When I first thought about composting, in my mind it was just a natural way to add nutrients to your grow bed and increase the output of your plants. As I began to research it though, to me it is amazing how many people, merchants and municipalities are riding the compost trend. Cities around the country, even around the world are budgeting for some sort of composting program in their community. When our family first moved here in 1967, people all around the county complained about the smell coming from the soap factory on the other side of the lake from where we lived. It was horrible. I was told anytime an animal lost it’s life on a Clay county road, a crew would scoop it up and take it to the soap factory where it would be transformed into soap. I used to hope against hope it wasn’t any of the soap we used. Now, though, communities around the country are complaining about the stinch, as they call it, coming from the local composting plant. If you read my last post, you know I’m a big advocate for buying and eating locally grown food, so I find it amazing when a local government and/or company are willing to help with the cause. It feeds the minds of the community. It makes everyone think along the same lines of helping one another out in producing and consuming products close to home. That leads to less unemployment, less pollution which in turn leads to a healthier, happier bunch of people. It just makes sense.
This matters. If a significant amount of left over food from any or all restaurants in a community can be used for compost, and handed back to the local farmers for use in their crops, it saves a lot money over all. For one thing, it reduces the amount of fertilizer that has to be shipped in from somewhere else reducing pollution and shipping costs. Having worked in a restaurant in my youth, it wouldn’t be that much more difficult to separate it out from the rest of the trash as plates are cleared. It also reduces the amount of trash in their dumpsters meaning they would have either smaller bins or less pick-ups, meaning less costs. It also slows down the rate in which a land fill is exhausted in space. When patrons find out that not only is their favorite restaurant buying locally grown food to serve, but they are also enabling the farmers to grow it more efficiently and less expensively, they’re bound to feel more comfortable about eating there and may even be more willing to so more often. Win win. Portland, OR has just such a program.
Some municipalities have partnered up with local school and universities to create classes on weekends or at night showing locals how to compost for their hobby of gardening. If your growing in soil, compost can be a big help. In fact, some experts will tell you a good combination in your grow bed will be compost as the bottom third of your soil, peat as the next layer and vermiculite or perlite as the top layer. I’ve heard of growers getting some excellent results with this combo.
Just Doing It
It isn’t too difficult. You can build a compost bin from scratch or buy from Amazon, Home Depot or just about any gardening or hardware store in your area. Compost is done in or at least started in layers. On the bottom you should start with brown stuff, like wood chips, rotten limbs, etc. Then put some green in like shredded grass or weeds (no roots). Put food scraps on top of that and then a shovel full or two of dirt over that. each time you start over. As it sits for awhile it’s a good idea to use the shovel or pitch fork to turn it over from time to time. Once your bin is full, you should let it sit for a year. That’s why it’s a good thing to start the project in the summer time, let it sit through the winter and spring. Heat is good for it as well-it helps to break the elements down. It might be a good idea to turn it over, add more brown, green, food and dirt, in that order every day or so, depending how often you add more scraps to the pile. Remember, only vegetable matter, no meat. Egg shells are good, coffee grounds and tea bags are good. Some people say onions not so much. A number of people like to keep a compost jar in their kitchen. When it fills up with vegetable scraps, they empty it into their compost bin, adding more green, brown and dirt at the same time. I saw a video recently where a homesteader said he could possibly begin to use his compost in six months rather than waiting a year, but he wasn’t really sure and didn’t mention how he expected to do it.
Models and Styles
There are many different ideas when it comes to compost bins. Some prefer a tumbler style, preventing the need to turn the compost by hand with a pitch fork or shovel. Another idea is to make two or three compartments, so that when you turn it over, you can just shovel it into the next compartment over. Tumbler types can be bought or made at home. A lot of tumblers are made using old barrels. I don’t think it matters whether they are metal or plastic, but you should definitely use a barrel made of food grade material. Even though you expect to put a load of unsavory product into it, remember that compost will be growing underneath your vegetables. To the right is a tumbler type compost bin sold at Amazon. The next one below is an example of the same type that you can actually find plans for making at home on Pinterest.
Of course, on a tumbler type, as you add more ingredients, it gets heavier, which could make it more difficult to turn as time goes on. Below is another style, which I find most people opt for just because it takes less time to make and materials are usually more available. You can also find plans for variations of this type of compost bin on Pinterest or Mother Earth.
If you have any comments or questions, go ahead and leave them below. I always respond.