Help please!

We have a compost tumbler that we have recently purchased to share with our landlords.  We are each adding food scraps (4 adults+1 toddler worth) and it's getting stinky.

Despite my best efforts (breaking and cutting up dry twigs to add etc) it is showing all signs of being too high in nitrogen.  I don't have any dry leaves stored as it's our first gardening year.  

What do you add to your compost as carbon (other than Autumn leaves)?

Many thanks


Views: 186

Replies to This Discussion

Miriam you could use old newspapers, avoid using the shiny paper as it is high in clay fillers.  Brown cardboard can be used as well but you will need to cut both the newspaper and cardboard up so that it can break down.


If you get down to your local garden centre they should have some straw (pea straw preferable) which is a good source of carbon to add and helps to aerate the material.  Aeration is important so that you get the oxygen into the material.  Carbon needs to be about 2/3 of the pile to 1/3 of nitrogen materials.  Keep any meat and fats out of the pile eh.  Stick with it and you will get there and soon it will be smelling sweet, well better anyway.

Your problem is that your compost bin is stinky.
There can be many reasons for that, besides the one you're mentioning.

This being said, I'll focus only on nitrogen excess. In fact, nitrogen is in very small amounts is the kitchen scraps that are allowed to go in compost, coffee grounds being an exception perhaps.
Carbon is always the most important factor in composting, even on it's own with bacteria and enough it break down "earthily", while kitchen scraps will rot through fungi, bacteria, enzymes and insect decomposition : the stinky way if they don't have enough carbon, or too much water, not enough bacteria, incorrect temperatures etc...
Now about carbon sources : finely shredded : paper, cardboard,avoid anything glossy as @Mark said.
Sawdust. I know charcoal is very high in carbon but I haven't experimented with it, I would put charcoal powder.

All the best :)

I forgot to add, you personally may not have dead leaves, but you may find them very easily in forest, woods, public parks, or from neighbors. Post online in the "Wanted" section of trade me, freestuff, freecycle, etc...You'd be surprised that people answer sometimes :)

Hi Miriam.

I have to admit to being a compost fanatic, having a compost tumbler and 8 compost bins of assorted shapes and sizes.

Ok, here's a list of 'brown's that you can add to the 'greens' you have in your tumbler:

● Tissues, paper towels and napkins (unless they have been in contact with
meat or disease)
● Tumble dryer lint (from natural fibre clothes)
● Old natural fibre clothes (e.g. woolly jumpers or cotton t-shirts
– make sure you cut them into small pieces)
● Vacuum bag contents(as long as you have natural fibre carpets)
● Garden prunings
● Toilet and kitchen roll tubes (preferably shredded)
● Woody clippings
● Dry leaves, twigs and hedge clippings
● Human and pet hair (slow to break down)
● Cotton threads/String(made from natural fibres)
● Feathers
● Wool
● Newspaper(scrunched up)
● Shredded confidential documents
● Straw and hay
● Vegetarian pet bedding
● Ashes from wood,paper (moderate amounts only)
● Sawdust and wood chippings
● Corn cobs and stalks
● Cereal boxes
● Corrugated cardboard packaging (scrunched up in small amounts)
● Pine needles and cones (although slow to compost don’t put too much in)
● Egg shells (but crush them first to speed up composting)

Ideal mix of greens and browns should be roughly 50/50.

Hope this helps.

Thanks so much everyone, your helpful comments are much appreciated.

I am still curious tough, what do you -personally- use as the main carbon additions to your compost bin(s)?

I'm off to my neighbour's place today to see what I can rake up, after these high winds! :)


My main source of carbon is leaves, not only from our own place but also anywhere local I can find them. Also I use wood chips of which I've had 2 loads delivered free over the past year by a friendly aborist. On top of that, I also use shredded paper (non-glossy advertising material, shredded documents, tissue paper, etc).

Pea straw, I find it breaks down quicker than other types of straw.  Shredded newspaper (no shiny pages due to high clay content) cardboard brown only, dead garden material and leaves if they are available.  That sort of stuff I think you get the picture.

I personally like plants that have fulfilled there life cycle and have gone 'woody'. Cornstalks, sunflower stalks, flowered and seeded brasicas, broad bean-pea/bean vines after the seeds have dried and been saved, globe and jerusalem artichoke flower stems..... e.c.t :)

Spot on Roxy excellent carbon additions to the compost.



  • Add Photos
  • View All

© 2020   Created by Pete Russell.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service