Going Green: Composting, Made Easy!
Composting and Why You Should Do It
Composting is a natural, green way to recycle waste into usable soil. Whether you want grade A soil for flowers or to spread on your lawn, composting is the natural, easy, cheap way to do it. The only thing you need is some sort of container for your compost.
Plus, a properly cared for compost heap won't smell bad, so as long as you follow some simple steps for care.
What Will Your Compost Bin Look Like?
My first compost bin was a hollowed-out liquid container. I believe it was rated at about 40 gallons. I was planning to use it for rainwater collection, but decided on compost instead. These big liquid containers are very handy for lots of things, and I would pick up a few more just to have around for various projects, including more composting bins.
To make the compost bin, I cut the top off to make it easier to dump grass clippings into it. If I were going to only use it for kitchen waste, I would have made a smaller opening at the top.
Then I took a drill and put many holes, spaced a couple inches apart, up and down the whole bin and bottom. This allows the composting bacteria to breathe, which is very important for efficient composting.
Caring for Your Compost
The reason composting works is because bacteria break down the plant matter you have put in there. These bacteria are aerobic and require oxygen. You can have an anaerobic compost heap, but it is slower, and you generally can't get to the compost after it is broken down.
So, since these little guys require oxygen, you should turn your compost periodically to aerate it. If you make your own bin, you should allow for airflow somehow. I drilled holes into the side of my first bin from the top to the bottom. I have read that putting your heap on top of a wooden pallet helps airflow throughout.
You can add some sugar to the mix if you want to speed things up. But as long as you keep a steady flow of kitchen scraps, your compost heap should do fine. Try to find a somewhat dry place, perhaps shaded. Your compost heap may give off some heat, which is normal.
Close-Up of My Bin
I drilled many, many holes all around my homemade compost bin. Here is a close-up.
You don't want the holes to be too large, or the compost will spill out through them. Make them just big enough to let air in. Hot composting is done using aerobic bacteria, so airflow in and out is crucial.
It did take a while to drill them all, but allowing your compost to breathe is important.
Your First Compost Bin
I made my compost bin, and I encourage you to do the same, hopefully using reused resources. However, a "vertical" bin like mine is more difficult to turn properly. A takes care of that problem, but can't hold as much waste. rotating compost bin
Compost bins are convenient place to put things. But if you have the room, a compost "area" is actually a really good way to compost your food scraps and grass clippings. You may need some fencing or something else to discourage pests, but leave it open otherwise. Let it spread out to areas you aren't using. This allows maximum aerobic activity, as well as being very easy to turn with a shovel or pitchfork.
What Can I Compost?
You can compost almost anything of plant origin, even worn-out cotton clothes (though they take a bit longer and should be cut up). I regularly put banana peels, romaine stems, and tomato tops into mine. Grass clippings make up the majority of my compost thought. Leaves and sticks don't do as well right off, and could be aged for two summers to compost better.
What Shouldn't I Compost?
- Fats and proteins.
- Meat scraps and grease. (These will attract fly larvae ("maggots"), which may bother some people and can smell really bad.)
- Inorganic fibers like rayon and polyester. (Will not compost.)
- Plastic. (Will not compost.)
- Other inorganic substances.
Note: Cotton composts very easily. However, even "100% cotton" garments frequently use some sort of inorganic thread along the seams, which will be left over.
Collecting Your Scraps
I reuse a 3 lb sour cream tub to collect my scraps and coffee grounds. I like reusing things I already have on hand, and recycle as much as possible.
I encourage you to find something you can repurpose to collect your scraps, but I understand that there may be problems with smells.
I Like Composting
It's an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment. It will provide soil for gardening and growing your own plants, or improving your soil for your lawn.
I have a couple tomato plants that love my compost and are doing quite nicely. I have even successfully grown hops in Florida, using compost that I produced myself using a combination of hot compost and vermicomposting.
Composting in Action
Composting can seem a little slow sometimes, but it is worth the trouble. Seeing composting and decomposition in action is pretty neat.
The video above is an interesting time-lapse of the decomposition of various fruits and vegetables. This is what is happening in your compost pile, right now!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.