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Too mucn brown material

Posts: 100
Location: Napa CA
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I imagine you get this question a lot. I have a yard that produces a large amount of leaves and plant trimmings of various sorts. Most of the trimmings are viny or spiked stemmed materials citrus etc. At the moment I have hundreds of palm fronds which will need to be separated from the the stem one way or another. So can I compost them in any way without green material? In general I seem to have a green material crisis like many others I suspect Can adding urine for the nitrogen help the process? Thanks
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hugelkultur cat duck fungi solar
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Yes I had a similar issue with a huge mass of leaves I accumulated. I used urine and coffee grounds and noticed that it would keep the pile pretty hot even in the cooler fall temps last year. Coffee grounds alone would have been enough if I could have gotten my hands on more but when I noticed it cooling down a bit I would just mix in what I had
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Inline with Dr. Elaine Ingham's composting, you really do need a more balanced compost with manure (or other high nitrogen source) consisting of no more than 10% of the starting material.

My secret sauce for adding green (because I too lack green material) is to sprout a bag of oats, a bag of sunflower seeds, and to add a bag of pelletized alfalfa. The rinse water from the sprouts is loaded with bacteria and bacteria food which is the component you are missing. The alfalfa is bacteria food. You are trying to feed bacteria and feed fungal elements. They are the source food for critters higher up on the soil life food chain.
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Unless you are managing sward for cutting, "too much brown" is a common problem in most ecosytems. If it is leaves you are lucky.

Particle size governs decomposition rate in addition to nitrogen. If you don't use a chipper, a sharp machete (fine single cut file) is a great tool for processing coarse mulch. A dull machete is not. I add urine directly to coarse woody mulch piles. This is a coarse rural "look". I generally make "compost piles" in locations for future plantings.

Here's some other ideas.

You could also stockpile, and then hire a tree service to chip periodically if that fits your money vs. time position on the continuum.
gardener & author
Posts: 612
Location: Equatorial tropics
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Yes - all good ideas, folks. That's why I love this site.

Really, the key element in the whole thing is... time.

If you simply put the excess browns aside in a corner of the yard, they will all break down. I've also used palmetto and cabbage palm fronds as the weedblock layer in sheet mulching projects instead of cardboard.

I tend to view the extra browns as good fungi food and put them directly on the ground in my food forest.

Finer stuff can be piled next to a main composting area and mixed with greens as they become available. Again (I said this in another thread and in my book), don't use any cow or horse or goat or alpaca or any grazing animal manure or straw/hay from off-site. The risk of long-term herbicide destroying your gardens is very high.
Posts: 4
Location: Austin, Tx
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Have you contacted all your local coffee shops?

My experience here in Austin is that there is an oversupply of spent grounds and shops give me more than I could ever use. I pick up a 5 gallon bucket every few days from my regular joint and the proprietor is practically begging for me take more.
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