounds pretty much year round, although the most ideal time was in winter when the other gardeners weren't thinking about it! Starbucks has a program where they WANT you to take the grounds. Just have to call the store so they know to hold on to them the day you are wanting to collect it. Starbucks actually pays by weight for their refuse.. so while you get a free composting material (that is about 25:1 for spent grounds.. and they are pretty much neutral ph after brewing).. they also save $ and less gets sent to the landfill. (Grounds for Gardens)

    Fresh grass clippings are about 20:1 (if they dry out.. the carbon ratio goes up. Fresh grass is a "green" while dried out clipping are a "brown").

    Yes... animal parts will decompose (bone meal... blood meal are some great additives for the garden).. but the reason it is avoided is because of fats taking a long time to break down and it is attractive to scavengers.

    Ok... I'll shut up now. No doubt I have bored everyone silly. I kinda get into composting (hot, cold, vermicomposting). It started out just to improve the soil in my garden (which was miserable when we first moved there).. and when the garden finally began to thive... you get the mad scientist moment of yelling "MORE MORE MORE... I NEED MORE! MUAHAHAHAHA"

  9. #9
    Sustainable Regular Raeven's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    The Wilds of Oregon
    Kieriene, welcome, and thanks for all the great composting tips! LOL, I get the "MORE MORE MORE!!!" thing!! There is NEVER enough compost!!

    My composting consists of 2 massive heaps that get transferred from one place to the other. I throw everything in there but meat products, and that's only because it's just easier to give it to the dogs. One heap or the other is usually ready to use when I need it.

    Another thing I love about composting... I create so little trash. By the time I sort recyclables, compost my kitchen waste, newspapers, cardboard, animal manures, etc., I have so little to actually contribute to the landfill that I only head up to my local tip about every 3 months. That's a far cry from having something for curbside every single week. Makes me happy.

    I look forward to seeing more of your posts, Kierienne!

    Best, Rae
    Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change ready.

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