Composting for Dummies

Bethany mentioned composting in her awesome post on Monday, so today I will share about our new compost pile.  We just so happened to start informally composting several months ago.  {Read: not an expert.}

I happened to visit Bethany during her last composting phase, I think, although this was years ago now.  I believe there was a plastic bin and some worms involved.  I believe she referred to the composting process as “feeding her pet worms”.

That is one way to do it, yes.  Maybe this is what is making Keith shudder – more mouths to feed.  So much responsibility, and so forth.

So take heart, this composting thing does not have to be complicated.  Here are my pointers:

1.) You can’t really mess this up.

Last summer, I let a patch of morning glory vine really get out of control.  Here it was:

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One afternoon I decided to reclaim my flower patch, so I spent a couple of hours literally rolling the Morning Glory vine into a giant lump.  The lump was so big that I could roll it but not exactly pick it up.  I’d say it was approximately the size of bathtub.  And so there it sat in the middle of the garden the several months.

Do you know what it had turned into by springtime?  Compost, {morning} glorious compost.  (har har)

2) Add some brown, add some green.

Sure, there are some complicated composting methods out there.  Lots to learn about ratios and turning and so forth.  My “Self-sufficient Gardener” book has a whole chapter on it, complete with diagrams.  However, the simplest method I’ve come across is, just dump about equal amounts of green to brown.

Sources of green: watermelon rinds, squash necks, all other veggie waste, fresh grass clippings, morning glory vine.

Sources of brown: dried leaves, dried weeds, dried grass, chicken poop, dryer lints, shredded newspaper, dirt

We’ve been following this formula very loosely for several months and haven’t had any odor problem.  (Except for the time that August threw some dead fish in. That was stinky.  Fish are neither green nor brown matter and don’t go in the compost pile, fyi. )  I suspect we add more green than brown in general, just because we have so many garden scraps, but nothing bad has happened to date.

3) Don’t let the perfect stand in the way of the good.

(My life motto these days.)

I spent several months thinking about starting a compost pile but was held back by all the complications.  Forget about all that.  You just need a place to pile the compost, a shovel/hoe/rake, and a container with which to carry the kitchen scraps out to the pile.  After that, just get started.

I looked around for a suitable kitchen container for a while to no avail.  So now I use chip bags or other soon-to-be-trashed items.  Then when they get funky with slightly too old kitchen scraps, I just pitch them.  No need to wash.

Here are our duel compost piles.  Right now, Bin 1 is the compost for use in the garden.  We used a lot of it in the garden this spring, and now as you can see, its grown a healthy layer of grass.   Bin 2 is where we are actively composting.  Once we use up all the compost from Bin 1, we’ll switch.  The door on Bin 2 is removable and fits either bin.

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Having the piles right there on the ground means that the worms and other critters can just make their way in and out as they please.  i.e., no responsibility.  August gives our pile a quick stir with the hoe when we are adding a batch of scraps, but otherwise there’s no maintenance.

For urban composting, I’d probably use some pallets for walls in order to make it match my chicken coop.  But if that’s holding you back, perhaps just find a discreet corner behind the shed or something.  Its just a glorified dirt pile, you can always move it.

4) Chickens get first dibs.

More customized advice for those of us with urban chickens:  I think the chickens are more efficient composters.  So, I’d give them priority on any veggies or fruits you would normally feed them.  Then you can add their poop to the compost pile.

Here at the Johnsons we are composting very haphazardly and its working out just fine.  Our weekly garbage back is much less “messy” and of course I love making something valuable from trash.  Who doesn’t love that?

Moral of the story:

Make a small pile of dirt and dried grass clippings.  Start collecting your kitchen waste and throwing it out there.  The end!

 

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About Mary-Hall

loyal southerner, exceedingly frugal, compulsive DIYer

3 responses to “Composting for Dummies”

  1. Barbara Daniel says :

    M-H, you make composting sound almost like fun. Another great read on composting (basically, throwing all your vegetable matter and other compostable stuff IN your garden, rather than in other places and having to move it to the garden) is “How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back.” Trouble is – it’s not an easy book to come by. HOWEVER, I happen to have a copy that I MIGHT let you borrow.
    There’s a sweet character in it named – “Bethany!”

  2. bethanybordeaux says :

    ok. this is amazing. and super inspiring. and….you made me laugh so so hard as I’d forgotten about the “worm farm” endeavor. there was also a brief affair with a barrel style composter purchased for $100 on craigslist. (it cost $300 new online). the woman delivered it to my home full of “Free compost” which should have been my first clue that she was desperate to get rid of it. every time you rotated it, goop dripped out on your feet…..and then came the ant infestation. it was awful. so then one day i dumped it out, hosed it down, posted it on Craigslist…and yes….got my $100 back. keith hasn’t let me bring up the topic since. “we don’t have a garden” he says. please. details, shmetails.

  3. thewickedchicken says :

    “Informal composting” Love this! And thanks for posting it, I have been held back myself for years but when I moved my garden to a new spot this year I found the ground less than desirable. So I just started a pile of horse poop, chicken poop, old hay, icky vegetables and assorted leftovers. It has gotten rather large and this made me feel much better about my non-scientific pile! It’s gonna be okay! 🙂

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