A couple of months ago, after growing increasingly tired of the amount of food waste we were contributing to the landfills, I decided it was time to start composting in earnest.
We’ve had a compost bin for several years, but never really knew what we were doing with it, nor did we take the time to figure it out. So I finally asked my friend Nicole, who’s a master composter, what basic info I needed to get started, and I’ve been happily composting ever since.
We’ve got a little friend who’s taken a liking to our compost pile – Squirmy the snake. I’ve seen Squirmy hanging out in the bin a few times now. As long as she stays in the compost bin or the yard and not in the house, it doesn’t bother me. Although I did see Squirmy’s progeny the other day (just one lone baby snake), so it makes me wonder how many more we really have. Though with the dogs periodically in the yard, I wouldn’t think any snakes of reasonable intelligence would take up residence for very long. Right? Perhaps the compost bin is just a vacation home for Squirmy. :)
Here are some tips Nicole shared with me about composting:
- Basically you want to have approximately 50% “green” materials (wet, fresh) and 50% “brown” (dry).
- You can compost all sorts of things: veggie waste, yard waste, shredded paper towels, sawdust/shavings, shredded cardboard, drier lint, etc. You just throw them in the bin and the microbes do the rest. If your bin doesn’t touch the ground you’ll need to throw some soil in it so it has microbes.
- Ideally you need to keep it as moist as a wrung out sponge. Beyond that how you tend it depends on how fast you want compost.
- I mostly just want to divert waste from the landfill so I just toss stuff in and stir when I remember (2-4 times per year). If you want compost more frequently you can stir every 2 weeks or so. You don’t want to stir too often because the compost heats up as part of the mechanism of the bacteria that breaks to food down and the process stops if you stir it too soon and it loses heat.
- Compost bins can attract animals (like mice and, apparently, snakes). To avoid that you can dig down a little and bury the new stuff as you add it so the animals can’t smell it.
Like Nicole, I’m primarily concerned with diverting food waste from the landfills, but not necessarily with making great compost to use often (although now that I’m getting more interested in gardening, maybe I will change my tune). I just wanted to mention that you can compost your food scraps, without actually needing the compost for anything. :)
Since I’ve started taking our food scraps (carrot peelings, egg shells, corn husks, leftovers gone bad, avocado peels, watermelon rinds, etc.) out to the compost bin, I’m amazed at how much we actually used to throw away on a regular basis. “Yard trimmings and food residuals together constitute 23 percent of the U.S. waste stream, as documented by EPA.” I’m happy to make a small dent in reducing the landfills. Imagine if everybody composted their food scraps, even part of the time? We could make a big difference. :)
For more information about composting, visit Composting – Basic Information.