COMPOSTING...What is it? How do I do it?
I’ve been hearing about it for a while now, you probably have too, but what is it? In my general perception of composting, I pictured a large garbage can out back filled with eggshells and some dirt. Was I wrong? Is this it? Why are there now adorable composting bins for the kitchen counter a-la Martha Stuart? I NEEDED TO KNOW MORE, and needed to know if my apartment-living was conducive to a composting-life.
SO, I dove in and investigated…
First of all, it’s important to note that composting is extremely important as 30% of the average household trash is made up of food scraps and yard waste. 16% of all methane emissions are from organics that can't decompose in landfills. Methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Let’s not mess around with greenhouse gases folks, and instead, consider composting to eliminate our potential carbon-footprint.
Let’s start with the question a few great questions…
- What is Compost?
- Compost noun a mixture of various decaying organic substances, as dead leaves or manure, used for fertilizing soil.”
- Compost can be made up of food scraps and yard waste, which already make up about 30% of household waste
- Benefits of Composting:
- The food scraps and yard waste that we throw away end up in landfills. They take up space in these landfills and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas (which was also discussed in our “Milk” blog)
- Composting enriches the soil and helps to suppress unwanted pests and plant disease
- Will save you money by reducing your need to buy fertilizers
- No harsh chemicals!
- What is in Compost:
- Composting requires only THREE basic ingredients!
- “Browns” aka dead plant matter ike leaves, branches, and twigs
- “Greens” aka live items like fruit scraps, grass, vegetable waste, and coffee grounds
Okay, now let me just stop to say how I was previously very overwhelmed with composting, but after researching and learning that I only needed three categories of ingredients, realized that this is once again one of those moments in my life when I mentally over-complicate simple activities and avoid doing them.
HOW to Compost:
Now this is where the conversation gets a bit more complicated as, though the fundamentals are the same, the way in which one composts based off of their resources, changes.
- Find an area of your backyard that is close to a water source and that has a patch of exposed bare earth
- Start your compost pile with a layer of twigs and straw
- This first, base, layer should be a few inches thick so that the natural organisms (worms, bacteria etc) can aerate and the allow for water to flow down to the exposed earth below
- Layer your compost pile between moist and dry materials
- Moist materials: food scraps, tea bags, etc.
- Dry materials: leaves, sawdust, woodchips, twigs, etc
- Pro tip: if you are adding wood ashes, make sure to sprinkle them thinly throughout, otherwise they will clump
- Add green manure/nitrogen source
- This layer is made up of your grass, buckwheat, clovers, etc. These greens are a good source of nitrogen, which help speed the composting process along (a compost pile needs both carbon and nitrogen in order to be successful)
- You must not overwater your compost pile! If you live in a rainy area, it’s likely you won’t even need to add water to your pile at all. Your compost pile should be damp/moist, but not soaking wet.
- Keeping your compost pile covered is key in locking in both water and heat, which are two integral parts to the composting process. Use whatever you have, but we recommend a tarp.
- Every few weeks, use a shovel or pitchfork to turn and mix your pile. It needs aerating, so by mixing the pile around, you allow oxygen to reach all areas.
Composting without a yard is 100% possible! All you need is a Vermicomposter aka a Worm Bin! (stop panicking, it’s not as gross as it sounds). Worm bins are the easiest way to compost indoors, all that needs to be monitored is the carbon to nitrogen ratio.
Carbon items: paper, cardboard, dried leaves
Nitrogen Items: food scraps, used tea bags
The indoor composting worm bin we like is the Worm Bin 360.
What to do with your compost?
If you live in an apartment or urban area, you have a few options.
- Have your compost be picked up! There are several companies that will come to you, but we recommend: https://compostnow.org/compost-services/.
- Know your area’s regulations and areas to drop off! https://www.litterless.com/wheretocompost/
- Contribute to a community garden
- Find a friend/family member that has a yard and would be grateful for the extra fertilizer
Voila! We’re intrigued to know how your composting experiences go, so please reach out to us to tell us your stories!