Thursday, May 19, 2011

Composting for the not so scientific minded/wanna be hardcore gardeners

OK. Composting to me is quite simple. Have a good mix of carbon rich nutrients from browns (dead leaves) and nitrogen rich nutrients from greens (kitchen scraps). I know there is a hardcore science behind it all, but ladies, who has time for all of that?? So I am going to provide the most simple guide to getting a healthy compost going.

First, pick your location or container. I live in a condo, which means that I am not only limited on space for a full grown compost pile, I also have to load up my recyclables and take them to the local recycling center myself. Gold medal anyone? If you have a yard, you should be good to go with an outdoor pile. If you are living in close quarters like myself, container composting is the way to go. Setting up outdoors is easy, just pick a spot in your yard. You can contain it with chicken wire, 2/4s, or concrete blocks, but none of that is really necessary. For container composting you can use any "bin" available, but you need to make a small adjustment. Take your sweet drill (I'm sorry if you are a member of the adventure club and don't have a drill, we need to talk) and cut several holes on the bottom and top of your container. I would say anywhere from 10-15 small holes on each side, depending on the size. I use a metal trash can from IKEA (b/c it's cute) but you can use any plastic bin or can as long as it has a lid.

So let's keep it simple. Once you have set up your bin, there are three things your compost MUST have. Water, sun, and air...just like a plant. How cute!

Here are some things you can compost:

Kitchen scraps (duh!)
Lint from your dryer
Vacuum contents
Tea bags/coffee filters
Shredded newspaper
Paper napkins, towels, and bags
Dog and cat hair (there's plenty of that going around in my house)
Any old junk from the pantry (stale cereal, chips, crackers). If it's flour based, you're good. This includes old moldy bread and pasta.

Here are some things you CAN NOT compost:

Dog and cat poop (unless your animals are vegetarian)
Meat/dairy products

Why can't I compost poop??

In a nutshell (b/c serious gardeners will tell you there is a scientific formula for composting these things) salmonella and maggots DO exist.. did you hear that? Yeah, so just don't do it. OK?

Here we go. Throw your approved composting materials in the pile/bin, cover with dead leaves, and continue the process. Keep your pile aerated by mixing it up as much as possible. It's good to keep an extra bin for dead leaves to cover your scraps every time you toss. Make sure your compost has the three main ingredients: air, sun, and water. Use common sense. If the compost is too wet and full of too much decomposed matter, (and gnats are taking over your lungs every time you open to aerate) add brown. If it's too full of browns and isn't doing much, you need more greens.

Simple enough??? Ghetto composting has worked for me, and you can always get more educated about it, but seriously I composted this in 3 months. It's not that complicated.

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