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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.

vickie
10/19/2009 12:55:40 PM

Shannon, Composting I guess is one thing every one can do and feel good about. Yes, a mixture of the brown (being the carbon, leaves, newspaper and such) and the green (being the nitrogen, kitchen waste) is what makes the compost work. There are different recommendations for the mix everywhere but it is the brown that helps the compost cook. Too much green without the brown and it just becomes a mess. It's not really hard to do -remember too that depending on the compost system you have it could take up to a year. That's the kind I have- just a compost bin and I get compost approximately once a year in the spring. If you get the tumbler it is faster. I'm glad your composting, keep up the good work. I hope I have answered your questions.. vickie


s.m.r. saia
10/19/2009 7:51:29 AM

Wow, composting really seems to be on everyone's minds! Thanks Vickie for this useful post. I'm starting to feel compost-impaired. I pretty much go about it like Nebraska Dave, just tossing in everything from the kitchen. What's the deal with the green/brown ratio? This sounds like a useful rule of thumb, but I only ever seem to find it alluded to, when it seems like it might be the very heart of the matter....


vickie
10/17/2009 9:53:21 PM

Dave, Sounds like you have too much green- You want to make sure there is enough "brown" to start it composting --you can use shredded newspapers if you don't have anything else even junk mail or cardboard! Also, things you probably never thought about -like the lint from our dryer or the stuff when you empty your vacuum cleaner. I have to watch myself when I compost too -I just forget and this summer as I was canning I kept throwing all that vegetable waste in there but then I caught myself and put in some newspapers. Once I got the hang of composting -it was fun to go back and get soil out of the compost bin. It makes me feel good also that all those scraps now are not going in the trash. I'm gonna try to compost this winter -if I don't get too cold! Maybe before you give up on the old pile, try covering it up with some brown and give it a little more time. vickie


nebraska dave
10/17/2009 12:07:16 PM

Vickie, Composting seems to be the in thing even in urban back yard America. My small time composting efforts are in great need of more updated methods. So far I just dump what ever comes off the yard into a pile and hope for the best. Well, after many years some it still a little on the not composted side. I have not really paid much attention to the green brown mix or the aeration of the pile. This year I have layered the yard material from the last cutting in green brown layers on the three beds in hopes that it will compost down some over the Winter months. Next Spring I’ll double dig the beds before planting. I think I’ll have one more mow down which will be mostly green stuff to go into the compost pile. I’ll try to mix it with the old stuff the best I can, but it may be a lost cause. The green stuff from the summer has heated up, packed down, turned slimy, and now it covered with a powdery mold. I might just have to dig it out, bag it up, send it out in the yard waste pickup, and start over with a proper compost pile. I’m sure in a few more years it would turn to compost, but I need compost on a regular basis and can’t wait for nature to take her time. I have built two compost containment areas that are about 6X10 feet. One is supposed to be for fresh stuff and the other for useable compost. It’s been a love hate thing for me the last few years.