Good earth is the heart and soul of a garden, so we do everything we can to make ours as healthy as possible. Composting is a huge part of that. After doing this for a couple of years, we're learning that it's so much more than making good dirt - it's a lifestyle. It's being committed to living sustainably and respecting the space and resources around you. It's preventing your waste from adding to the landfill. It's harnessing the decomposition process - and your scraps - to play a part in the larger picture of what will feed you in the future.
Even when we lived in an apartment we were able to find a small container to "recycle" the cast offs that could be saved (we used this one). When it got full, we added it to my parent's compost, and eventually our landlord allowed us to create a compost pile in their backyard. It's a movement, and it's a choice. You can do it, too!
Here's how we compost, from start to finish...
This bowl is always perched next to the kitchen sink, ready to receive our scraps - egg shells, banana peels, coffee grounds, avocado skins and pits - anything that is green and came from the ground. Not only are you able to use your scraps, but you are preventing them from going to the landfill. Bonus!
When it gets full (or smelly) which is every few days, I take it here...
A bucket with a lid (old laundry detergent container) just next to the door in the garage. Close to the kitchen but out of the house. Once this is full, JD takes it out to one of the compost tumblers...
+ sign = add your scraps!
clock sign = let it cook for a while
A couple of Christmases ago my mom gave JD a compost tumbler and the storm last June gave us a new one. We simply patched the old and now use both!
Once everything has broken down inside the tumbler, it can get sifted through JD's makeshift screen (made with spare wood and chicken coop wire) to go into the garden...
Whatever doesn't make it through the screen goes into the big compost until it breaks down.
After our new fence was installed, JD relocated our compost pile into two chambers he constructed out of old palettes and fence posts.
(This man of mine is one of the most resourceful people I've ever met.)
A double chambered compost is great so you can turn it each season, exposing soil, leaves, and produce to oxygen to speed up the decomposition process.
JD's design is clever because you can take out - or add - one slat at a time as your compost gets lower or higher. Having it inside the pallets allows air flow while keeping it away from the wood of the fence - and hence rotting it.
Ideally, your compost should be a mixture of things. At the bottom are leaves (you can use other brown organic materials, too, like sawdust or hay), then green organic matter like grass clippings and table scraps. We only fertilize our grass with organic materials - like corn gluten meal - so we feel pretty safe about adding our clippings to the pile. Compost piles like moisture and heat. You can research ratios of materials to find the best one for you to cook your pile. (Never compost: bones, meat, oil, dairy products, dog/cat/pig feces, weeds that have gone to seed, etc.)
Once your compost breaks down and can fall through a sifting screen, you have black gold. Nectar of the garden. We spread it on our garden beds every spring and fall - before planting and after harvest - and then add a layer of fine mulch. Happy soil = happy plants.
p.s. For some inspiration on getting the whole community on board, check out Pashon's story.
p.p.s. I would encourage EVERYONE to start composting. Even if you live in an apartment, get a homeowner friend on board and start one together. Don't need compost for a garden? Give it or sell it to someone who does. (Although, I'd tell you to start a garden too ;D) There are so many possibilities for making this happen. Any excuse not to is just that - an excuse.
Now go start a pile!