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Compost Bins for the Garden

A photo of Vickie MorganComposting is one the best things you can do for your garden and the environment. All those kitchen scraps and leaves are no longer going in to the trash but will now decompose to form in to a nice rich soil and you get to add that to your garden. One complete cycle.

As to what to put in a compost bin, I never thought beyond kitchen waste until our dryer needed work and we found it was completely stopped up with lint (I usually hang clothes on the line, but the dryer does come in handy). After researching, I found you can compost dryer lint. I would have never thought of composting lint or say your vacuum cleaner bag contents. These are just a couple of the 163 things that are listed on Marion Owen's list of "163 Things You Can Compost." Some of which I just don't want to think about but others I'll try to remember.

I have two compost bins now: one of which I have been adding to and the other I'm leaving alone to make compost. There are different ways to compost, in a bin like mine – it is the easiest – you never have to turn it, but it takes from 6 months to 2 years to make compost. Then there are the turning bins which take about 3 to 6 months to make compost. Last but not least, you could just make a pile of compost. It's not as neat, but it's not as expensive.

With the amount of vegetable peelings, grapes, weeds that don't have seeds, newspaper and everything else I've been throwing in the compost this summer, I've managed to fill the two bins I have to the top. So, to make more room, I opened up the bottom of one of the bins that had been composting since last spring and was able to get almost a bushel full of rich, dark compost. Well, actually that little door at the bottom of the bin is just not big enough, so I just pushed the whole thing over, much easier.

Compost bin turned on its side.

After taking out the compost it gave me more room to continue adding grapes, tomato peelings, etc.

It was a real lesson for the youngest daughter.She had never watched me get finished compost before; she thought that they were just two big garbage bins back there.

Almost a bushel of compost.

She was almost right, but you need to have a combination of food waste (no meat or grease) and brown waste (such as leaves), so it will start to decompose over time in to a rich soil.

One day this past summer, as I was weeding the garden, and throwing weeds in the compost bin, I started thinking about things you shouldn't compost. Kind of scared me, I wasn't sure if weeds were on Marion Olson's list but after much research – I found out yes I can compost weeds, but not if they are full of seeds. That way next year, they don't return after you spread the compost in your garden.

Thank goodness mine didn't have seeds – with the rain we had been getting, if you don't pick them up off the soil, they just dig down in and sprout up again tomorrow!

Then I continued researching and found a lot of things people may think about composting but shouldn't:

• dog waste or cat litter
• bones
• meat
• weeds that are full of seeds
• wood
• diseased plants
• human waste (yep some people do this)
• BBQ charcoal
• diary products
• metal
• glass
• plastic
• grease
• rice
• walnuts
• grease
• mayonnaise
• salad dressing
• peanut butter
• citrus peels (too acidic)
• baby diapers

Many of these things can cause your compost to have odor and attract wild life or will harbor disease.

For city dwellers I have found one more way to compost – in a trash can (also very economical). For detailed instructions you can visit The Slow Cook "Trash Can Composting."

So, composting is something everyone is able to do.