It’s Not Easy Being Green: How hard is composting…really?!

Since we planted our vegetable garden, we’ve been getting a *lot* of questions about our compost.  This is actually pretty exciting because even *we* were super surprised at how easy it ended up being and, honestly, we didn’t do half as much work as some people and we were still pleased as punch at how it turned out!  So I thought I’d take a little bit of time to address some of those questions and, maybe, it will help you better understand how to tackle something like this yourself!  After all, ’tis the season to compost!  Fa la la la la la la la la…..

Why compost? Well, composting is an age-old way for anybody to get rid of all their extra “kitchen scraps” to create uh-ma-zing dirt that is certainly a must for any would-be green-thumb-er.  It’s also a sure-fire way to help out your garden by putting nutrient rich (and free!) dirt back into your yard and it keeps more food out of your trash, which has a double bonus of being less stinky thereby causing fewer “What’s-that-smell?” trips to the curb!  It also prevents you from needing to use chemical fertilizers on your lawn since it is filled to the brim with great nutrition!  More importantly, though, it keeps rotting food out of landfills where,  horrifyingly, it doesn’t break down because there aren’t enough lifeforms to de-compose the scraps since everything is packed so tightly together.  Don’t believe me?  Check out this link to read more.  Can you say “Goo”!?!?  I knew you could…

Is composting really difficult? Hey, I am *no* expert and I am probably the world’s *worst* gardener (aloe?  Killed.  Rosemary?  Dead.  We’ve even gone through two pot-planted basil plants this season so I’m getting the feeling that plants and me go together like oil and water).  But the thing about composting is that you are better off just letting it do its thaaaaang rather than babysitting it too much – perfect for non green-thumbs like me!  In other words, dump the food in, give it a stir, cover it, wait a few months, and you are good to go.  Little “critters” like slugs and worms will naturally take root in your dirt because it feeds them, sustains them, and gives them a happy home.  So if you can handle collecting your scraps (into an airtight container, of course – everybody knows what a pain in the arse fruit flies are) and then taking a weekly trip out to the composter, then I’d say you’re pretty much ready to go.  However, I’d advise to research, research, research before taking any kind of composting plunge to be sure you know what you’re getting yourself into…

What kind of compost bin do you have? We have what is known as a Worm Bin.  It’s like “Diet Composting” or “Composting for Beginners”.  I think a lot of people have this vision of composting as a giant heap in the corner of their yard where you have to put in x amount of nitrogen rich items and y amount of carbon items and it has to be this scientifically formulated ratio whereby blah, blah, blah…..yea, we don’t do that!  We’re lightweights and those just seemed way too hardcore for us.  Not only that, but a Worm Bin is perfect for urban dwellers (or suburban) who don’t have a lot of land to spread out and can’t create a huge heap in the corner of their yard (and who wants to deal with the critters those things will attract?!?  No thank you!).  A Worm Bin is definitely something a DIY-er could attempt and if you want help on creating your own, then click here!

Our easier than cake compost bin!

What kinds of things can you put in a compost bin/heap? Interesting question, mon ami.  Since I admit to being no expert on composting, I will defer to a great resource for you to read up on your own about what can go into a compost pile/heap/bin – go ahead and click here for more information.  As I understand it, anything vegetarian can go into a compost heap (except for exceptionally acidic citrus like limes – their acids can kill the nutrient rich soil).  Anything from an animal (meat, fat, dairy, pet feces, etc.) should never go into a compost heap.  If it does, then it will rot, smell, attract critters, and make your life a living you-know-what, so just don’t do it.  You should also never put anything like salad dressing, oils, and/or fatty anythings in there for probably, I’d imagine, the same exact reasons.  But here are a few things we’ve been known to compost:

  • Paper towels (but not with any harsh cleaners/chemicals on them!)
  • Paper napkins (so long as they aren’t heavily soiled)
  • Newspaper
  • Paper bags
  • Vegetable scraps from the kitchen (onion skins, garlic skins, peppers, etc.)
  • Apple Cores
  • Peach Pits
  • Avocado skins/pits
  • Dead plants (have had a lot of those lately)
  • Used tea bags
  • Used coffee grounds (we’ve also taken to just spreading them out by hand at the base of our plants – keeps slugs away, too! A big problem here in the rainy Pac NW)
  • Egg shells (cleaned of the albumen and chopped up super fine to encourage easy break down)
  • Olive pits
  • Dust/dust bunnies/pet hair/people hair (gross, I know, but it composts!)

Believe it or not, but that’s about it.  And, honestly, I will say this again, but I AM NO EXPERT on this, but if you want soil that looks like ours did a few weeks back…

Go on....admit it! You're jealous, aren't you?!?

I’m telling you that the best way to get that kind of dirt is to compost.  There simply is no better way.  C’mon, you can do it!  You know you want to!  Join the bandwagon!  I promise this one won’t give you lung cancer or make you suffer any ill side-effects like hair loss or temper tantrums….