Composting 101

“Compost is a mixture of various decaying matter organic substances, such as dead leaves and manure, used to fertilize the soil.”

I was a very idealistic child. I thought (like most children do when they go through that insufferable idealistic phase) that I was going to single-handedly change the world. In fourth grade, I wrote my principal a letter about how smoke from the incinerator was going to give the playground kids cancer and that the crappy government-issued pizza served to us at lunchtime was not healthy. Of course, my childhood candor about the pizza was not exactly well-received, but my heart was in the right place. Some years later, I decided that my project to save the world was going to be a compost pile behind my garage. How successful was it? Let’s just say it probably had a negative impact towards the environment instead of being beneficial because generally, it’s a good idea for a family to consume quite a bit of vegetables in order to contribute to the compost pile. My family’s idea of vegetables were frozen potatoes and canned vegetables. My “compost pile” resembled a sad, half-decaying pile of grass clippings sprinkled with eggshells.

Fast forward to this past August. We have this wonderful rental house with a giant backyard and flower beds galore. My SO and I consume quite a bit of vegetables- not a one of them comes from a can- and I was throwing out peelings, shells, and otherwise uneaten vegetable matter and saying to myself, “You know Self, you really need to start a compost pile.” I have very few tools so I couldn’t construct a nice-sized compost area made out of pallets, and I don’t have much money to buy one of those plastic, pre-constructed compost tumblers. What I do have is quite a few of these:

The SO and I use these Tupperware bins in our two moves: once from Great Lakes State and once into our new rental house. They’re nice because they’re sturdy and we can save them for future moves instead of scrambling to find boxes. I have a friend who made a compost bin out of one of these and did my own research, and set out to make my own. My first obstacle was punching holes in the side and top of the bin for ventilation. The directions I consulted said to use a power drill- which I don’t own- so I thought maybe I could use the claw end of a hammer and hit the bin really hard. Turns out, those bins are damn sturdy because I made one hole in the side and then dented the hell out of the bin.

Enter the flat head screwdriver.

I didn’t really have the money to shell out for a power drill, and I didn’t want to wait until I could borrow one from a friend. My mind has been racing as of late so I took all that energy and made Swiss cheese of out my bin.

Now, to layer.

Sticks go in the bottom.

Shredded newspaper.

Peat moss with grass on top of it.

The goodies: carrot peels, parts of onions, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and maybe half of a lemon.

I got about 8 pounds of (free!) coffee grounds from my local Starbucks and it went onto the vegetable goodies. Grass on top of that, peat moss on top of that.

As of right now, the bin is sitting in an unused flower bed in the backyard. It may move depending on how much sun it gets and convenience. I want to keep a compost bucket in the house so I can gather stuff for a couple of days and reduce the number of trips I’d take out to the bin. However, my SO is skeptical about potential odors and insects that the bucket might attract so I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do. I saw a kitchen composter at TJ Maxx a couple weeks ago; it’s basically a large ceramic pot with a lid that has a carbon filter in it.

The SO is on board with the composting. Of course, it’s pretty much my project; he just makes sure I have grass clippings (and eventually leaves) to put in the bin. I’m excited at the potential of gorgeous compost to put into my flower beds and around whatever vegetables I grow next summer.


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