25 Jun

A Practical Guide to Composting

Composting always seemed like a really daunting thing to me.  You have to touch with gross, dirty stuff full of worms and bugs, and the only real use for it is if you garden.  I was pretty sure there was no point in my ever composting since I never intended to garden.  I was willing to go along with it at my mom’s house, but the whole idea just kind of grossed me out.

Until I had a roommate who composted in a totally easy, fuss-free manner.  She made composting seem like something I could actually do, something I sort of wanted to do.  So here it is, a practical guide to composting.  I guarantee it’ll make the process more accessible.

Practical Guide to Composting

Let’s start with why composting is such a good decision regardless of any garden you may or may not grow.

1. Composting food waste means less trash into the landfill.

You know how I feel about landfills.  They’re gross and stinky and almost exclusively affect the lives of people who don’t have the knowledge or ability to advocate for it to be somewhere else, usually the elderly or those in generational poverty.

2. Composting is a way to recycle organic materials.

Yay recycling!  Right?  Recycling means we’re using things to their fullest.  Even if you have no intention of starting a garden, offering your compost to a neighbor could be a huge help for their garden.  Besides, even if neither you nor anyone else ever uses the compost, it is still the most efficient way to dispose of organic materials.  Even if you don’t want a garden, you can spread your compost out into the yard and start filling up your composting container again.  I almost want to start singing “The Circle of Life”, but I’ll refrain.

3. Composting can be an amazing learning opportunity for kids.

Decomposers are one of the most difficult part of an ecosystem to understand.  Kids see producers (most plants) and consumers (most animals) on a regular basis.  And while they might see decomposers (fungi, bacteria, etc.), they probably can’t even begin to explain the difference between these and other types of plants and animals.  Watching the decomposition process in action can be a huge help with this.  And understanding how ecosystems work along with the interdependence of organisms is the first step to kids understanding why stewardship of our earth is such a huge deal.

Now that we know why, let’s discuss how.

Composting can be so much easier than you think.  For less than an hour of your time and less than $30, you can already begin composting.

1. Contain your compost.  … or… you know… not.

My composting set up is super easy.  Chicken wire is wrapped around two posts and wire tied to the fence.  Done did.

My roommate’s set up was even easier.  She just had a pile at the back of her yard.  Done did.

I opted for some guard between the compost and the rest of the yard mainly because we have a dog.  I’ve seen Ramona foraging through the cat litter before, and I didn’t want her getting it in her head that rotten vegetables would be a yummy dinner.

Some people will buy prefab composting bins with holes and everything, but these can be pricy.  I’ve also seen people create their own by simply drilling holes in plastic tubs or trash cans.

All of these work.  Really, you just need to choose a method that will work for you.

2. Include “green” and “brown” matter.

Green matter includes stuff like weeds and grass clippings.  This should be about 1/3 of your compost.

Brown matter includes stuff like dead leaves and dirt.  This should be about 1/3 of your compost.

3.  Kitchen scraps.

Kitchen scraps will make up the remaining 1/3 of your compost.  This should include eggshells and scraps from fruits and veg.  Other than eggshells, you don’t want to include any animal byproducts in your compost.  These take way longer to decompose than the rest of it and will likely attract animals to your compost.  Obviously not ideal.

4. Air and water.

Air and water are some of the most important components in composting.  To let air in, you’ll need to mix up your compost from time to time.  Compost containers usually let you roll them around to mix them up.  I just use a rake every time I add some new kitchen scraps to the mix.

Water is a little trickier.  Where I live, we usually get enough rain so that I don’t have to actively do anything to ensure my compost is moist enough.  If you live in a drier climate, you’ll have to add water to your compost from time to time to make sure it has enough water.  You never want your compost to be soaked, though, so watch out not to overwater.

5. Create a inside compost receptacle.

This needs to work a lot like your trash/recycling center.  Keep in mind that old bits of fruits and veg do attract fruit flies, so be sure to close the container up.  We use a couple of dog treat containers because they stay closed and because they’re free.  Again, I’ve seen fancy composting containers for use in the house.  You’re free to do it, but they’re not necessary.

Compost

Now you’re ready to get going!  Don’t be scared of the process.  And if you’re afraid that the whole thing will be gross, don’t be!  The worms and bugs have no desire to chill out on the surface of your compost.  And the more often you empty out your compost containers, the less disgusting they’ll be – a lesson I may have learned but haven’t put into practice.

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