Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How to Compost

In honor of Earth Day, April 22, 2011, I thought I would do something a little different than my usual Thursday recipe or craft.  

How about a little composting?

According to the EPA a compost bin can:
  • Suppress plant diseases and pests
  • Reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers
  • Promote higher yields of crops
  • Facilitate reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts by amending contaminated, compacted, and marginal soils
  • Cost-effectively remediate soils
  • Remove solids, oil, grease, and heavy metals from stormwater runoff
  • Capture and destroy 99.6 percent of industrial volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in contaminated air
  • Provide cost savings of at least 50 percent over conventional soil, water, and air pollution remediation technologies
For at least the last three years I have been talking about starting a compost pile. I researched compost piles and bins on the internet, looked in our local home improvement and garden stores, and attended a presentation by the county agricultural extension master gardeners. I thought about piles, bins, worms, everything. So why has it taken me three years to start?

The answer is fear. That's right I was afraid of composting.  It seemed like a lot of work and even after all my research on the internet and the library I still wasn't sure exactly how to do it.  Then I found THIS  article that made it sound easy to make a compost bin out of a large trash can.  Seemed easy enough so we tried it.  Keep in mind that we just made this so I have no idea how well it actually works as a compost bin but it was pretty easy to make.

Start with a trash can with locking lid (this one cost about $20)

Drill 3/4" holes into the sides of the can and 1/2 holes in the top and bottom.

Our new compost bin!

But what to put in it and how?  Here is another list from the EPA about what to compost and what not to compost.

The IN list:
  • Animal manure
  • Cardboard rolls
  • Clean paper
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Cotton rags
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Eggshells
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Grass clippings
  • Hair and fur
  • Hay and straw
  • Houseplants
  • Leaves
  • Nut shells
  • Sawdust
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Tea bags
  • Wood chips
  • Wool rags
  • Yard trimmings
The OUT list:
  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
    • Releases substances that might be harmful to plants
  • Coal or charcoal ash
    • Might contain substances harmful to plants
  • Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs
    • Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants
    • Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils
    • Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Meat or fish bones and scraps
    • Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)
    • Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides
    • Might kill beneficial composting organisms

So here is our start.

The bin under the kitchen sink (does have a lid to control odor until it's full)

"Brown" and "green" layers in the compost bin, wet everything down, and roll

I'm thinking we should turn it at least two times a week.   If you make the trash can compost bin make sure you get a trash can with a locking lid and then all you have to do to turn it is put the can on its side and roll it around a few times.  And here's a (stupid) question that I could never find the answer to.  I could never figure out how and when to put material in it.  You should add to your bin and roll it each time you have enough material for two layers - a brown layer, like leaves or dried grass, and a green layer, like kitchen scraps.  You keep filling it until it's about three fourths full then stop adding more material and just keep rolling it around every few days until it's done.  When your can is three fourths full - get another can.  Then start filling that one.  This way you will always have a can to put materials in while the other is "cooking".

Celebrate Earth Day the right way and go make that Black Gold!


Lisa said...

Great post with so much valuable information!!! I have bookmarked this for when we get a house with some land.

Dropping by from Friday Blog Hop and I'm not following you. Have a great weekend :-)

MissMOE said...

You make it sound so easy! I always thought I didn't have enough brown waste, but you have lots of stuff on the list that we have a ton of, like TP rolls, lint, and newspaper. Thanks for sharing. I'm a new follower from the Friday Blog HOp.

Opal Stevens said...

Following from the Social Parade Follow on Friday blog hop :D

Tamara said...

Just stopping by and following from the hop. I also wanted to invite you to link up with my Wordless Wednesday hop.

Tracy said...

This is a wonderful post with so much good information! I have a fear to start alot of things when really the anticipation is worse than actually doing it (ie: like starting a veggie garden :) ) Happy and successful composting to you! It looks like you are off to a great start! Thank you for sharing on NOBH! :)