Composting

Diane - 4, if lucky!!May 24, 1998

I have been reading that you can shred newpaper and add it to your compost pile. Any suggestions from someone who has done this? How fine do you have to shred the paper? How do you keep it from becoming a glumpy mess? I just add stuff all the time to my compost pile. Recycling newspaper is out of the question because of my location. Thank you.

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Bob

Diane,
Newspaper, which is just another form of wood pulp, will compost, but like any other type of compost raw material, too much of it will cause problems. The finer it's shredded, the faster it will breakdown. This is similar with any compost raw materials and is based on the fact that the smaller the material the large the surface area on which microorganisms have to work.

A lot of newspaper, shredded or not, will hold too much water and there will be insufficient air to support the microorganisms. Thus the newspaper must be mixed with other raw materials that will provide proper aeration. The key to good composting is a balance of air and water in the pile. You can often determine the right air/moisture level by simply taking a hand full of compost raw materials and feeling it. It should be moist to the touch, but if you squeeze it, you shouldn't be able to squeeze water out of it.

The other factor with newsprint is the carbon to nitrogen ratio. The best composting occurs at a ratio of 30 to 1. Newsprint will have a higher C/N ratio, usually about 100 to 1. Thus you'll have to supply some material with a fair amount of nitrogen, such as grass clippings, fresh weeds, or a manure source. If you're familiar with the greens and browns concept of composting, newspaper is a brown.

If you give newspaper composting a try, let us know how it comes out.

Bob (in Maryland)

    Bookmark   May 26, 1998 at 12:34AM
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JUDIE - 7 I THINK

I USE ALL OF MY DAILY NEWSPAPER IN THE COMPOST PILE WITHOUT ANY PROBLEMS. FIRST I SOAK IT IN THE MORNING DISH WATER AND RIP DOWN THE LENGTH OF THE PAPER INTO 2 INCH WIDTHS-THE KEY IS TO HAVE THE PAPER THOROUGHLY SOAKED. I THEN PUT IT INTO MY BUCKET (UNDER THE SINK) UNTIL IT GETS FULL OF THE USUAL STUFF THAT GOES INTO THE PILE IE VEGGIES-FRUIT- SOAKED CARDBOARD CONTAINERS-COFFEE FILTERS/GROUNDS-EGG SHELLS ETC. WISH YOU COULD SEE& SMELL THE COMPOST--DELIGHTFUL JUST ASK MY PLANTS-THEY COO WHEN I PASS BY WITH THE WHEELBARROW FULL OF THE STUFF. IF YOU THINK THIS STUFF IS GOOD, YOU SHOULD SEE WHAT MY WORM COMPOST DOES FOR MY BABIES(PLANTS-OF COURSE) WISH I DID THIS YEARS AGO AND SAVED ALL MY MONEY AND NOT BOUGHT COMMERCIAL PRODUCTS.

    Bookmark   June 21, 1998 at 9:48PM
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Stacey(z5 IA)

For my compost bin, I use a home/office shredder. It allows me to shred lots of newspaper, without too much effort. I often use it to cover vegetable scraps in the heap. I understand that newspaper has a high concentration of carbon, so I put it in loosely, and in smaller amounts than the nitrogen items. Seems to work like a charm.

    Bookmark   August 19, 1998 at 6:34PM
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Carol Z5PA

Another use for shredded newspaper is as mulch. We shred used computer paper, too, in our home shredder, and I have it all around my squash plants at the moment. Otherwise, I use a great deal of newspaper, up to 8 sheets thick, as a base mulch on the paths between my raised beds, on top of which I add 4-6" of woodchips. Since unshredded mewspaper, just like unshredded leaves, mats together and resists rotting down, this maintains a clean walkway for several years without needing to be replenished. I also place 4-sheet-thick layers of newspapers on sod which I plan to turn into planting beds the following year. Unsightly, but I add about 8-10" of ground leaves over the top. By the next spring, I can till it all under and get a nice, friable ready-to-plant soil. (After tilling, I wait a couple of weeks before planting to let the soil microorganisms "do their thing" a bit more; also to allow any weed seeds to germinate, after which I cultivate very shallowly to knock those seedlings down and avoid bringing more to the surface.) CK

    Bookmark   August 23, 1998 at 7:51AM
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richard(inland CA, 9a)

Is the ink and toner used on newspapers and office paper harmful to the soil/plants/me?

    Bookmark   December 27, 1999 at 3:38PM
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Cathy - 5

I'm told the NY Times uses vegetable based dyes so even the colored pages are ok, but I wouldn't swear by any other newspaper. Please forgive me if I sound like a conceited New Yorker!

    Bookmark   December 29, 1999 at 7:00PM
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Bob - Zone 6a MO

Newsprint 398-852:1
Paper from domestic refuse 127-178:1
Cornell Composting

Mixed paper 150-200:1
Newsprint or corrugated cardboard 560:1
Cornell Composting, Compost Chemistry section

When Bob from Maryland said newsprint was around 100:1, I think he was using a number for other types of paper.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2000 at 1:58PM
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daveg - 10/CA

Wanna hear a story of what NOT to do with newspapers? About 4 years ago I decided I was going to eventually start a garden in a section of my property. I decided that until I got down to it, I would at least star a compost pile. I had a small enclosure of perhaps 15' by 20'. I threw in weeds, twigs, yard waste, kitchen waste, and of course newspapers. The pile was about 12' to 15' feet high by the time I stopped adding to it.

I figured that it would all me rich compost by the time I was ready to become a gardener. Now, I never turned it. I occassionally watered it with a hose.

The pile pretty much stayed high. It didn't shrink like I thought it would. I also didn't see much compost.

Finally I decided to begin gardening. I started digging through the pile. The newspapers that I had thrown in whole were still readable!

I learned a lot since then and have a great garden and a great compost pile. But, I always shred the papers and I always mix in the greens right away.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2000 at 5:59PM
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Mabel

I am new to gardening and would like to know how to correctly compost at home. What materials would I need and what is the best process. Thanks

    Bookmark   October 1, 2001 at 9:32AM
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annp(z5 ME)

Check out the Soil, Compost and Mulch forum.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2001 at 10:46AM
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sonal(INDIA)

literature on vermicomposting of industrial waste

    Bookmark   October 22, 2001 at 2:36AM
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rdmiller(Z9)

Need advice. I have a rotating barrel I bought for making compost. Seems to be working fine, but the compost is clumping into softball-sized clumps. It has been too wet, but I am now leaving the lid off every day to dry it out some. Still clumps, though. I take it this is bad. How can I stop it from clumping?

Thanks.

Ralph Miller

    Bookmark   March 21, 2002 at 1:59PM
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