The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the 23 percent of U.S. municipal waste comes from yard and food waste. That yard and food waste is perfect fuel for composting. Between composting, reusing, and recycling we never send a full garbage can to the curb.
We do traditional outdoor composting and the first year I started with a Rubbermaid tub that I drilled holes in. The second year I used an old garbage can that my bother-in-law passed to me that he had cut holes in for a makeshift compost bin. Last summer I bought a regular compost bin with the handy doors at the bottom for scooping out the finished compost. You can use about anything or nothing at all, just do it in a pile in the yard. We use a stainless steel indoor collection pail. It sits right on our counter where it is easy and convenient to toss in a apple core, banana peel, or other vegetable and fruit scrapes. The most important part about your indoor collection pail is that it needs a lid. The food will begin decomposing immediately and you won't want that smell or the fruit flies in your kitchen.
What you need...
Heat- Heat is necessary to get the compost to decompose faster. The ideal temperature is between 120 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The compost pile will naturally create heat but keeping your bin in a partially sunny spot will help keep it hot enough.
Air- To keep the process working and to keep the pile from smelling you will need to keep turning the pile. A shovel or pitchfork works great for this.
Moisture- The vegetable material that you add to the pile will automatically create moisture but you will need to keep an eye on it to see if you need to add some water. The compost should always be damp like a sponge. Not too wet or to dry but definitely damp.
What to Add- The trick to good composting is maintaining the right balance of Carbons (Browns) and Nitrogens (greens). If you have too many greens the pile will stink and attract rodents. If you have too many browns the decomposition will slow down. In general a brown to green balance of 25 to 1 is suggested.
Carbons (browns): wood ashes, shredded cardboard and newspapers, straw, sawdust, peanut shells, cornstalks, leaves, pine needles, wood chips
Nitrogens (greens): fruit and vegetable scrapes, coffee grounds, garden and grass clippings, seaweed, manure, hay, alfalfa
What Not to Add: Meat products, fats like peanut butter or oils, dairy products, colored paper like magazines, and chemicals (grass clippings sprayed with chemicals).
We end up with a lot of coffee grounds and vegetable scraps, so I have to add cardboard and newspaper occasionally to keep the right mixture.
There is nothing better that taking waste and turning it into such a wonderful fertilizer. Composting is also something that kids can help with. It is a great lesson for them and my kids love helping out.
I'd love to hear and comments or suggestions about how your composting is going.
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