Composting is an enjoyable and easy way to reduce stress while doing something great for the environment AND your garden.

And no it doesn’t require that large piece of equipment that you see above!聽 馃檪

I began composting about 20 years ago when I still lived in California but now that I have more available ground space,聽 I have gotten into it in a bigger way.聽 When we were in the country, some of my neighbors would bring me their own kitchen scraps to add to the compost heap but now that we’re back in the city, we just compost our own scraps.聽 But even if you have a very limited amount of space, you can compost.

Some people worry that composting will attract flies. It might attract the tiny fruit flies at times but not blackflies because you don’t add meats to your compost bin.

Why compost?

  • It decreases the amount of waste going into landfills
  • It provides an excellent source of nutrients for plants
  • It decreases the amount of trash you have to haul out to the curb
  • Working with the earth and “creating dirt” is a great stress reducer
  • It’s FREE

There are many different theories on how to make compost.聽 Very technical scientific聽instructions state that composting is like a miniature eco-system that is home to countless micro-organisms and that achieving the optimal carbon to nitrogen ratio is the way to make the best compost.

Still others say that the way to create the best compost is to use a mix of 3 parts greens (the nitrogens) to 1 part brown (the carbons).

And then there’s MY way: throw everything in; turn it over from time to time; add water every so often; make sure you have some sun and VOILA……….free nutrient-rich dirt!

Getting Started:

You’ll want to have a container to keep under your sink to gather your compostable scraps. Mine is from the Melamine Garbage Bowl from the Rachel Ray collection. I’ve had it for over 5 years and it’s still in perfect condition! If you’re worried about fruit flies, you can choose a covered compost bin like this one found on Amazon.

rachel Ray red compost bowl

Choosing a Compost System

Depending upon how much space you have and how much compost you would like to create, you will either want to buy a commercial rotating composter like this smaller 18.5 gallon one or this larger 35 gallon one that even comes in pink or make one yourself.聽 Commercial composters can also be found at Costco, and home and garden stores.

If you have a spare corner in your yard that is big enough for one pile, that is fine too.聽 You don’t even need a container. It just becomes necessary to turn it more often (which can give your mind a much-needed break from thinking and internet surfing).

For larger amounts of compost, I have found that is ideal to have 3 piles with which to work.

If you use a 3-pile method, the first pile is for adding your ingredients; the second is for placing the partially decomposed items from the bottom of the first pile and the 3rd is the final stage (you’ll place the bottom portion of the second pile into it) which will turn into excellent compost.

Compost bins can be made from several types of materials.

When we lived in the country, we originally used 1 wooden container with a removable front that was about 3 feet by 3 feet and about 3 feet tall.聽 We grew out of that quickly and turned it into a place to potatoes. For our next composting system, we used cinderblock to separate each of the 3 areas.聽 The front of the compost bins remained open. Many people use “pallets” as the sides and back of their compost container and that works well too. Just be sure to use pallets that are not treated.

Now in the city, we are back to one compost bin as we don’t have as large a garden anymore. It’s a combination of cinder blocks and wood about 4 feet by 4 feet with a removable front side. As you can see, the chickens like to visit it and as the snow has just left, we haven’t turned it over at all.

What to add to the compost bin:

An easier way to state this is to explain what NOT to add to the compost bin.聽 Avoid all meats, grease, bones, and dairy products.聽 You can use eggshells because they are more calcium than the tiny amount of protein that is left on the shell.聽 Animal droppings should not be used.聽 (We have a separate pile for composting chicken droppings that are mixed with pine shavings but it takes more than a year to become neutral enough to place on plants and trees.)聽 I have heard that alpaca droppings can be used immediately though.

All vegetable and fruit scraps, nuts and shells (although the shells of the nuts, avocado and other fruit pits take a very long time to compost), coffee grounds, leaves, grasses, plant trimmings, twigs and even white paper towels and napkins, and even wax paper are fine.聽 Some people compost newspaper but I prefer to keep the ink out of the pile. Onions and shallots are not a great idea if you want to encourage earthworms. Some also avoid using citrus.

We simply keep our Rachel Ray garbage bowl under our sink to collect table scraps throughout the day and then bring them out to place in the compost pile.

You’ll want to have more green items than brown because they are moister and have more nitrogen (the 3 part nitrogen, 1 part carbon theory).聽 If your compost pile is too dry, simply add water.聽 You’ll also want to make sure it gets plenty of sun in order to “bake down”.

If you can see steam rising from your compost pile, that is a very good sign that it’s “working”.聽 If you begin to find earthworms in your compost, that’s also a great sign.

When “turning” your compost pile, it’s best to use a pitchfork in order to aerate it better.聽 I like to use one with a handle. It’s good exercise and as I mentioned previously, it is a nice way to be out in the fresh air, concentrating on something other than isolating, cooking,聽 housework, Zoom meetings and the 9-5 job.

Elders can even participate by adding items to the bucket under the sink or to the compost pile itself.聽 If they are physically able, turning the pile is a good activity for them, as well.

I hope that you’ll give it a try. If you have any questions, go ahead and leave them in the comments.



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