At the moment I am adding paper, cardboard (including toilet rolls, cereal boxes, pizza boxes), bark and dead leaves to my compost heap.

However, I am in desperate need for more browns as I can't keep up with the greens my garden is generating.

What other sources of browns am I missing?

  • I think you have your 'browns' covered, if you can't keep up with the 'greens', is it an idea to limit the 'greens' a bit? Keep that aside for when more browns are available?
    – benn
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 10:38
  • My problem is that the greens start decomposing and then the smells and the insects come. Ideally I wouldn't have this problem if I could simply match my greens with an equal amount of browns or more. How do other gardeners deal with this issue? I don't want to resort to disposing of my organic waste with my municipal trash. Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 11:01
  • I understand the problem. Maybe you can get some hay or straw somewhere? Or wood snips?
    – benn
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 11:12
  • Coffee grounds!? And... Earthworms
    – Christy B.
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 1:24

2 Answers 2


This is a common problem. Farmers can generate enough browns eg corn stalks, hay, straw for composting but for the rest of us, we probably have to use autumn leaves. And if we don't have our own trees, we have to scavenge them from neighbours while avoiding the leaves from certain trees such as walnut, oak, holly, laurel, rose, pine and rhododendron.

If you don't want to buy in straw, and you can't get leaves, then the next thing to do is to change the way you compost.

  1. Change to sheet composting i.e. just bury your greens. They'll compost anaerobically but you won't get the smell
  2. First Bokashi treat your kitchen waste. This "preserves it" and makes it less palatable to animals. And then bury it. It will compost faster than just burying it. This is what I do.
  3. Change to vermicomposting. Once you have enough worms, you won't worry about getting browns, but having enough kitchen waste to keep up! I do this too - I have a large pile of kitchen waste which I dump on a pile well away from the house. If it smells, I'll throw some dirt on it. But over time a huge colony of compost worms is living in the pile. I'm also on the roster for the local coffee shop to take their green waste and coffee grounds which I chuck on this pile.
  • I like both these answers!
    – Christy B.
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 1:26

Personally, I would not use any paper and cardboard for brown composing. There are many chemicals (ink, stabilizers, protection to UV, UV fluorescence, etc.), which would undermine the main reason to make composting.

But also your greens, if it start to smell (greens from garden), there is something wrong.

In general green will generate compost also without brown stuffs. Just more slowly. But I think it is a general problem to all people: in summer there are too much green and on late fall too much browns. But nature work in such manner. Mixing helps for late spring, but I would keep some branches for summer: these branches give some N, but helps also to aerate the structure (in case of lawn green) and help to have better compost. On the other hand, in autumn you need less compost output, so if composing will be slower, let it be slow.

Try to identify why insects will reach your green compost and why it smell so much. In theory a good compost would attract many insect (a mix green and brown), and also larger animals.

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