Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Composting Around the House

Composting is easy generally easy for the home gardener and what little work is involved is definitely worth the effort.  And while there is a lot of actual science behind composting, especially if you want to formulate a specific structure to your compost, thankfully it can be simplified for most of us who not commercial farmers.

Why Compost?

• reduces waste in landfills
• makes great amendment for your garden soil (Hummus! Think of a rich forest bed when you dig down into the dirt with your hands.)
• added drought protection - improved soil holds water better
• improves aeration of existing soil (and it encourages earthworm activity which further aerates the soil!) 
• adds nutrients to your dirt
• neutralizes toxins in soil
• can help plants overcome imbalances of soil pH levels
• acts as a growth stimulator for plants

What's not to love about all that? This stuff is like a gold mine for your garden! And again, it's easy to do! This would be great project for some elementary aged boys (and of course, girls, too)!

So, what can you put in your compost? Well, it would almost be easier to tell you what you can't add, than what you should include. But since we looked at kitchen compost pails yesterday, let's start with kitchen scraps...

Kitchen Composting
*anything that was ever alive at one point

coffee grounds and coffee filters
tea and tea bags
fruit and vegetable scraps 
egg shells
grain scraps (like pasta, bread, and cereals)
small amounts of paper (like the paper tea wrapper, paper towels, or napkins)

Composting Around the House

dryer lint
100% cotton
paper from your shredder
small amounts of shredded cardboard

Don't Compost This!
*some of this is only because the smell will attract unwanted visitors to your compost pile, so if it doesn't bother you or your neighbors, go for it.

fatty or oily products (like meats, and salad dressing)
dairy products (yogurt, butter, cheese, etc.)
woody material (takes a lot longer to break down)
anything that is not organic (such as plastic products)

When you think about it logically - Is this organic or not? Was it ever alive? - then this list is pretty easy to remember. But, you could always print this up and tape it to the inside of a cabinet door until all the family members become familiar with the list. 

Yesterday, a couple of readers made a good point about dumping the kitchen compost pail  when the weather is bad and you really don't want to walk out to your composter. They suggested a rubber maid container or garbage pail on the back porch where you could dump it until the snow melts or rain stops. But if you have lots of critters, like me, this may be stored better in the garage, away from the door. Even without the meat and dairy in it, some animals will go crazy for your compost waste! There is also a method called Vermicomposting also known as Earthworm Composting which can be done inside in a large rubbermaid like container. I'll talk about that more another time!

Just think how productive you're going to feel when you have a nice can of scraps to add to your compost pile. And less waste. That's living a lot closer to the land if you ask me!


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