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Start Composting April 11, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Food & Drink, Life Balance, Nature, Sustainable Living.

220px-TaleofPeterRabbit8A great way to reduce your impact on the earth is to start composting.

For those not familiar with the process, composting is the decomposition of plant remains and other once-living materials to make an earthy, dark, crumbly substance that is excellent for adding to houseplants or enriching garden soil.

It’s a wonderful way to recycle your yard and kitchen wastes, and is a critical step in reducing the volume of garbage needlessly sent to landfills for disposal.

In Maryland, we had a black plastic compost bin in the back yard to collect our brush, grass, and food waste ~ we made deposits all year, and withdrew nutrient rich compost to work into the soil for our vegetable garden each spring.

For other ways of setting up a compost system, see the resources included at the end of the article.

Items to toss into your compost bin, or onto your compost pile, include:  vegetable and fruit scraps (peels, rinds, stems, seeds, leaves), coffee grinds, tea bags, egg shells, grass & lawn clippings, and leaves.

Things not to include:  meat scraps, fatty food wastes, milk products, bones, animal or pet waste, chemically treated wood, and weeds.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a place to set up a compost pile, especially if they live in an apartment or retirement community.

When we moved here, we found ourselves in just that situation ~ and, unlike No Impact Man, we were not interested sharing our tiny living room with a bin of worms!

Our solution ~ after we joined the local CSA, we asked Adam (the farmer) whether he would set up a community compost pile for members.

He readily agreed.

Now, when we pick up our weekly share of fresh, organic, locally grown and sustainably harvested fruits and veggies, we bring a pail of vegetable and fruit peels, cores, seeds, leaves, etc., with us and add them to the community compost pile.

Down the road, members will be able to make withdrawals from the pile if they need compost to enrich the soil in their yard or container gardens.

Between visits, we keep the collection pail inside a covered tote, just outside the kitchen door ~ easy to use and environmentally friendly.

For more information on compost piles:  Guide to Composting  (Garden Guides) * Composting (Earth 911) * Create Your Own Compost Pile (EPA) * Your Compost Resource Guide


Happy Earth Day 2010!


1. tsuchigari - April 11, 2010

This is one of my projects for this summer, compost is great. I’ve always wanted to try worm farming also but the idea freaks out my husband.

2. nrhatch - April 11, 2010

Lots of options ~ compost bin, compost roller, compost pile.

A pile probably requires the most work ~ turning and making sure it gets “hot” enough to decompose properly.

When we set up the black plastic compost bin, I figured we’d need another down the road ~ that it would get full. It didn’t. We just kept tossing stuff into its “belly” and it broke it down into usable compost for the garden.

We did keep a chicken mess bin next to it for larger brush and small branches. It never got killed up either ~ just kept composting on the bottom while we added to the top.

Mother Nature rocks!

3. Joanne - April 12, 2010

I live in an apartment — again — after having lived at a house — with a big back yard — where I used to compost all the time with the use of a blender…

Now, I as I still appreciate the concept of giving back to Mother Earth, I remind myself that I can still use the kitchen garbage disposal for most compostable scraps and it’s kinda-sorta the same thing as a communal composting concept… Well, isn’t it…?

4. nrhatch - April 12, 2010

I’m not an expert on what happens to stuff once it heads down the drain, but . . . I expect that composting is better for the earth than using a garbage disposal.

Using the garbage disposal keeps unnecessary waste out of the landfill, but rather than concentrating the nutrients to form “fertilizer” for a garden, the nutrients are being dispersed through the water supply and probably have to be filtered out at some point.

When we lived in the apartment here, we did not compost. We didn’t know anyone who had a garden, so we just trashed the scraps. It bothered me . . . but not enough to do much about it. I figured I’d wait until we got “situated.”

Now that we are situated, but without a real yard, it feels good to be composting again. Taking pails of scraps to the farm is not as easy as having a compost bin in the backyard, but it’s a reasonable compromise.

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