Wednesday, September 7, 2011

one woman's trash is another woman's...compost

Because of our summer of abundant produce, we have been able to put away a lot of food for winter. However, doing so requires prepping veggies, and often a ton of veggie "waste" is leftover. Stuff like carrot peels, pepper cores, and the occasional bruised tomato. For a long time we've wanted to start a compost pile to help reclaim the nutrients from this "waste" to use as natural fertilizer for our garden next year. We had wanted to build one with reclaimed wooden pallets, but with no way to get pallets from Mark's work back to our house, we had put the project off. After seeing a post on Young House Love about being able to do small-scale composting in a rubbermaid tub, we decided to just jump in and make a few for ourselves. 

We started by drilling small holes in the bottom of the tubs for drainage purposes. The compost needs to be watered, but you don't want it to collect water, so the holes allow water to drain and air to get in. After doing that, we decided the holes weren't quite bit enough to allow that movement, so we drilled some bigger ones.

We were ready to start filling it up, so we got it to its designated coordinates - under one of the trees in the back yard. Compost when done properly doesn't have odors or attract rodents, but since bugs are a natural part of the breaking down, most people don't put compost bins on their back porch. This place is still accessible to us, so we put it where it should work out nicely.

Compost bins are made by layering "browns" and "greens." Browns are things like shredded (non-glossy) paper, cardboard, lint, egg shells, and dead plants. Greens are vegetable and fruit waste and live plants. When we did the composting, I had recently had a fit of shredding of old files, so we were lucky to have a bunch of shredded paper to start out.

Some of our shrubs and plants had to be trimmed, so we had some of those to add as well.

Then the fun part. Adding in the food "waste" - here we have a couple of almost moldy peaches and some onion scraps.

Next we have some brown paper and some grass clippings.

 Then some soil (from an overturned tomato bucket that the wind blew off our deck) and more plant clippings.

Once it was all compacted in, we added some water.
And did the same thing with a second tub.

We've been adding bags of kitchen scraps to it and trying to balance it out with the browns as well. Definitely no eggs, dairy, meat, or grease, which are usually the culprits when someone has compost that stinks.
If you're interested in composting, you should also check out this helpful guide from Mother Earth News. Composting is almost like using a replicator on a star ship. All we do is take matter and let it break down and "reorganize" itself into fertilizer to help us grow more food next year!

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