Compost with Success

The weekly ritual of taking out the trash is a commitment in aerobics, strength, and quite possibly, avoiding toxic fumes! Organic trash can comprise kitchen waste, such as eggshells, coffee grounds, peels from potatoes, carrots, bananas, celery and much more. For example, the contents from your Roomba, used paper towels, napkins, and other paper products.  Did you know all of these are decomposable?  Yes, the act of taking a small bucket of scraps with a breathable lid to your compost pile is an extra step, but the rewards are worth it.  

The “Container” 

The purpose of a “bin” is to establish a location that will receive direct sunlight and moisture.  You can use inexpensive materials like old pallets, scrap lumber, chicken wire, or concrete blocks to create a simple two- or three-system enclosure. Otherwise, you can buy a ready-made system online or at a lawn and garden store.

Placement Is Important

Now that you have decided to go forth with composting, finding a well-chosen site relatively close to the house may be the hardest part.

A few points to consider:

  • How far are you willing to walk to “dump” a bucket of kitchen scraps?
  • If the bin is constructed next to the garden, think how easy it will be to collect the harvest and toss the excess into the composter. There will no longer be a need to worry about bringing bugs into the house or discarding bulky organic waste.
  • Will a water hose stretch to your bin?  Compost requires some water, especially in the heat of the summer.  But too much water, and the decomposition process will result in a putrid odor. If this occurs, there are easy solutions, such as turning the pile or adding “good browns,” like dried leaves or shredded newspaper. Good compost should always have a “sweet” smell.

The Recipe 

In having a compost bin, you’ll always have extra soil to amend the garden or add around bushes or flower beds.  With the support and contribution of each member of the family, the task of composting is quite simple!  It requires four ingredients: nitrogen, carbon, moisture, and air.  

  • One Part Nitrogen Source:  Greens comprise heavy materials that rot quickly while producing microbial growth.  Examples are grass clippings, garden trimmings, and kitchen waste.  
  • Two Parts Carbon Source: Brown compost contains a high carbon content, such as paper, shredded woody materials, and straw.  Since “browns” are dry and bulky and decompose slowly, they provide the perfect catalyst for the “green” ingredients to receive air.  
  • Air:  Oxygen is a necessary vehicle to stimulate microorganisms and decomposition.  Tumbler systems allow the contents to move, creating pockets of air, advancing the process; otherwise, a pitchfork works just as well to lift and fluff.  As the microbes work to break down the matter, heat is generated. The center of the pile can reach temperatures up to 150 degrees!  Active turning encourages the distribution of heat from the sides to the middle.  
  • Moisture:  Open systems provide a natural means to add water; however, the compost should be damp and not soggy.  

What Else Is Compostable?
The list of compostable items is truly grand. Beyond the rinds, seed pits, and peels, you also can compost: 

  • wood chips
  • burnt matches
  • post-it notes
  • lint from the dryer
  • outdated seeds
  • wood ash
  • sawdust
  • shredded newspaper
  • Kleenex tissues
  • old spices
  • pencil shavings
  • leaves
  • houseplant trimmings
  • flower petals
  • nut shells
  • receipts
  • cereal boxes

Of course, the list continues. 

Compost Tea 

Did your grandmother ever add a scoop of compost and twenty parts rainwater to a bucket or watering can, stirring periodically, across two to four hours?  It was a routine immersed in love to boost the nutrient levels of her plants.  The same result occurs when you drink a hot cup of infused herbal tea.  The water-soluble nutrients will have an impact on your body, encourage strength and wellness!  Give it a try! 

*Lisa is an N.C. State Master Gardener Volunteer and a state-certified beekeeper.


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