Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Kitchen Composter

Compost. Definition: decaying organic matter such as leaves, grass, food scraps, and manure used to improve soil and provide nutrients through microbial activity; a living culture of micro and macro organisms that convert organic matter into hummus. 

If you have a garden at all, or you're planning on starting one in the future, you really should have a compost pile going in your yard or on your homestead. And if you've decided to start preparing and serving more fresh fruits and vegetables, you really should consider getting a kitchen composter to save all those scraps for a compost pile. Why throw all those left overs from cooking into the garbage when they could be working for you to make your soil that much better! 

There are several kinds available on the market, including a fancy electric model that makes it right in your kitchen - for about $300 to $400. Hmmm... sounds like an urban high rise model to me. This would be appropriate if you were gardening on a balcony on the 9th floor of your apartment building. 

A more standard application would be a kitchen counter model. These come in a variety of materials such as ceramic, copper, plastic, bamboo with plastic liner, stainless steel, and metal. Check out these from Gardener's Supply...

The ceramic models are lovely indeed. They would look great on any kitchen counter. Clean up would be easy since this is a non-porous material. But these composters will be heavier than others and easy to chip or break. This would be fine if there are no children in the house (or clumsy adults!).

The copper model is gorgeous! Wouldn't this look great in an Old World, Tuscan, or French country kitchen? I don't think I can think of any negative on this one. The price is even reasonable for copper. (Maybe I should have picked this one!)

The plastic model would be great if you have young kids. There wouldn't be any worries about it getting damaged. And, it apparently can hang out of site! However, it does require some carbon filters for the top that absorb odors and would need replacing; an added expense. Also, I would be concerned about odors eventually seeping into the plastic. You can buy liners, but again, it's an added expense.

Ahhh, the lovely bamboo composter. Nice for the urbanite who loves contemporary style. The removable bucket would make it easy to transport the compost outside, easy clean up, and no worries about breaking. But, there's that smell issue again. Plastic seems to absorb odors - at least to me. Am I the only one who thinks so?

The stainless steel model is an excellent choice. Easy to clean, non-porous, no smells. Light weight and easy to transport. Okay, there are those nasty fingerprints on the sides occasionally. If you're a perfectionist, this one probably isn't for you. Oh, and see those holes in the top? Good for ventilation, but that means you need carbon filters again. 

Okay, here's one from Vintage Tub and Bath. Now I know most of you will go, "Yeah, that's the one for me!". Makes my heart go pitter patter. But hold on... It requires filters (which you could skip, but you'd have to empty it every day - no excuses - or you're kitchen will start to smell). And it's pricy coming in at nearly $50. That white color would be a selling point if it doesn't chip.

So, I guess you'd like to know which one I use. Being both practical and yet desiring good looks, I chose the brushed stainless steel model from Gardener's Supply.

I selected this one for several reasons. The brushed stainless would repel fingerprints to a degree, it was non-porous, had no holes in the top which meant it didn't require any carbon filters, and it was light weight. It wouldn't chip when the girls hauled it outside and decided to jump on the trampoline a bit with it before returning to the house. Clean up is a breeze and it repels odors. At the same time, I think it looks great! And the cost? Only a mere $19.95 with no need to buy bags or filters (guess I already said that!).

Tips for Composting

1. To really utilize those kitchen scraps, you need to keep this out on the counter all the time. If it's out of site, you'll forget about it. And it won't be pleasant when you finally return to it. Keeping your composter close at hand means every left over item will go into the compost pile to be recycled into hummus! Or shared with farm animals if appropriate.

2. Empty your composter ever day or every other day to prevent food odors in your kitchen and an unpleasant trip to the compost pile to dump decaying matter. It's always nicer to empty a pail of fresh scraps!

3. When company comes, just stick it under the kitchen sink or better yet, leave it out as a conversation piece!

4. Teach the kids to use it (including what to put in and what not to put in it). They'll begin to learn about soil, dirt, and maybe even earthworms! (What kid doesn't love this stuff?). They can help transport it to the pile for you as well! 

5. Wash it out with soap and water every time you dump it. If you do, you'll never have an unpleasant odor in your house.

I love this topic. Tomorrow I want to talk more about composting. Like what to put in your pail or pile and what not to include. And I haven't even touched on the subject of composting in bins with earthworms! This dirt subject is DEEP.

 For those of you who already compost, want to share any tips or thoughts?


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