Aug 26, 2010

Going Green: Composting

In our efforts to be a little greener, I really wanted to begin composting our kitchen scraps. Composting is really easy and the benefits are two fold - not only do we reduce the amount of garbage we bring to the curb every week but we're also making some seriously nutrient rich garden fodder. I finally got around to making my first composting bin using what we already had on hand - a plastic storage tub with lid.

How does one make a composting bin out of a plastic tub? I read several tutorials online and it was as easy as it looked. I went outside with my drill, a 1/2" drill bit and the tub. For aeration purposes, I drilled a bunch of holes in the bottom, then a few more on the sides and in the lid on top. It took less than 10 minutes to drill all the holes.

To get this party started, I filled the tub 1/3 full with dried brown leaves. Then I added a good layer of dirt from the yard leftover from one of the many holes we've dug, moistening the whole thing to make it damp (like a rung-out sponge) but not wet. I added the day's vegetable scraps, some grass clippings and dryer lint to the pile and stirred things around a bit with a shovel. Since this is not one of those fancy expensive compost bins that you can crank to mix, we have to make sure we stir the compost every couple of days or when we add new material.

Now the ratio of brown matter (leaves, saw dust, shredded paper, straw, dryer lint) to green matter (grass clippings, fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, etc) is important to speed up the process - a 5:1-8:1 brown to green. Do not add meat or dairy products (attracts pests), animal droppings (bacteria), or limes (too acidic). It's also important to remember to stir everything every few days for aeration and check moisture levels, adding water as necessary. A pile that doesn't heat up within 24 hours needs more green matter, and a pile that smells bad needs more brown. Once the compost breaks down into lovely rich dirt, I'll use it in the garden and in my flower pots, saving about 1/3 of the compost in the bin to continue the process.

The best place to store the tub is in a shady area so it doesn't dry out - except in our yard we only get shade in the way back (too far away to be convenient) and in the front yard (and we don't want to be run out of the neighborhood with flaming torches and pitchforks). So instead I chose a spot next to our garage where it will get partial shade and be near the shovel so I can easily give it a quick stir. I put the tub directly on the grass where it will hopefully attract worms and bugs through the holes that help the process.

In the kitchen we collect our scraps in an attractive stainless steel container from Target with a sealed lid so we don't attract pests. It's about 8" wide  - large enough so that we don't have to go out every day but small enough to tuck it away in a cabinet and be washed easily in the sink.

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