I really want to blog about the big wedding weekend we were a part of for Dana and Chesley last weekend, but I know that’s going to be a lengthy post with lots of pictures, and I’m a little whipped from work the past 2 days. Soooo, I’m going to do a quick post about composting! I started composting almost 2 years ago, and it is so easy! I always knew compost was really good for plants, so I really got into it when I started gardening last summer. Growing up we always had a pile in the backyard where all our grass clippings got dumped, and if you dug into the bottom of that pile you would find rich, moist, composted soil that was GREAT for potting plants. But, you can also use a container to create a portable compost bin. And when you use a container you have more flexibility in what you add to your compost (like food items from the kitchen). Unless you want the neighborhood dogs and racoons digging into your compost pile in the backyard when you toss in those orange peels and egg shells, you’ll need a container.
I don’t have pictures of the process (since I did it so long ago), but I can walk you through it with these simple steps. You’ll need:
- plastic garbage bin/large tupperware-type storage tub WITH A LID!
- a drill
- leaves, grass clippings, dirt,kitchen compost and a little water
I went to Walmart and bought a black plastic garbage bin. Your bin needs to be able to warm up easily to help the breakdown process, so I chose black plastic which would heat well in the sun. Drill a few holes in the bottom of your bin to allow water to drain out and a few holes on top to allow some rainwater to drain into your bin. Also, the holes allow for air circulation which is important to the composting process. Here is our compost bin (on the right) next to our rain barrel (on the left).
You can see the holes drilled at random on the lid. The large center hole was already part of the lid when I bought it.
You want to fill the bottom 1/4 of the bin with dry leaves or pine-straw. Then add another layer of dirt and grass clippings (avoid weeds though!). I like to take my old winter flower pots of dried out dirt and dump them in to recycle the dirt. In a few weeks that dirt will be good as new again full of nutrients. If you see any worms out in your garden throw a few of them into the compost bin. They will really get the process going!! But, if not, don’t worry….it won’t take long for bugs and worms to get into your bin and do their job breaking down the contents.
As for the final layer of your compost, you want to add biodegradable items from your kitchen and home. There are so many things that can be composted! Our components are usually made up of egg shells, fruit and veggie peels, old salad/lettuce and dryer lint, but there are literally TONS of things you can compost. See the list below for recommendations. Here’s our compost from a few weeks ago. I just keep a little garbage bin in the cabinet under the kitchen sink and dump all the contents into our compost bin outside when it gets full (or starts to smell!).
Then you just add these items to your compost bin and mix them in well. You will also want to sprinkle a tad bit of water to your compost layers initially to moisten the contents and make sure you stir it up! Air circulation is important for the breakdown process. So if you aren’t regularly adding items to your bin (and mixing each time), you’ll still want to mix up your compost at least every other week to ensure things are breaking down well.
Like I said, the breakdown process works best in moist warm conditions. If you’re mixture becomes too dry, add a bit of water. Place your bin in the sun so it can “bake.” Your compost should never have a foul smell to it. If your bin begins to smell, it may be getting TOO moist or TOO hot. Move it under an eve of the house where rain won’t drain in as easily and it can dry out a little. You can place it in a shadier spot as well to help. Your compost will still break down in cooler temps (even throughout the winter months), it just does so at a slower rate.
So here’s just a few wonderful things you can add to your compost bin. Happy Composting!
Matches (paper or wood)
Tea bags and grounds
Expired flower arrangements
Stale potato chips
Electric razor trimmings
Stale breakfast cereal
Produce trimmings from grocery store