Sunday, February 26, 2012

Being Green: Composting

One of the things my husband and I pride ourselves on is being as 'green' as we can be.  We're not perfect by any means, but we try our best and it makes us happy to do it.  So you can look forward to some "Being Green" here on Pandiola Lane.

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Composting is one of those things my parents did and I never thought I would.  But growing up and paying for your own food, then buying a house and making gardens to grow your own food changes that.  It's one of those things that I forget that not every one does. It just makes so much sense to me.  I understand if you don't have a garden or use for compost, it might not be worth it for you.  It's just so simple to do! And you create nutrient rich material to feed your garden for FREE. (Of course you might pay for the food scraps that go into it, but it would have been trash anyway, so it's FREE!)

First you need a compost bin.  There are quite a few options out there and many counties (including my own) will give you a compost bin for free; worth looking into if you want to be as low cost as possible.  We ended up buying one because I wanted one that could be turned easily.  *Turning the compost is a necessary step in the composting process.  This is ours:

 It's basically a big tumbler that sits on a base with rollers.  It's not very big but it's enough for our use (we have a small yard and only two garden beds we use it in.)

It get's pretty heavy and hard to turn when it's really full, but relatively speaking, it's pretty easy to turn the compost over - no pick forks or shovels needed.  AND when we're ready to use it, we just roll it across the yard to the vegetable gardens (I get maybe a little too excited when that day comes!) No shoveling into a wheel barrow first.  

And another bonus is the base serves two functions.  Can you see a knob down then on the bottom in the middle?  On the underside of the tumbler are a few slits.  As the compost does it's thing, the "juice" seeps out through the slits and through some openings in the base.  The "juice" can then be used to fertilize plants - nutrient rich and NO chemicals! And FREE!
Because running outside to the compost bin everytime you have something to deposit is not practical (at least in my eyes) it's helpful to have a collection pail in the kitchen.  This is ours:

Sits right next to the kitchen sink for easy access.  I think ours is from World Market (gift from my parents - Thanks Mom and Dad!) but it's similar to this one.  Browsing through Amazon you can find some nice decorative ones.  It has a filter in the top and we've never had an issue with it smelling in our kitchen and our filter is over a year old. I'm sure you're supposed to change the filter at some point but we haven't seen a need for that yet.

When it gets full we dump it outside. Usually takes us about a week to fill it up before we have to dump. Sometimes less time.

So what can you compost?  Basically, any plant product and egg shells - our regulars are fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, flowers, leaves and grass.  You need a good balance of wet and dry materials going in compost bin.  We just throw all our kitchen scraps in there and when it looks super wet we add dry leaves.  I'm not an expert on all the details so check out How to Compost for more specifics.

Even though that collection pail is mighty convenient, I'd rather not have it open for more than a few seconds to add stuff too it (pretty darn smelly sometimes all the time).  So, I usually grab a bowl or plastic container that's already dirty in the sink when I'm chopping veggies for dinner and toss everything in there.  Guess it's another step but I'd rather not have my counters covered in veggie scraps while I'm trying to make dinner. (And I can't STAND carrot and potato peelings in the sink!)

This is what our bin looks like right now - full to the rim! (and spilling out a little...that's what happens when you run out in bare feet in the winter and dump the pail too fast) 

You can see quite a mixture of fresh stuff on top of the dark stuff.  That dark stuff is already composted material, ready to use!  However, that sucker need some strong arms (not me!) to turn it so the rest can finish composting before we need it in the gardens; which might be soon considering it's still February and already is feeling like spring.  There are daffodils and crocus blooming already!  Anyway....

Honestly, one of my favorite things about compositing is that it makes for a healthy garden without adding chemicals of any kind.  And I love when we get a surprise plant (usually some sort of squash or pumpkin) that grows out of the compost!  

It's really so easy to get started and even more satisfying to roll that puppy out to the garden and start seeing the benefits of all that composting and know you put less waste into a landfill somewhere.

Do you compost? Will you start?

Be Green!!

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