I know. Composting is the last thing on your to-do list right now. Any time is a great time to begin, though, so why not now?
Composting is a mysterious thing. You put stuff grown from God’s green earth (stuff now dead) into a pile, and it becomes rich, black, earth again. Alive, full of nutrients for new growth. Wow, God amazes me with His design! The “new” earth derived from composting is an excellent soil amendment. Break apart your ground, mix in some compost, and suddenly you have a rich environment for plant growth. Better drainage, too.
When you’re ready to start composting, it’s easy to start small (and simple) and work your way toward a full composting system. This is my small start, my kitchen compost collector.
I ordered it from Bed Bath and Beyond on-line. Purchasing a kitchen container is not necessary. Any plastic tub with a lid will work. My grocer sells ice cream by the gallon in a tub with a handle and lid, which would be perfect for kitchen compost. This stainless container was my attempt at having something prettier than a plastic tub on the kitchen counter. As it turns out, I don’t keep it on the counter. Its home is in the cabinet under the sink.
A plus about this stainless container is that it will last a long time, and it has a filter that fits under the lid. Supposed to help with odor. I guess it works, ’cause there’s no odor. Or, maybe there’s no odor because I dump it out into the big compost often.
For a while, my “big compost” was a pile behind the garage, a spot mostly out of sight but not close to anything flammable. The pile gets hot while “cooking”, and it’s supposed to. It means all the micro-organisms are working.
This composter was crafted by my VHD (Very Handy Dad). (Thanks again, Dad!) This view shows the back side (and the winter weed-killing I need to do around it). The front side has doors that open to all three sections, making it easy to load and unload with my wagon.
Notice the section on the right is closest to the return to dirt. I built this pile first, and then started building the middle pile (section). Almost there, section number one will be perfect for spring.
The middle section is cooking fairly well now that I’ve gotten the pile pretty large.
I added this pumpkin a couple of weeks ago. A little late this year getting it off the front porch. The secret to composting is chopping with your shovel and turning the pile regularly. Hidden in this photo is the really good stuff under this “fresher” debris from the kitchen and recent yard clippings. I “pile on” for a while, and then I turn the pile and water it a little bit once a month or two. No need to get too fanatical about it, y’all.
The left side has completely new debris and has no dirt aspect to it yet. It needs to be a deeper pile. As I trim trees and other things through this winter, it’ll get bigger and will become my pile for Spring, 2014.
I put off composting for several years, even though I really wanted to get started. After much research about large composting systems and looking at pictures of designs on-line, I was a little intimidated by the perfection there. Deciding to purchase something prefab and checking prices at Home Depot and Lowe’s, I was intimidated by cost, as well. Why buy something expensive when I have all this leftover wood from building the barn? Just couldn’t justify it.
All this to say, stop designing in your head and creating the imaginary perfect composter. I’ve discovered that if you just pile it up somewhere (although your neighbors may balk), it will compost. Time, occasional watering and turning, and heat in the pile due to volume and content will make it happen, regardless of your “system”. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll be glad you did.
These are the things I commonly include and avoid in my compost.
used coffee and filters (natural filters with no bleach is best)
vegetable and fruit scraps (avoid onion root end, ’cause they don’t compost and are invasive!)
egg shells (no yolks or whites)
nut shells (peanuts, pecans, etc.)
No meat products, bread, or dairy. Think “green”, things grown from the earth, not animals. Egg shells are the exception.
small tree limbs and branches
pruning cuts from flowers, plants, and bushes
stall “muckings” (which I have plenty of, but that can be a weed issue, as well)
No weeds that contain seeds (composting kills some seeds, but with weeds, I don’t take any chances).