My Composting Method

Composting was one of those areas of sustainability that I never got the hang of until I had lived in my home for about 10 years.  As my yard evolved and spaces took on their own character and purpose, I finally saw more clearly how I could integrate composting into my life.  To be honest, some methods of composting take a lot of motivation, effort and time, I think.  That’s why I had to figure out a way that worked best for me and didn’t take up a lot of time, require a science degree, or force me to go out into the rain and cold during Oregon’s worst winter weather. I also don’t like looking out into my yard at ugly compost bins, and I dislike having to turn or spend time dealing with piles of compost.  Now, because of the way my yard has changed this last year (fallen trees and destroyed play structure) I now have an open spot way back in my yard that I can devote to more vegetable beds and a larger composting area. The compost heap is also hidden from view behind my shed so I don’t have to look at it from my deck!  Up until now, however, I’ve use the popular black tub you see in the photo above.  I just added kitchen scraps and vegetation from my garden and would add a little dirt to it now and then.  It wasn’t perfect, and it probably stank too much at times, but I still got some good compost after about 10 months.  It worked fine for a limited amount of scraps and garden debris, but when you have a lot more you want to add to the compost heap you need more space.

Now I pile everything from my garden onto compost heaps. Garden vegetation, grass clippings, kitchen scraps, chopped up leaves, coffee grounds, egg shells, and chicken and rabbit manure.  The photo above shows the large compost heap I started last August.   I have it in the back with my chickens, so to prevent them from getting into it or poking their beaks through the wire to get at the decomposing scraps I enclosed it with black plastic.  The chickens were getting real frustrated at seeing all the scraps but not being able to get to them!  Since I have a lot of dirt surrounding it where I plan to grow vegetables next year, I added some of that as well.  After I got a good heap going I churned it a bit with a pitch fork to get some air in there and then covered it with the plastic so it would heat up better.  If I stir it a few more times then hopefully it’ll be ready to add to my beds in the spring.    In the previous post I have a photo of the worms that have been churning up the compost pile for me over the winter.   

This photo shows a picture of the container I use next to my kitchen sink where I throw my kitchen scraps. Nothing fancy.  I got both these Eco Smart containers at Jerry’s Home Improvement for a few dollars.  My small kitchen pail usually fills up in a day or two since I eat so many vegetables.  When it’s full I dump it into the bucket outside my back door.  This way I don’t have to treck all the way out into my back yard when it’s raining and cold.  It also gets the scraps stewing a bit first before I take them out to the big compost heap.  If you have a problem with fruit flies and you have space in your refrigerator, you can keep the small kitchen container in the fridge instead.   I used to keep my egg shells separate, but not anymore.  I just crush them good with the shovel later when they’re in the compost heap. I know they’ll decompose faster if I crush them into finer bits first, but it’s one of those things that just takes extra time and organization.  I’ll figure out a better system later.

After the big bucket at my back door is full, which takes about a week since I get a lot of kitchen scraps from my relatives, I then take it back to the big compost heap and throw it in and spread it out.  I use a shovel to crush and slice things up into finer bits.  Then I shovel a thin layer of dirt on that layer and some leaves or grass if I have any around.  If the kitchen scraps were in the bucket too long and started to get too sour, the dirt will take care of that and freshen it up quickly.

This spring I plan to start vermicomposting.  Check out the link on vermicomposting furthest down on the list below.  For now, the worms I have in my garden ought to do just fine.  I’m really looking forward to using this compost in my plantings this spring and comparing their growth and health to previous years when I didn’t use my own compost.

For more information on different ways to compost, check out some of the links below: 

http://www.mastercomposter.com/  

www.composting101.com/ 

www.howtocompost.org/ 

http://www.compost-info-guide.com/make_better_compost.htm

http://www.thegardenofoz.org/composting101.asp 

http://eartheasy.com/grow_compost.html 

http://eartheasy.com/grow_compost_bin_build.htm 

http://journeytoforever.org/compost_indoor.html  

http://journeytoforever.org/compost_worm.html

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