Composting, a New Pile of Info

I’ve been composting since “way back when”, even when I knew next to nothing about it. I suppose the example of my grandparents sending me out to with spent coffee grounds and kitchen vegetable peeling to dig directly into the rich veggie garden soil is the genesis of my compost habit. Now, I almost feel guilty if someone forgets and throws eggshells into the trash instead of into my “compost bowl”… it is that ingrained. But what I am starting this spring is a concerted effort to refine and increase my composting. It’s time.

Nothing Is Simpler: The A B C

To make your own, you simply choose (A) the method you want; (B) The materials you have-preferably in the right balance of brown:green. Read more in following paragraphs. (C) Give it time to rot down.
The final result? (D) Harvest it for your plants and garden. I like to use a trowel-ful when planting new plants, too.

What is Compost?

It is the organic matter that restores soil. In nature composting happens naturally as old plant debris, animal wastes, mineral erosion accumulates and decomposes. In modern environments we need to replace that because we interfere with it, so we collect safe kitchen and yard refuse to decompose in a quick manner
(hopefully) to replenish our productive soils. That is what gardener’s refer to as “compost”.

How Does Composting Work?

Basically,it is decomposition. Microorganisms and critters like earthworms break down the organic material until it becomes rich soil that we call humus.
If you only wish for a list of composting materials check out the section of this article on frugal gardening, or the PBS infographic.

composting infographic
FrugalGardening,Compost Materials
How To Compost

Through the years I liked the ‘buried garbage containerold metal container with lots of holes punched in the bottom,buried up to its rim‘ best, but I don’t think that is easy to empty -and at my age I want easy. So while I will remain working the messy old pile in the back of the yard, I want to try one of those new fangled bins this year.

Six Methods of Compost

  1. Old Fashioned Composting: Make your pile with 8 parts brownFall leaves,paper towels and bags,twigs,etc matter, 3 parts greenGrass clippings,weeds and plants,manures,etc, and 1 part soil, layered and turned. Some additives like lime and greensand mixed in.
  2. Quick Compost: Shredding the garden and kitchen matter, using a commercial bin to turn it. Makes fast, small amounts of compost.
  3. Anaerobic Method: Tightly sealed containers, such as black plastic garbage bags, filled, closed, and stored for about six months.
  4. Three Bin: Have three bins which are filled in sequence, and allow each to rot down. Use when ready (may take several years)
  5. Trench composting: Dig a trench, fill it with layers of compost, plant when filled. Lasagna gardening is a form of this.
  6. Vermicomposting: Using redworms and a worm bin to produce compost. This takes a bit of care and some equipment. Good books and websites are dedicated to filling you in on what works best. Read more to get started with this method.

Compost Bins: Worm Factory 360 4 Tray with Accessory Kit

Project Inspiration

Blame the internet. The fact that it has so much great information now available on the topic has generated my renewed interest. It created this new project.

For this project I am collecting composting information to get the compost mill to speed up around here. (And passing those tidbits on to you).

First improvements on the agenda

The Methods I Use

#1  Buy a composter. The research and reviews for that are upcoming this spring. My reasoning to use this method is that I would like a certain amount of compost to be ready quickly.

#2 Turn my present messy, old fashioned compost pile into a 3 bin method. I think that will work best to help my family contribute to the efforts to create a recycled system without work on their part.

In the past I had made a bin from stacked concrete block. That worked well for a awhile, but it required turning regularly. I no longer can devote time and effort to that. The idea of building a three bin from pallet wood had been considered, but I think the concrete block is fairly inexpensive and it would not rot and weaken as wood is likely to in this climate.

#3 Using the trench method in my small vegetable garden, this is something I can start right away this spring.


Make a 3 Bin

Collecting the Materials

Compost Bin: Dura-Trel Deluxe Wood Reinforced PVC Open Air 12.5 ft Capacity Comp

It is useful to have a designated container to collect the materials in your kitchen area, or nearby, like on a porch. It doesn’t have to be pretty, or have filters, etc, but this is a nicety that you will appreciate as you begin using it a lot.

  • NO dog or cat waste
  • NO meat leftovers or products
  • NO diseased plant matter
List of some common kitchen materials to start your pile, and begin creating your own “black gold”: Scraps of compostable food,

  • like vegetable peelings,
  • food that becomes overripe,
  • egg shells,
  • old bread,

Almost anything but meat products. Three parts “brown” compost to one part “green” means you will need plenty of brown materials such as: Paper products, cardboard, old newspaper (without the colored inks), straw, spent hay, leaves, dryer lint, ashes and wood chips.

Undesirable waste which you should decline to use includes:

  • things with bright colored inks,
  • diseased plants,
  • coal or charcoal ash,
  • sawdust from treated wood,
  • meat or dairy waste
compost layer construction

compost layer construction

It isn’t necessary to turn compost, but it helps it break down a good deal faster, and it is less smelly if you do. I always relied on hand turning with a pitch fork, but now that I’m older that requires more of my energy than I want to devote to the job. I am seriously considering the type of composter that rolls and turns the compost materials within it, like the one pictured here.

I noticed a tool being used to aerate the compost in certain gardening videos. Never having used this, I wondered if this might be useful for the three bin or even my present “free-form” compost pile?

Some Rotting Tips

The best starter material for a compost pile is finished compost because it contains nitrogen and a vast number of microbes.

Choose the right place to situate your bin. Level, not soggy ground.
Invite worms.
Work towards a balance: not too wet, not too dry, for optimum decomposition.
Try an activator. One is Compost Activator 9-3-5 (2-Pack)packages of compost activator

What is actually making all that lovely black, enriched soil? Microorganisms in a word.This is why there are specific conditions and recipes for making compost. A favorable environment fro the most beneficial ones is the goal, “aerobes” are the ones we want since they do a much more efficient job of breaking down the refuse we pile into the compost bin.

What is needed?
We already mentioned materials, and the 3 brown/1 green rule. Moisture is needed, although not too much.

Aerator Tool

Then there is temperature. The compost will heat up as it decomposes, and that is good, but wintertime temperatures delay the finished product since they slow the microorganisms.

Higher internal temperatures provide other benefits. The weed seeds and plant pathogens are more likely to be destroyed. Aim for a pile mass of at least 9 to 10 cubic feet to produce enough heat for this activity.

Aerobes need oxygen to work. That is why twigs and such materials are added, why the pile is turned, and why it shouldn’t be allowed to get soggy wet.

Try these ways of aerating your pile:
Without turning, using pvc pipe and chicken wire.
A turning schedule for your pile and recommendations.

Another Method Of Composting

Learn more about Bokashi Composting

No, I had never heard of it, either; but on GardenAdvice .co .uk was an intriguing article telling all about it. Effective Micro Organisms (EMS), a combination of Yeasts and Fungi mixed into bran as a carrier and spreader,  work by speeding up composting, and at the same time these micro-organisms prevent those horrible smells to which composting is sometimes prone.Try a Bokashi kit,All Seasons Indoor Composter Kit with Bokashi: SCD Probiotics K100 All Seasons Indoor Composter Kit, Tan Bucket with Bokashi

According to the article it is used either outside or in a bin in the house- supposedly even utilizing meat and table scraps- always a big  no-no for most compost heaps. It sounds like something that would be a boon for gardeners and the folks at ‘Garden Advice’ seemed very enthusiastic. I will certainly be on the lookout for it!

You can buy it @ Amazon! (I’m an affiliate)

For video showing just how easy this can be:

I had looked into Bokashi methods in past years, but have never tried it.

Pro: it is efficient, claims to be free from smelliness, meat waste, etc. can be added.

Con: needs attention, requires equipment and special additive (usually). Not useful for large yard waste.

Make Your Own Bokashi Bucket 

More Links:
Compost in Winter
Talk About Dirt
Overview of methods
Compost Tea
Feature photo by Joi