Composting 101

Composting, the act of mounding all your kitchen garbage and lawn trimmings into a gigantic pile, is definitely the least sexy part of “going green.” But once I learned grinding food in the disposal contributes to water pollution, I reluctantly committed myself to this environmental duty.

Essentially, compost creates fertilizer for your lawn, garden or plants. You toss all your kitchen, yard and leaf refuse in a pile and the discarded items decompose over several months, morphing into a nutrient rich fertilizer. The transitional process, however, isn’t pleasant – swarms of insects buzz about, the half rotten grapefruit I consumed last week stares back at me and there’s sometimes an odoriferous whiff.

It borders on gross, but composting isn’t difficult. I started Project Compost by first establishing a dedicated countertop “compost tupperware” in my kitchen. I throw anything in there that’s normally destined for the disposal. When it fills up, I spread the kitchen scraps around the top of a load of leaves (or yard clippings, but no weeds – they might seed and when you use the compost, weed seeds come with it) in my compost bin, kept in a shady corner next my house. If you don’t enjoy the luxury (or curse) of a yard, you can buy or make a compost bin. OR, if you want, you could also simply heap up your components or add them directly to the soil in your garden. But the fancy purchased ones — which come with a stirring mechanism — take a lot of work out of the process.

I suggest this compost bin if you’re buying:
Envirocycle Backyard Composter

Or here are instructions to build one

An important step of composting is aeration, achieved by placing holes in the bottom of your compost bin and/or stirring or “turning” your pile if you’ve mounded it on the ground. This allows the microbes to worm their way to bliss. I turn my compost using a pick-hoe about once a week but some websites recommend everyday.

Other key steps in the process:
Nitrogen/carbon ratio: consider the 50/50 brown to green percentages. A blend of leaves, grass cuttings and bark should be mingled with your kitchen scraps to aerate, to prevent strong odors and to speed the composting process along. In addition, your compost needs to be moist at all times. Too dry and the microorganisms become dormant; too wet and the aeration process stalls.

And one more thing… use no meat, bones or fish scraps. They attract critters.

Good resources for composting:
Video instructions on how to compost and why
Scientific stuff on howtocompost.org
Easy directions on Treehugger.com
Local to Florida? A good resource

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