Gardening,  Sustainable Community,  Thrift

The Lazy Gardener: Composting

The mere thought of all the useful soil I keep out of the landfill motivates me to compost, but some people find the idea of composting intimidating, or maybe just inconvenient.  So let me calm your fears with a little knowledge from one of my favorite books, The Humanure Handbook. Yeah, the name of that book probably didn’t calm your fears…

Why EVERYONE Should Compost

Composting:
Enriches the  Soil
Prevents Pollution
Fights Existing Pollution
Restores Land
Destroys Pathogens
Saves Money – never buy fertilizer again!

Composting Myth #1: Composting is time consuming and difficult

I feel bad for the
 squirrel,
but it does dig up
everything.

Composting does not have to be time consuming, at all and it is also certainly not difficult. There are just a few things to remember.

A bin is used to maintain correct levels of moisture and temperature, two of the 4 necessities for good compost. Oxygen is the third necessity, and can be maintained by adding plenty of bulky materials (sticks and leaves) and occasionally turning the compost pile to create interstitial air spaces. Worms also help with aerating a pile. This creates a habitat for aerobic bacteria which ensures thermophilic decomposition. The fourth necessity is a balanced diet of compostables: garbage, plant matter and manure. Don’t worry, you can get away without the manure, but you’ll need another source of Nitrogen. So a little seafood (or in our case Oscar’s dead rabbit/squirrel friends) in the compost is probably a good idea.

Composting Myth #2: Composting is stinky

A properly maintained compost pile/bin does not stink, because it is filled with aerobic bacteria and clean, organic material. Whenever something new and stinky is added to the pile, cover it with clean, organic material (sticks, leaves, shredded paper, clean soil, sawdust, weeds, straw, grass clippings, etc) to cover the smell until it starts to be consumed by the aerobic bacteria. This is also a good idea for the temporary bin in the kitchen. Keeping a bit of clean, shredded paper to drop in the bucket over new garbage will help keep the stink away until it is taken out to the big bin.

Composting Myth #3: Composting requires a lot of space

Composting can happen anywhere. With the help of a composting program or worm bin it is even possible in a city apartment! 

Composting Myth #4: Compost bins are Expensive

This is our compost. It is literally a hole
in the ground teeming with earth worms.

Maybe if you buy one of those expensive rotating composting bins. Many municipalities offer free or reduced cost composting bins. Building our own is very easy, and can be done with reclaimed pallets or other upcycled materials if you don’t want to spend any money. Our compost is literally a hole in the ground surrounded by cinder blocks we found in the yard. I have plans to build a compost keyhole garden, which will require a little more planning than our current hole, but even that won’t be expensive. If you really have your heart set on one of those rotating versions, check out how to make one yourself. I have three barrels in the garage waiting to become two rain water collectors and a rotating compost bin.

Want to Know More?

There’s a wealth of knowledge on the internet, but if you really want to know about composting, I highly recommend The Humanure Handbook which is so popular it is now in it’s 3rd edition. It is about composting with a focus on how to safely include manure. I am not composting manure yet, but I am happy to say I saw composting toilets in the hardware store on main street!

The tulip that lives in the cinder block.
I can’t get it out, so it is the compost tulip. It loves living there!

One Comment

  • Noor

    This is a good design, for a bin. I had a stoinatary bin but it was too difficult for me to turn the heavy materials. I agree that large capacity is necessary for quick or hot composting. I love my compostumbler. It’s bigger than the other bins and tumblers out there and it’s really easy to turn even for my Dad who’s 69. He’s made 6 batches of compost in his compostumbler since he bought one 6 months ago!

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