Last week, in Part One of Composting, I wrote about the all the benefits of keeping your own compost; making your own cheap, nutrient rich fertilizer; using compost for your vegetables, flowers, and lawn.
Last week, in Part One of Composting, I wrote about the all the benefits of keeping your own compost; making your own cheap, nutrient rich fertilizer; using compost for your vegetables, flowers, and lawn. Thereby growing stronger, insect and disease-resistant plants, and reducing the need to feed the landfills.
Part Two covers the different methods of composting. One of the most important aspects of composting is where you are going to locate your compost. If possible, choose a place in your yard that is out of sight. Next, find a location that is in full sun, or at least mostly sun. Sunlight helps in decomposition, reduces mold and mildew growth, and helps control odors.
There are two main ways to compost, in a pile or in a bin. A compost pile is just what it sounds like…you simply start putting your yard waste and kitchen compostables in a pile.
There are a lot of fancy, and expensive, bins on the market and some of them are quite good. However, you do not have to spend money to have a compost bin that does a good job. I have actually made a great compost bin out of used pallets. Many companies throw their slightly damaged pallets away. Stop by your grocer, hardware store, or big box store, and ask if they have any pallets they are discarding. More than likely they would be happy for you to take a few off their hands. Out of four pallets that you have gathered, screw or bolt the sides together of three of them.
On the fourth pallet, screw hinges on one side and hook and eye on the other side turning it into a gate. The slatted sides of the pallet work great to aerate the compost and keep all of the materials contained in one area.
Some folks have asked me what can go into compost. The simple rule is this; if it is biodegradable it can be composted. From the kitchen you can put in all table scraps, coffee grounds (filters and all!) egg shells, nut shells, and tea bags. Go light on the fruit peelings (such as, banana peels, apple cores, melon rinds, etc) as they take quite a bit longer to decompose. You can put them in, just not overly-large quantities.
Make it easy and keep a small bin with a lid under your sink for your compost items, then you only have to take them out to your compost when your bin gets full.
Garden materials include items such as weeds, flower heads (from dead-heading), old plants, old potting soil, leaves, manure, etc. Grass clippings, too, but remember it's actually better to have a mulching mower and let the clippings fall right back into the lawn, rather than bagging. You can even add household items such as, sawdust which adds good carbon; shredded newspaper, as almost all newspapers use soy ink and breaks down well; dryer and vacuum lint; fireplace ashes, another good source of carbon; and wool and cotton rags.
There are some things you do not want to put into your compost, these would include plant materials that have been treated with chemicals, dog or cat manure, charcoal ash, dairy products (milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese); fat, grease, lard or oils; and meat or fish bones, or scraps. The last three categories produce odors and may draw rodents, flies, or other bugs.
No matter what material you put in your compost, in order to speed the process and reduce odors, it is best to add a few shovels of soil periodically, sprinkle with water, and turn. Soon, you will have rich, dark fertilizer ready to spread around your vegetables and flowers.
Lynn Youngblood is a Kansas City-based naturalist who writes for Gatehouse Media.