kitchen background

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lessons in Composting

A few months back I began working on my compost. I'd never done it before, and after reading about it, I thought, "How hard can it be?" You save some scraps, put them in a bin, and voila! compost!
Except, when I finally went to check on it, all I had was a stinky mess of rotting fruit and vegetable parts.
I've been on the phone with Master Gardeners and reading more about the subject, so that I can do this better the second time around. Here's what I've learned.

Compost needs air. I do remember hearing this. In fact, a friend told me that she had drilled holes in her bin to allow air in. I kind of bypassed this step since we don't have a drill. I thought maybe air coming in the top (since my bin doesn't have a lid) would be enough. It's not. Drill or cut holes.
Another way to get air to your compost is to have a compost pile instead of a compost bin.

Compost needs brown matter. This same friend told me that also. I did add some, but not enough. Brown matter can be dried leaves, straw, or dead grass clippings.

Compost needs bugs. Worms crawl in through those holes in your compost bin, and eat up the organic matter you've put in there. Even if no worms get in, tiny bugs (aka bacteria) will also do the job of eating up your discarded food material. I guess that's why composting will also work directly on the ground, because it allows those bugs access to your compost.

Compost needs water. The ingredients in your compost bin need to be moist to provide an environment where the bacteria can multiply.

Why Compost?
Composting reduces your waste. You will have less of an impact on the planet, and as a bonus, you have to take the trash out less.
Compost provides a gourmet meal for your garden. And my garden needs all the help it can get.


  1. Sounds great! Our compost is literally a pile on the ground. The chickens keep it pretty well turned over for me, but once in a while I go out and give it a good stir (shovel) and rake it back into an acceptable mound. I love not having the pressure of wasted food or produce gone bad. Its great for the garden!

    The only things we do not include in our compost are dairy, meat, bones and oils. Eggshells are great. I cut 4 inches off dd's hair the other day and threw that in too. :)

    A layer of dirt or grass clippings on top will keep flies away and eliminate any bad smell.

  2. I learned about compost from Curious George and it explained it pretty much like you! You should watch that episode. I can't find it on youtube or I would post it.

  3. Tiffany, actually, I saw that one! Good episode!
    Tamlynn, I didn't know you could compost dairy. Eggshells and hair I had heard of though.

  4. No, I said dairy was something we don't put in. Not that we throw out many dairy products.

  5. It also helps to chop up the fruits and vegetable waste that you put in into small pieces like 1/2" to 1" size to break it down faster. So tossing in the whole banana peal will take forever.
    Make sure you add a layer of browns after each addition of greens (food) to keep the flies away and the smell at bay.
    Turning your pile every week or so helps to get air into the center. This is where I slack off, I NEED to do it more often.

    Not sure how many readers you have in the same county, but here is a good program for composting, you can buy through the county. That is where I got mine and the info to start with a couple years ago. They also offer seminars.

  6. edeenut, thanks for passing that along!