|the final product|
How did we get started? We were visiting with the hub's grandparents and discussing their wild success with their tomato plants and the hub's grandpa mentioned that he had a secret in his soil - which he proceeded to refer to as "black gold." That reference made me curious so I asked him to explain further and I got a good lesson in composting and the benefits it has in gardening. Needless to say (I should mention that I can be a bit impulsive at times) - We bought a composting bin the next week at Lowes, I did some research, and we got started. We set up the bin in an inconspicuous location in our garden and started with some bits of cardboard, kitchen scraps (vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds), and old potting soil from old pots, and just kept piling on from there.
What can you compost? LOTS of STUFF!!! We regularly compost our coffee grounds (including the filters as we use unbleached filters), vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, leaves, unfertilized grass clippings, weeds, dead plants and flowers, and small pieces of plain cardboard. It is important to keep a balance of those items that are considered "brown items" and those that are considered "green items." We steer clear of any animal by-products (other than the egg, shrimp, or crab shells) and any grass or weeds that have been treated with fertilizer or other chemicals. Also, pine straw, pine cones, and large branches are not recommended as they seem to have a hard time breaking down at the same speed as everything else.
the sealed container we keep on our counter for kitchen scraps
What is the time commitment? No more than a few minutes per week and thats really only to take the scraps we have collected while preparing our meals out to the compost bin and then use the pitch fork to mix everything around to make sure the compost bin is getting enough air to keep it healthy. You also want to monitor your pile to make sure it doesn't dry out. It should be about as moist as wrung out sponge but if you notice it looks dry, just spray some water in it or add green items which hold a lot more moisture than the brown items. If you notice its too moist, just add some more browns to help absorb the excess moisture.
Does it smell? Surprisingly enough it doesn't! As long as you have the right blend of greens and browns, it doesn't smell like much more than dirt. The composting action does make the material inside of it hot, so you may notice during the cooler months some steam coming from the top. That's just the compost decomposing and generating heat so don't worry, it won't catch on fire or anything crazy like that.
How long does it take to make dirt? This can vary depending on how "hot" your compost pile is. It took ours about 8 months to get dirt but we also started ours in the fall so a good part of that time was in the winter which slows the process a little bit. The finished compost settles at the bottom so our bin has doors at the bottom that we simply pull out when we are ready to use the compost.
|our compost bin|
Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions (firstname.lastname@example.org) or click here for another great online resource about composting which also provides all of the scientific reasons it works (there is a lot of good information on the web too).