Sunday, April 21, 2013

Composting 101

Since it's earth day, let's talk about dirt! A few years ago we decided to start composting. Since we were buying compost to add to our gardens every spring, and we throw away plenty of food scraps we thought we should at least give it a try. Now it's so natural I can't imagine not doing it. Maybe you already compost, but if you don't I thought I'd give you the quick low down on how easy it is. 

First, what kinds of food can and can't be composted? Basically anything with fat or grease can NOT be put in the compost: no meat, cheese or oil. We also don't put any breads or grains, since those also attract animals. We DO compost any fruit or veggie peels, pulp, stems, or any that has gone bad (a rotten strawberry or some slimy spinach--throw it in!). Egg shells are great and add needed calcium to the soil, and I've already mentioned this is where our coffee grounds go (unless you're up for a spa treatment). We have learned that if you put a lot of seeds in the compost you will get a lot of seedlings everywhere you spread the compost, so we try not to compost scraps that contain a lot of seeds (like tomato guts and pepper cores). When we first started we were just throwing the food scraps in a plastic strawberry carton but then my mom got us a compost bucket, which is definitely the way to go. 


The top has air vents and a thick filter so air can get in and out but not the smell. We never smell anything, even though this is usually half full of rotting scraps. It's easy to rinse out after emptying, so you can start clean every time.


We made a wood frame in the back corner of the yard for our compost pile. Before adding compost we broke up the dirt under the frame so it would have some looser soil to start with.


 The key to good compost is creating a balance of "wet" and "dry" ingredients. Food scraps are wet, and yard waste (like grass clippings, dry leaves) are dry. Use a shovel to turn the pile over and sift it around a little once or twice a month, just try to keep it loose and airy. Air is your friend! 


We don't compost in the winter, because it's too cold to make trips to the compost pile and too cold for stuff to break down anyway. So we stop after the weather turns really cold, but we still turn over the pile during the winter...on warmer days. Finally in the spring, we use a wire screen to sift it out over a wheel barrow.


The stuff that looks like dirt gets used, and the bigger stuff that's sifted out gets put back into the pile to continue breaking down. The best part is that it's free! Which is great because as any gardener can tell you "cheap as dirt" is totally inaccurate. Good dirt is expensive. We mix this into all the gardens, and then they are ready to plant. Compost is full of nutrients and great for growing veggies, which we will peel and then put those peels in the compost, and then in the spring...well you get the idea. Anyway, between composting and recycling we really don't throw away nearly as much as we used to. Pretty much saving the planet over here. : )

Thanks for reading!
-Haley

**Don't forget, we are standing for freedom this month. Read here. Change lives here. Thank you!!**

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