In my experience with composting I have noticed that there are two general types of composting techniques. The first, and what I am most familiar with, is what I would call a “bottomless pit”. Composters with a bottomless pit may store a container in the kitchen where they collect food scraps throughout the week (or day, depending on how much time you spend in the kitchen) that they then dump into the bottomless pit, only to be topped by the next batch in a few days…indefinitely. If this is all you have available to you, by all means have a bottomless pit. Better that it doesn’t end up in the landfill! (Things you can compost make up 40 percent of the garbage in most homes – Yikes!)
The second technique is basically the first technique, PLUS receiving nourishment in return for your hard work. Proper care and nutrition of your compost can make for supreme soil!
I have been practicing the first composting technique for a couple of years. I was thrilled to learn that our new place had a compost that had been somewhat neglected. I felt an experiment coming on.
I have spent the past couple weeks researching composting techniques and now have a plan that will hopefully lead to rich soil for a garden next spring.
I’ll take you along on my ‘first experience maintaining a compost’ journey. Join me! Fall is the time to get your compost ready to do what it does best all winter. DECOMPOSE! (I realize that it is not easy to just jump in and make a compost that will work hard to become soil all winter. If you have not been keeping your scraps in the backyard somewhere, bookmark this page for next fall!)
It wasn’t until recently that I learned your compost should sit covered during winter and should maintain a temp of 120 to 160 degrees. Who knew!? From what I gather, there are some pretty simple rules to follow in order to achieve optimum results. I have outlined my research below.
How to Build a Compost Bin –
Use this short video as inspiration for building your compost. Yours may need to be much smaller than the one above. You can also build one for free out of pallets.
Here is a great page that lists what you SHOULD put in your compost.
This lists all things you SHOULD NOT compost. And it comes with a bonus on Recycling!
There are a few fundamental rules about composting:
– The microbes responsible for breaking down your compost need a balanced diet of nitrogen and carbon. Nitrogen comes from green materials such as food scraps, manure, and grass clippings. Carbon comes from brown materials such as dead leaves, hay, wood chips and shredded newspaper. A ratio that contains equal portions by weight (not volume) of both works best.
– Do not compost meat, dairy, bread, oils, coated paper, rice, pet droppings, or any animal products. (See above for complete list)
– Compost decomposes fastest between 120 and 160 degrees F. Decomposition will occur at lower temperatures, but it takes much longer.
– Grass clippings add necessary nitrogen to a compost pile, but be sure to mix with the “brown” materials that add carbon. Both are necessary for quick decomposition and rich compost. Piles made up of just grass will compact, slow down and start to stink.
– Do research
I found this site to be the most helpful when researching how to set up my compost.
Our compost area was already set up pretty well, it had two pits which were both half full. This made for a great opportunity to turn and mix the compost. I put all of the compost into one pit, mixing it well, and started a new pile in the other pit. So I have one pit with old decomposing “greens” and a new pile with more fresh “greens”.
In a few weeks, I will build my composting bin. I will then layer my new greens, and old greens between newspaper and torn up cardboard. (Remember that Nitrogen/Carbon mix that is necessary for proper decomposition?) I will cover the compost for winter and just hope it maintains that high temp. In the early spring, I’ll turn it all over about 8 weeks before I am going to use my new soil for planting.
Your compost will shrink close to half it’s size by spring so it might be a good idea to get a feel for how much soil you’ll need, thus how much scraps you’ll need to pitch in. I can already tell I’ll need more, which is why I didn’t feel too guilty about letting some veggies go bad last week.
Add your coffee and tea grounds. As you could imagine, worms love that stuff.
I don’t in any way claim to be a professional composter. I have been researching this for all of two weeks. There are plenty of resources outside of the ones I have highlighted above. And any feedback or discussion on the topic would be greatly appreciated.
Tuning the Student Mind would like to know how you prepare your garden for spring. Stay tuned for next week’s Sustainable Sunday post on “Garden Prep in the Fall”!
To see all of the Tuning the Student Mind Sustainable Sunday posts – Click here!