As with everything I try out, I started with a bit of research. That, in itself, was daunting because the information I found suggested that creating the perfect balance of dry matter to wet matter, and providing the perfect environment for microbial activity, took careful planning and precise action. Some articles said that I'd need to sprinkle certain compounds on the pile ... some said that I'd need to carefully measure the temperature so as not to cook the microbial "critters". The more that I read, the more disheartened I became ... it seemed that composting was a lot of work!
In reality, composting is easy! I started with a 10-gallon plastic planter ... you know the ones ... they are the containers which trees and bushes are planted in at nurseries. I tossed in a few inches of soil. The veggie bits and scraps came next covered by a couple of inches of dry matter (dried leaves, shredded newspaper, etc.). Another couple of inches of soil on top finished the bin. I covered the bin with a plastic bag (Eco-friendly, of course) and let it sit. When I had a container full of veggie scraps to take out, I stirred the bin, layered the scraps, dry matter and another couple of inches of soil ... and, again, let it sit. When one bin was full, we started another.
In the spring, a rather amazing thing happened ... all of the veggie scraps had disappeared and in their place ... rich, dark soil. I didn't need to buy soil ... didn't need to buy fertilizer ... and that year, we had the best tomatoes ever.
I've been composting ever since. Here are a few tips and thoughts:
- Covering the compost bin is important if it is near your patio or an area which is frequently used. Composting materials do smell and bugs, an important element to decomposition, can be annoying.
- Shredded toilet paper rolls make excellent dry material. They are made from trees (carbohydrates) and microbial critters, bugs, etc. love them.
- During rainy days, worms find their way to our patio and walkway. Typically, they crawl to a dry space and die. So ... we save their lives. We wrangle them up and place them in the compost bin. They get a dry environment with three "squares" a day ... and we get compost. By the way, when I recently opened my original bin, nice fat worms were munching on a sweet potato.
- It isn't necessary to sort out any "left-over" veggie matter when using the newly composted soil ... think of it as added nutrition for your plants. They will continue to benefit as the items decompose.
- While composting in the winter is a slower process (those critters prefer to be warm and cozy), it does continue. So compost all year long.
- When planting, add some dry matter to the planter. I add a layer of leaves to the bottom half of the planting area, top with soil and then add seeds or plants. The dry matter keeps young plants warm and, once they are established, provides nutrients.
- Many things are compostable. We prefer plant matter and never compost cooked items. In my opinion, composting animal products and/or cooked foods invites bad smells and undesirable animals.
- Composted soil can be used for planting container gardens, mixing into larger, outdoor gardens, sprinkling around existing plants and trees, planting indoor plants and sprinkling over lawns.
Composting is truly turning trash into treasure. It doesn't take precise actions or day-to-day monitoring ... it basically works on it's own. The results are Eco-friendly, frugal and ensure that you'll grow healthy, happy plants. Who knew we could make our own dirt? I hope you'll give it a try!
As always, I would love to hear from you!