Getting StartedOnce I decided to compost kitchen scraps in my backyard, I turned to the Internet where I learned that my pile will need:
- Brown/old/dry/carbon material such as leaves or shredded newspapers
- Fresh green material such as vegetable scraps
- Air created by turning or poking holes in the pile
- Water to achieve the consistency of a wrung out sponge
TutorialsHere's a taste of the kind of resources that helped me get started:
- Rethink Recycling
- MN Pollution Control
- City of St. Paul
- University of MN - Extension Service
- Gardening Matters
- Environmental Protection Agency
- How Composting Works
- Siting a Compost Bin
- Carbon Sources
- Aerating Compost
- Deterring Compost Pests
- Harvesting and Using Compost
Choosing a BinA choice of compost bins ranging from 35-200+ dollars was overwhelming and could have derailed my plans. Fortunately, it didn't matter. One day, the thought of pitching carrot peels was just too distasteful. I could not do it. Seeing me stash them in a coffee can and probably being somewhat alarmed, the next day Brian brought home a county-subsidized standard-issue black plastic compost bin for the backyard. It works great.
Space limitations might require the consideration of something like the Envirocycle, a tumbler with a small footprint or even vermiculture.
Barriers Can be OvercomeTrust that your concerns about composting, whatever they are, can be addressed. Set your doubts aside, focus on the reasons why composting is a good idea and make a decision to do the right thing. Know that certain problems, such as attracting pests or bad smells, can be totally avoided by sticking to a few simple guidelines. Once committed to the goal, your fears can be put into perspective and problems that do arise can be solved with simple troubleshooting steps.
Composting is GratifyingTo understand why it is difficult to describe why composting is so gratifying, imagine this. You're standing on the beach on a hot day in a wool suit, maybe a tie, shoes and socks. You're wearing a hat and carrying a laptop. It's heavy. I, on the other hand, am in the lake. No matter how much I try, I'll never be able to give you the experience of the refreshing water by telling you about it. You're going to have to take your clothes off and jump in.
So, while composting is a rational thing to do - it cuts greenhouse gas emissions; saves landfill space; conserves fuel used to haul organics, a resource that we can easily and more efficiently manage in our backyards; and rebuilds the soil - it is more than that. "Closing the loop" and making dirt is probably one of the simplest more productive and meaningful things we can directly do in the course of a day. And it isn't just for gardeners or environmentalists, any more than jumping in the lake on a hot day is just for guys who play the guitar and wear patchouli. It's for anyone who can appreciate a sense of order, whether it be expressed in music, calculus, a card catalog, city grid, or a tidy drawer of socks. Look around. We like order. We create it. We gravitate toward it. Composting goes to the heart of it.
TricksI'll leave you with some composting tips:
- Line your kitchen compost bucket with newspaper. It will keep the container clean and provide a carbon source to your compost pile.
- Shred leaves with a lawnmower and keep some near the compost pile.
- Give food scraps an extra whack with a knife before adding them to your kitchen compost bucket.
- Add a bucket of leaves or other carbon source to the pile whenever you add a bucket of food scraps.
- Don't worry too much about the exact carbon/nitrogen ratio unless you would enjoy it.
- When setting up the pile, start with a layer of sticks on the bottom to encourage air flow.
- Cover the bottom of the bin with chicken wire to deter animals from burrowing. I didn't do this and do not consider our resident chipmunk to be too much of a pest.
- Use compostable wax paper in place of plastic wrap.
- If you don't bring a reusable container, always ask for compostable carry-out packaging at restaurants. If they do not have it, request tinfoil, which can be recycled.
- Pick a date to set up your compost bin.