Put Your Garbage to Work by Composting

After becoming interested in learning to grow some of my own fruits and vegetables, I started reading about composting. Compost is an important resource for your garden because it adds nutrients to the soil. Of course you can purchase organic compost, but by making your own, you save money and you are helping the planet by using some waste for your compost instead of putting it in the trash. When you compost, you should aim for 1/3 green material and 2/3 brown material. Green materials are things like food scraps, leaves, grass clippings, manure, and other nitrogen rich materials. Examples of brown materials are shredded up paper bags, branches, bark, dried leaves, tea bags, coffee, coffee filters, egg shells and other similar materials rich in carbon (http://eartheasy.com/grow_compost.html). When I compost I try to pay attention to the general ratio of 1/3 green to 2/3 brown. I have also heard 50% brown and 50% green. That being said, I don't obsess over this. I think there is a margin of error that can be tolerated. Usually I add the straw and manure waste after cleaning my chicken coops, my left over coffee grounds, tea bags, compostable egg cartons or other containers, egg shells, and all of my plant food waste.

You don't need an expensive compost tumbler. You can compost directly on the ground or some cities have programs where you can purchase an old city garbage can for next to nothing. They cut the bottom off and drill some air holes. The can sits directly on the ground and has a flip lid to help retain moisture. Once you start your compost pile, moisture is important. It needs stay to stay damp, but not soaking wet, to break down all of the matter. I live in a dry environment so I typically add a little water to my compost daily or every other day. It is also important to flip your compost. I use a shovel to aerate and stir mine about once a week and then I flip it completely monthly.

I was warned initially my compost pile would attract pests and bugs. First, you need bugs to assist in the break down process. The bugs, however are not crawling all over your yard or becoming an issue in the house. They prefer to hang out in the compost. I see bugs and lizards when I flip my compost, but other than that I'm not really aware of the creatures working in there. Pests can be a problem if you put meats or bones in your compost pile. This should be avoided.

Composting is fun for me. I enjoy the visual science of watching all of those raw materials break down into a nutrient dense material for my garden. It is also rewarding to see how much less trash you have once you start composting. This aspect was difficult for me at first because I didn't know where to put all of the garbage in the house before it made it to the compost bin. I still don't really have a perfect system. I have a coffee can in my kitchen with a lid that I use to put peels, egg shells, left over coffee grounds, etc. Depending on how much I cook, I empty it daily or every other day. If I'm preparing a big dinner and have quite of bit of food waste, I take it out to the bin immediately. I have also used recycled bread bags and stored scraps in my fridge until later when I could take them out. Anything works as long as you don't leave uncovered food waste out on your counter. This will attract pests in your house! I like the idea of this composting bin from Amazon. A friend of mine has one and says it works great - no smell and easy to manage. It has a charcoal filter, and looks more attractive than my coffee cans on the countertop. This may be my next purchase.



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