### Look at all that lovely rotting stuff...

For the active composter there are a few key parts of the composting process that they will need to keep an eye in order to help the compost along in the most efficient way. What exactly those parts are can be a subject of much heated discussion but in general most people that deal with compost agree on the following four.

Credit: personal photoHaving these four keys of composting in sync can lead to producing quality compost in an efficient and predictable manner. Which for anyone that needs or wants compost on a larger scale it is vitally important to fully understand what the four keys of composting above can do to your pile if they are not managed correctly.

How much of the carbon rich materials aka Browns and how much of the nitrogen rich materials aka Greens you put in your compost can have a large impact on the quality, quantity and rate at which you produce your compost. When building a compost pile the general rule of thumb to be followed is about a 30:1 C:N ratio. This ratio provides the right mix of carbon to nitrogen that allows the microorganisms in the pile to work at their peak efficiency. Why this ratio is so important comes right down to the microorganisms and how they use each element. Carbon is used by them as an energy source that they “burn” to go about their business of making compost. While nitrogen on the other hand is a critical element in forming cell structures of new microorganisms that help compost the pile.

Getting the right mixture

Getting the correct ratio of materials in your pile can be a easy or as hard as you want to make it. There are ways to directly calculate the C:N ratio of your materials using equations like the ones used by the Cornell University. Or if you don’t feel like suffering a large headache that the math will give you can simple guess using a sheet of carbon: nitrogen ratios that can be found all over the Internet. By taking a look at the general values of C:N in everyday composting materials you can usually make a good guess at the right amounts of what needs to go into a pile. One rule of thumb that many composters follow is to always layer your materials. If you add a layer of Greens then you should place a layer of Browns on top of it. One more thing to keep in mind is that composting is not a exact science and no pile will be exactly the same as the last. You must be flexible with your approaches and observant of what your pile is doing. If you pay enough attention to your pile will give you clues to what is going on and with a little research you can fix problems quickly.