Nitrogen vs. carbon - What's the difference?

Well, there IS a little bit of science behind the madness of composting...

If your a little bit of a geek and a little bit interested in learning what exactly materials are made of...have a look into the C/N ratio (carbon to nitrogen ratio). There are a lot of numbers, calculations and funny symbols that to be honest, give me a little headache and are not too necessary for basic composting. If you're just starting up, i would recommend getting the basics down packed first. 

When we talk about materials we can compost, we organise and identify them into either a nitrogen or carbon​ category. This is a simple way of categorising items however it is important to note that ALL materials include both properties and it is just the primary ratio of what they contain that we use to define them. So, in the simplest terms possible...

Nitrogen items are essentially defined as "green" materials. This is because they are materials that are mostly fresh and moist. 

Carbon items are essentially defined as "Brown" materials. These are usually items that are ​dry, brown and dead. 

But, what material is what?

Well, to make it easier for you...we have listed some general items below in alphabetical order. If there is something your looking for and you don't know how you should categorise it, just remember green or brown, wet or dry? Add to the plot and let it rot!

C = Carbon
N = Nitrogen
O = Alkaliser / Activator

Material

Identifier

Cardboard

C

Coffee grounds

N

Corn cobs

C

Crushed egg shells

O / Alkaliser

Feathers

N

Food scraps

N

Fruit/Fruit peels/Fruit rinds

N

Garden debris/Clippings- Dried

C

Garden debris/Clippings - Fresh

N

Hair

N

Hay

C

Leaves - Dried

C

Leaves - Fresh

N

Lint

Manure

N

Paper/Paper towel

C

Peanut shells

C

Pine cones/Needles

C

Pumpkin

N

Saw dust

C

Seaweed

N

Soil

O / Activator

Straw

C

Tea grounds and leaves

N

Vegetable scraps

N

Wood chips

C

Wood ashes

O / Alkaliser

Have a question about nitrogen or carbon that hasn't been answered from this article?

No problem...hit us up with a comment below and we will endeavour to get back to you ASAP!

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