Tuesday, April 2, 2013


I have been asked a couple of times about compost.  I do compost.  I have done this for years.  To me, it only makes sense to use things I would throw away that will turn into something that I will go buy.  Compost is also excellent fertilizer, far better than anything synthetic that is out there.  It's all natural.

First, what is composting?  Composting is nature's recycling.  Organic materials naturally decompose into compost, a nutrient rich type of soil.  One that many people go buy each spring to "doctor up" the yard or garden.  It takes a few months for this to happen, depending on what you have in it.  It doesn't even require any work from humans unless you want to turn it which will make it decompose even quicker.  I turn mine.

I know people who have gone out and bought fancy composters, shoot, I even had one once.  I got it on Freecycle when I first moved to the city.  It was so cute, a small square plastic box that was about 3'x3' and about 3' tall.  It had little ventilation holes and a lid that snapped on and was hinged to easily open it to add to it. It was a total PAIN IN THE BUTT!  Sure you could open it easily enough to add stuff but turning the compost was nearly impossible and there was almost no way to get just a little out.  I passed it along to someone else.

There are all types of different compost bins out there.  Bins, barrels and boxes, you name it and they've probably figured out a way to turn it into a compost bin.  Personally, I don't like any of them.  I just have a compost pile in an out of the way spot in my back yard.  It is important that you not put the pile on concrete or plastic or the like.  It needs to be on the dirt.  As the pile breaks down, the dirt will assist in the process and worms will naturally move into the pile to help the process.  When it is time to turn the pile, I just flip it over to a spot right next to it.  This makes it easy enough to keep it turned.  Just flip it from side to side.  It makes it easy to remove stuff from the pile too.  In my opinion, all you really need other than a place to put it is a pitch fork.

When it comes to what to add to your compost pile, that's a whole other story.  It's key that you have both 'green' and 'brown' materials.  Green materials are important for the nitrogen they bring to the party.  The Browns bring the carbon.  Ok, what are green and what are brown?  

I'll start with browns, they are leaves, straw and paper.  Be careful with leaves because if you get too many, they'll just mat together when wet and rot instead of decompose.  When I add leaves to my pile, I'll use the mower with the bagger attachment on it to make sure they are ground up to help with the matting.  You can just run the mower over them and rake them up if you want.  Paper should be separated as well for the same reasons.  I use straw sparingly because I use straw in my garden paths and till it into the garden at the end of the season because it aerates the ground and will decompose right in the garden.  Again, I make sure not to use too much.  

The greens offer more decisions for the gardener.  I do put all weeds that I pull from my garden and flower beds into the compost pile.  I will include grass clippings, too.  The decisions come with food scraps.  First and foremost, DO NOT EVER PUT MEAT INTO THE PILE.  EVER.  Or anything that includes meat or meat by products.  Food scraps are things like vegetable peelings, coffee grounds (and the filter), egg shells, tea bags and the like.  Make sure that you cut the veggies up really small to help it decompose quicker.  Things like cauliflower and broccoli cores will decompose faster if you either cut them into small cubes or thin slices.  Don't go overboard, we're not talking "wafer thin" (said in the Alton Brown tone from "Good Eats"..LOL) slices, just cut them down some.  The larger the pieces, the longer it will take to break down.

Because, even in the city, there is a small wooded area near me, I've seen both raccoons and opossums in my neighborhood.  Both are dumpster divers in the animal kingdom.  If you have critters in your area, they will love your compost pile.  Because I have small dogs (Chihauhaus), I do limit what I put out there.  Some of the critters are bigger than my hounds!  I don't want to discourage you from adding scraps to your pile, just making sure you're informed!

I know the experts say you don't truly have to turn your pile, but I do.  I try to turn it every week or two.  I think it helps to decompose things faster and, in my opinion, kind of keeps it even.  What I'm trying to say is if you turn the pile, it will work it evenly, and if you have something that's not decomposing as fast as something else, you can work that item towards the center of the pile to help keep it on the same pace as the rest of the pile.

In starting a pile, I'd start with lawn clippings.  They decompose quickly and will help you get things started.  After a couple of weeks, start adding other things.  Try to balance the browns and greens for awesome compost.  Before long, you'll have a little compost of your own!


  1. Awesome!!! Thank you!!! I've been wanting to "build" one!! Nice to know I don't have to build anything to start my compost! Also, I didn't know that coffee grounds and filter could go in it! ! Maybe I will start keeping things aside during the day to take out and add!

    Quick question. What about all the stuff from our rabbits cage? We clean it out about once a week, butit has wood chips, hay, rabbit food, and rabbit waste?

  2. My understanding is that you can use it. Just don't ever use pet (cat, dog) waste. In a way, I miss the kids having horses as that was the BEST! LOL