Blog: The Lazy Composter

June 11, 2009

Compost fencing

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I discovered composting rather late in life—but it's never too late to start or, if you get lazy, start up again! Here are tips on how to compost.

Composting is a natural process that allows micro-organisms to break down live matter and turn it back into plant food to keep the cycle of life going.

Growing up, my family used to spend hours raking leaves into those giant heavy-duty trash bags that take hundreds of years to biodegrade!

What do you compost?

Most anything organic. This includes:

  • Grass clippings, dead leaves, weeds, flower cuttings, straw (not hay), pruned material, fruits, vegetables, grains, and even coffee grounds.

  • Avoid meat scraps, diseased plants, weeds that set seed, and woody material that takes too long to decompose.

How do you compost?

I've been following the advice from my local CSA farm—it's been a fun and educational project about the cycle of life!

  • Just keep a five-gallon bucket outside your kitchen door and throw your food scraps in there.
  • Dump the bucket once a week into a compost pile. My pile is about 10 feet from my house and my neighbors' so that odors don't become an issue.
  • For kitchen scraps, you may want to bury in the center of the pile to deter animals.
  • Add any of the organic matter mentioned above; for best results, have a balance of 1 part green, nitrogen-rich materials (veggie scraps, fresh lawn clippings, animal manures) to 4 parts brown, carbon-rich materials (hay, leaves, paper).

When you have a pretty good pile going, you can either turn the pile with a shovel to speed decomposition, or just leave to decompose for a year. I take the lazy approach and leave it!

Enjoy your own nutrient-rich compost. Use as mulch, in potting soil, and for planting!

In the next decade, we'll probably see composting become as common as recycling aluminum cans. Many states in the U.S. have mandates to drastically reduce the volume of waste being sent to landfills. With yard and kitchen waste making up about 30% of the waste stream, composting could make a big difference for the environment and the economy.

If you have any thoughts on composting, please share! Just submit your comment in the box below.

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Comments

Hello. Can ashes from a wood

By Mr Mario

Hello. Can ashes from a wood stove/fire place be composted? Thanks

Yes, wood ashes may be used

By Almanac Staff

Yes, wood ashes may be used in a garden or compost. However, coal or barbecue ashes should not be used, because they may contain toxic chemicals that help them to burn.

I bought one of those big

By okienky

I bought one of those big black compost bins from Sams Club. I'm afraid maybe I'm not adding enough "brown" matter. Is it okay to rake up grass right after I mow and put in there or do I need to leave it awhile.

Hi, For grass

By Catherine Boeckmann

Hi, For grass clippings--which are green--it's best to let clippings dry for a couple of days. They are mostly water and rich in nitrogen so they can make your pile soggy and create compacted, matted, smelly piles. You may spell an ammonia-like odor. Once clippings are dry, compost in thin layers, mixing with brown matter (such as autumn leaves, straw, shredded paper products). Mix in a 2 to 1 (green to brown) ratio, and I'd put brown at the bottom. If you use grass, best to turn the pile every few days, too.

I have a compost going but

By Jodi Lerma

I have a compost going but have trouble w/ bermuda growing in it. How can I prevent this?

Jodi, Your compost may need

By Catherine Boeckmann

Jodi, Your compost may need more internal heating and time. Bermuda won't live in a hot pile (over 140 degrees F). You'll want 2 to 3 more browns than greens and more plant matter than animal matter in the pile. Make sure it gets some aeration in the center and water every few days for moisture.
 

What is the best type of

By Dawn Heskett

What is the best type of container to use for compost?

Hi, Dawn, I just use a five

By Catherine Boeckmann

Hi, Dawn, I just use a five gallon bucket outside the door, and then my compost pile is in a fenced corner of my yard. I'm not a fan of those plastic tumbler bins. Too messy. Here's a good page on how to make a home compost bin: http://soiltest.uconn.edu/factsheets/HomeCompostingBins.pdf

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