Compost the Easy Way

Are you trying square foot gardening, but feeling overwhelmed by all the information about composting?  If you look up composting on the Internet, you will find the typically DELUGE of information. In the midst of that information, there will be a lot of rules. After reading for about thirty minutes, you may start to think “Wow, who would have guessed that throwing my old food in a pile was so complicated?”

Compost that we made is on the far left. It is not as dark, but it is HOMEMADE and oh, so poorganic. :)

 

Composting does not have to be hard, especially if you just ignore all the annoying rules and do what I do. :)

Here is what you can include, but no pressure.

1. Food scraps from fruit and veggies and coffee (No meat, oils, or dairy. Eggshells are okay.)

2. Yard scraps that aren’t too huge.

3. Paper scraps that aren’t dyed

4. Air

5. Water

6. Manure from vegetarian animals (not cat or dog)

7. Sun/ Heat

8. Worms

The materials will decompose fastest in the middle of the compost. That is why in the center of the pile, it already looks "ready". Just stir it around so the other stuff can decompose too.

Ideally, you want a moist, warm environment where a balance of non-smelly things can break down into a rich dense organic soil. If you have too much of any one component (ie: newspaper), your compost won’t have the best consistency. The fuller that we can keep the bin, the better. Whatever is in the “middle” is decomposing faster, so the bigger the “middle” is, the more compost you get. Does that make sense?

BUT, no matter what you do, don’t worry . . . because

Here are some rules that are good to follow, but which I generally ignore.

1. Don’t allow food seeds to go into the compost because they could reseed. (This is too annoying to bother with. I just dump all my scraps, including the insides of the canteloupe. Sometimes the seeds to sprout in my garden, so I either weed them out or let them grow!)

2. Crush eggshells or chop veggies really small so they break down faster.  (I inconsistently do this. Usually, they go into the bucket whatever size they were on my cutting board.)

3. Stir the compost often to include air and make sure that the materials are breaking down evenly. (I stir when I remember or care or want to exercise my biceps.)

4. Keep a balance of materials like grass clippings, coffee grounds, manure, and food scraps. (I abandoned the use of the word “balance” years ago. I do the best I can. If it looks like there is too much of any one thing, I throw in a handful of straw from an old bail of hay. Until yesterday, I had never added manure because we didn’t have any. Then my neighbor brought me a load of horse crap! Imagine my delight. :))

Inside the bin after I added a little hay. I usually stir with a shovel or hoe.

The Providinator built our compost bin with open slats so that it gets lots of air and doesn’t become smelly. Because it isn’t a barrel or turnable kind, it is best if we stir it.

Our compost bin.

He made the bottom with a removable piece so we can take the “finished” compost out the bottom.

When we remove the piece at the bottom, this is the composted soil that comes out. So luscious!

SO, in spite of ignoring some of the “rules” and just throwing it all into a big bin, we have still turned out some pretty decent compost.  The best thing about our compost bin and system is that it is totally, poorganically FREE. I did not spend one penny on it. I also feel better about throwing away food that has gone bad because I know it is going to a good purpose.

When the compost that comes out the bottom is nice and black and rich (jokes not necessary), stir it into the soil in your garden. It is the best “fertilizer”!

How do you compost? What rules do you ignore? :)

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8 Responses to Compost the Easy Way

  1. Corina March 23, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    Thank you for posting this! I have always felt like composting is too much work!
    For me, composting needs to be as easy as throwing something in the trash.
    What a relief after reading your post! I will start today! :)
    Do you have a bin on your counter?

  2. kendal March 24, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    we JUST began composting about a month ago. definitely not stirring like the “rules” say. just when we remember or want our 16-year-old son to have a chore! we’re trying worms in a tub in the house, but they don’t eat enough to really help with getting rid of anything. i’m ready to turn them out into a pile!

    on a different note, i will see you in april at amy’s for (in)RL!
    kendal recently posted…on filling and pouring and loudMy Profile

  3. Heather March 29, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    I started composting about a year ago. I needed a very cheap way to get started that I wouldn’t be devastated if it didn’t work. I found this idea at The Frugal Girl: get a large plastic storage bin with lid (I know, we’re trying to get rid of plastic in our house, but sometimes it has a purpose). Drill holes in the lid & in the bottom (a lot of holes) and then start filling it up. It’s really nice that no animals can get into it (except worms can happily crawl in) and it helps cover the unsightliness of it if you have to keep it close to your back door. I’m always amazed at how the things shrink that I put in there–I guess that’s decomposing for you. After 6+ months at it, I decided to get another container, not because it had filled up, but so that the original container could decompose and I’d add my new stuff to the new container. All in all I have about 10 dollars in my 2 bins, but I didn’t have a place I could build an open compost bin or pile, so I’m pretty happy with it. So excited to use the stuff for my flowers this spring. Not to mention the plethora of items I’ve kept out of the garbage can.

    • Katrina March 29, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

      Great ideas! I have another friend who is using an old dog crate to compost in and she just kicks it over to stir it. :) I don’t think there is a wrong way to compost.

  4. Jason June 2, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    So true Katrina, compost happens, no matter what we do, it will happen. The more you do follow these so-called rules thought up by so-called experts, the fewer problems one might encounter. Smelly compost only smells when you go dig in it 😉 And rodents are only a bother if you see them.

    But seriously, having enough material on hand for a compost pile is probably the biggest challenge backyard composters have. I have become so obsessed, I’ll stock pile leaves in the fall just for this purpose..to first fill my bins giving me lots of area to add kitchen scraps all year long, second giving me the materials to keep the bins full as it shrinks down. I use 5 free pallets tied together to make a 2-bin system open on the front side for easy access. Other than that, keep your food scraps covered to avoid critters and flies…stir compost when it’s wet…add water and turn when it’s dry.

    • Katrina June 2, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

      Send me a picture of this bin and I’ll run a follow up post.

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