Friday, April 8, 2011

Compost : how to

Originally posted on the farm blog on April 6, 2011

Composting is amazing.

Composting is:
1) easy
2) cost effective
3) provides free energy for your garden
4) reduces waste

Side note: in compost speak ... brown matter = dry waste like grape vines, dry leaves, dried grass, chicken litter, egg shells, tissues, newspapers .... green matter = wet waste like fruit/veggie waste ... at least this is how I organize this in my head

8 Easy steps to get started:
1 ) create a compost site*
2 ) Decide on a container to use indoors for your compost - a lid for the container is a nice bonus. We use an old pot. Josh's family uses the largest yogurt or similar container they can find. My parents use a stainless steal container they purchased for this purpose - kind of like this, another composting friend bought a ceramic one like this.
3 ) Add 2 parts brown to 1 part green to your container Fill your container with any food scraps or paper goods. We include: tissues, paper towels (when we use them), as well as food items. The only food items you can not include are fats, dairy, and meats. These attract pests quicker than they break down. We also line our container with a sheet of newspaper to ease the transfer from indoor container to compost. During the winter we keep the indoor compost bin right next to the garbage bag. In the summer fruit flies tend to hang out in our indoor compost bin and we're not a fan of that. So we keep our indoor bin near the back door or even on the back porch and empty it more frequently.
4 ) bring indoor bin to outdoor compost pile and dump contents of bin
5 ) top newly added ingredients with dry/brown matter
6 ) optional: stir every once in a while
7 ) when you notice your compost is dry seeming - it probably is. Water it. This is only necessary in the summer and is an argument for picking a shady spot for your compost
8 ) when your compost area is full-ish then ignore it for a while and start adding to the other area you've designated. This gives the resting pile time to break down and create the rich compost you're wanting.

Compost is created by the work of tiny organisms that break down this waste. These organisms work better when it's warm. This means by spring, if you've been composting all winter, you're likely to have a large pile in the compost bin. As the summer heats up the composting process also heats up and happens much more rapidly.

*Considerations for your compost site:
-->The compost site should be close enough that you'll be willing to walk out to the pile at least weekly in the winter (more frequently in the summer) but you also want a location that's not too close to your house - compost is rotting food and waste materials, after all.
-->If possible have at least two but preferably three piles. That way you can leave one to rest while adding to the other (and the third would be useful for storing brown composting material that you may have access to in abundance only during certain times of the year - think leaves - you can then pull from this as you need brown matter).

*Container options for your compost:
~we used pallets we found on craigslist
~ purchase a compost bin
~any bucket/container by drilling holes at regular intervals into the floor and side walls of your container
~just start a pile

This is what has worked for us and what we plan to continue to do on a larger scale when we move (in 2.5 weeks!). I've found composting to be pretty intuitive and forgiving. What are some ways you've made composting work for you?

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