C:N Ratio and Keeping Compost Moist in Our Climate

Questions and AnswersCategory: QuestionsC:N Ratio and Keeping Compost Moist in Our Climate
admin asked 10 years ago
We are just starting to compost and I was wondering if in the southwest do we still use a 20/1 ratio of brown to green? And should we have an enclosed composter or will a fenced area work? My concern is the pile drying out.

3 Answers
admin answered 10 years ago
Answer by WR:
I think most recommend 25:1 or 30:1. But 20:1 or 40:1 also work. It’s hard to be exact anyway. I’m not an expert on the C:N ratio but checked the numbers with slides on this page on our website: http://bernalilloextension.nmsu.edu/mastercomposter/compost-mix-calculator.html. I’m not sure, but I don’t think the C:N numbers in the southwest are particularly different than other parts of the country. Of course, keeping compost moist is a big issue here in the southwest and an enclosed composter helps with that. But most of the composters I know here in Albuquerque use fence-type bins and often keep them covered with a lid or blanket or tarp. Check out some of the pictures on this page: http://bernalilloextension.nmsu.edu/mastercomposter/meet-the-composters.html. If you can put your bin in the shade that really helps. I compost without a bin. I’m lucky to have a shady spot in the corner of my big back yard, away from the house. During the summer, I do water it a bit nearly every day with the garden hose. It’s part of my morning routine in the garden. That seems sufficient to keep it moist. Of course, it would be better if I covered it, but since the pile is visible from my house, I wouldn’t want to look at an old rug or some such. I do enjoy seeing the pile. This is a recent picture of it: http://bernalilloextension.nmsu.edu/mastercomposter/ask-a-master.html. I had lots of red worms appear in my pile many years ago and at some point I added a few more. So, I’m doing a combination vermicompost and regular cold compost, I guess. It seems to work well. The worms seem happy and I get great compost. It’s great to hear you are starting to compost. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Please don’t hesitate to send more questions.

admin answered 10 years ago
Answer by WR, Addendum:
I just reread your question and see you asked about ratio of browns to greens (vs carbon to nitrogen). The ratio of browns to greens would depend on how much carbon or nitrogen are in the actual material you are using. Be sure to check out [Omar’s slides](http://docs.nmcomposters.org/carbon-nitrogen-ratio-simplified.pdf). The 9th slide talks about mixing greens and browns. But please don’t worry too much about these ratios. If it starts smelling bad, you probably have too many greens (or need to turn the pile). If it’s just sitting there not changing into compost, you probably have too many browns (or are not watering and turning often enough). I find that if I just throw in what I have available it works well nearly all the time.

admin answered 10 years ago
Answer by JZ:
I think that WR has answered your questions. You are very welcome to attend one of our classes which are open/free to the public. See this link: http://bernalilloextension.nmsu.edu/mastercomposter/schedule.html