Thursday, May 6, 2010

Composting 101

Quite a few folks have asked me for additional information about composting, and as weird as it is for me to think that I might actually know a little something about something, when it comes to composting, apparently I actually kind of do. Crazy! ;)

So I guess that I'll begin at the beginning. Compost, by definition, according to Merriam-Webster is "a mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter and is used for fertilizing and conditioning land." Basically, do-it-yourself dirt.

Compost can be made from TONS of different things - plant-based kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, fallen leaves, straw, food-soiled paper, most animal manure, twigs, newsprint, wood chips, wood ash, etc. The ideal formulation for a compost heap consists of 1/3 "green" ingredients, and 2/3 "brown".

Green ingredients-
Vegetables & Fruits
Grass clippings
Coffee Grounds
Fresh Manure (horse, poultry, sheep, goat, cow, rabbit and -believe it or not- bat are the most common)
Aquarium water & plants
Plant cuttings/trimmings
Wine making/Homebrew leavings - yeast dregs, must, etc.
(It isn't on most lists, but I also throw my fish carcasses - especially salmon - in my compost heap because of their outrageously high nitrogen content. They can be very attractive to rodents and other critters though, so use sparingly.)

Brown Ingredients-
Egg Shells
Tea Bags
Wood Chips
Wood Ash
Corn Cobs

The compost heap or bin itself can be as simple or as fancy as you make it. Some folks use tumbling or stackable bins to help aerate and mix their compost, while others have nothing more than a literal heap of clippings and scraps in a corner of their yard. Most people opt for something in the middle, such as a refrigerator box with the bottom cut out or four wooden pallets knocked together to form a bottomless box.

When starting a bin or heap, take time to consider it's placement. Though your heap, if assembled with the proper proportions of ingredients and reasonably well tended, shouldn't smell much if at all, the possibility of smell issues is still a consideration. You won't want to put it right under your kitchen window, for instance. ;)

Another consideration when initially assembling your bin/heap is animal activity. If you live in an area with raccoons, opossums, etc., you'll probably want to make a closeable/contained bin. Otherwise your kitchen scraps will be eaten or strewn about regularly by marauding wildlife.

Once you've made or chosen a bin, and begin throwing you scraps and yard waste in there, all that you really have to do after that is to make sure that your compost stays moist, and that you turn/aerate the pile every few weeks to a month to ensure adequate airflow. That's it! You're composting!

Coming up, er... eventually; Composting 102 - the finer points of turning stuff into dirt. ;)

1 comment:

  1. You are a godsend! Todd and I were talking about this yesterday because I'd rather put compost around my veggies than mulch or straw.....THANK YOU