Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Compost your kitchen scraps in three easy steps!

It's December. I just moved to a new house. Can composting still be done? 

I will tell you I decided to try. You know what? It's totally possible to compost ...even start composting for the first time... in the winter. In cold weather, it takes the decomposition process a little longer to turn kitchen scraps into the nutritious soil of life.  

The decaying insides of my compost bin: 

Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. 

Making compost was EASY. SO non-headache-forming, let me explain how to start composting in three steps. 

Supplies you need

  1. willingness to get your hands dirty, open-minded adaptable expectations
  2. 5 quart size (or similar) for a counter-top kitchen composer
  3. outside compost bin / pile (metal can with holes, rolling plastic bin, or the longer-to-process pile method more suited for rural areas)


1. collect kitchen food waste in a small compost pail -- Make sure the compost bucket has a lid -- and make it cute

From this 14 color steel pail selection the 5 quart brown metal bucket suited the spirit of making soil for $6.99. It came with a tight fitting plastic lid. I made a seam of calk around the steel bucket's bottom where two metal pieces join together to have no doubt the compost will be watertight inside the steel bucket. 
About once a week it does get a little gross, smelly, moldy on the inside (especially if it hasn't been really emptied). The color paint job is great. When I softly scrub over the insides the paint does not scratch. The steel and the paint covering the material are chemically, and literally effectively inseparable.  The buckets are made in Ohio and are power coat painted steel. If your wondering what the heck powder coat steel is, read this. 
These countertop composters are the fancy kind and range from $19 - $50 and have a built-in air filter. I haven't worked out if you have to clean it less. I wonder? I think I'll stick with a brown metal bucket and a tight lid. I should label it "compost" with vinyl sticker letters, perhaps one day. So far, so good.
I chose brown. 

2. pile --  Your compost bin must be easily accessible from your kitchen, so it is convenient to use. If properly constructed and maintained (1) it should not smell and (2) should not attract bugs and other pests. Routinely deposit kitchen scraps in outside container. 

A 30 gallon metal can with holes is my compost bin. The holes allow more oxygen, essential for compost chemical reactions, to reach the contents. A strap around the composer secures it vertically. A handy heavy rock on the lid makes the "not pest attracting compost bin" really pest proof. There was a skunk in the garbage last week!


The rotating composer appeared when new friends moved in across Main Street. It's fancy because you don't have to roll or stir the contents yourself. If they can't use it in the picnic shelter of their apartment complex we'll be "community composting" with both of these cans. (YAY COMPOST)

3. compost Create efficient air and moisture conditions by blending wet and dry organic materials. Extra points if you can do this from cleaning up the surrounding landscape. 

About once a week, as I take the compost outside each day, I add fresh grass (for moisture - water can also be added) and/or sticks and browned dead grass (to add dryness) from the edges of the driveway and under bushes to the kitchen scraps becoming compost in the metal can. 
Used paper and paper towels can also be added as dry material.
Aerate the contents by stirring with a large stick also about every 1-2 weeks. This encourages and accelerates the healthy composting process, perhaps more important to do in cold weather. Participation is nonnegotiable with this routine stirring compost process. Composting teabags? You can "pre-"stir your compost by ripping them up before adding to your kitchen composer. 
They say, your compost is ready when you have a rich black hummus you can scoup out. Stay tuned to see if the composting effort is a successful one with mountains of rich black hummus to add to soil which can grow healthy food and beautiful flowers. 

Tips for Success

It's all about what you compost. 
The Good -- fruits and vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, nut shells, shredded paper, cardboard, paper, yard trimmings, grass clippings, haw and straw, leaves, wood chips, hair and fur, kitchen rinse water (moisture!), shreadded news paper 
The Bad -- Milk, yogurt, cheese, weeds and seeds, dryer lint, sod, houseplants, pine needles, diseased plants, bird droppings. 
The Ugly -- pet waste from carnivorous animals, meat and bone scraps, colored or glossy paper, mayonnaise, salad dressing, fats, oils, grease, yard trimmings with pesticides, ashes (coal or charcoal), plastic or metal
The smaller the food and paper scraps, the faster they decompose.
The smell varies among foods becoming compost - compost the good and your nose will be all good.

There are ratios of specific "times", "heats" and "pressures" any food must undergo to make good compost. These factors increase (hotter! heavier! longer!) going from the good to ugly compost possibilities. 

Add red wiggler (not all worms are equally good composers) to closed composting containers for just as healthy soil made exponentially faster than without these invertebrates. This is technically called vermicomposting. 

Food scraps and yard waste make up 20-30% of what we add to our landfills, and can be composted instead. 

your food scraps - a compost kitchen bucket - an outdoor compost bin - your participation - healthier affordble soil

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