Kitchen compost: Start from scrap
Feed your food to the earth -- it's an endless (and awesome) cycle!
Tue, Mar 24, 2009 at 03:51 PM
Even the fondest couples have been known to bicker over garbage: No one wants to take out that soggy, smelly mess of coffee grounds and food waste. The solution? Lighten your load, promote domestic harmony, and get green Brownie points by making your own compost for your garden, house plants or window box.
First, is compost the same as soil? No. Think of it as recycled food for your soil.
Composting is a "controlled process of decomposition used to transfer organic material such as kitchen scraps, yard waste and paper products into humus," which enriches the soil, increases its moisture retention (less watering!), and nourishes beneficial organisms, according to the Organic Consumers Association.
Ready to try? It's simple, just one more trash-sorting step. Well, OK, maybe two.
First, you'll need a covered kitchen bin for food scraps. Try a one-gallon stainless steel bucket, $39.99 from Cleanairgardening.com; a ceramic crock in white, blue, or red or a green-glazed terracotta bucket, both $29.99 from Garden Supply Company. All have replaceable carbon filters that absorb odors.
Next, you have a choice: To worm or not to worm. You can either layer kitchen scraps with brown matter in an outdoor composter (see below), or let red earthworms do the work for you in your kitchen. That’s right, you can keep live wrigglers in a kitchen worm bin, where they'll digest garbage into compost. It's the kid-friendly solution: A pet you don't have to walk or buy food for, with poop that's made to be kept and used for growing more food and more scraps for worms—talk about cradle to cradle!
But worm keepers beware: Never let the wrigglers wriggle free of their bin! These prolific reproducers can hurt trees and woodland plants by consuming protective leaf litter.
How to compost
The key is layering. For the home composter, a mix of three parts brown (high carbon) to one part green (high nitrogen) matter is advised. Brown matter includes corncobs and husks, paper (unlinked), pine needles, dry leaves, sawdust or wood shavings, straw and woody vegetable stalks. Green matter includes coffee grounds, eggshells, fruit and vegetable parings, green leaves, and seaweed.
Layer in your composter and keep the pile moist, turning it occasionally to give oxygen to beneficial soil microbes.
Outdoor Compost Bins
Look for stalwart bins made of recycled plastic, like this one, $89 on sale. If you want to get fancy, they also sell "tumbler" bins that aerate by turning.
As the worm bin turns, so shall your garden thrive.
This article originally appeared in Plenty in March 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.