A Compost Post

On Sunday I observed the bi-annual Changing of the Compost Bins. That means two things. First, that I will empty one bin of its more or less finished compost. And second, that the other bin will receive no more lemon rinds or slimy lettuce, and should consider itself under strict orders to start decomposing in earnest. The emptied bin will now start accumulating our kitchen and garden waste, and so the cycle continues.

Compost, Composting
Home decomposed compost.

For a long time I felt that my composting was inadequate. The bins I speak of are just rolls of chicken wire attached to metal stakes. What’s more, I don’t do most of the things that you’re supposed to do in order Β be an efficient composter. I don’t pay attention to the ratio of greens to browns, whatever that means. I never turn the compost piles, nor do I moisten them. My water bill is high enough, thank you very much.

At one time, I was a more ambitious composter. In fact, I bought one of those rotating plastic compost barrels on a stand. Unfortunately, I never remembered to rotate the rotating barrel. For that and possibly other reasons, when I opened the barrel I found a dense sludge that smelled like an extremely unhygienic bus station bathroom. I couldn’t use the sludge because, even if I could tolerate the smell, I was afraid it would waft over to the neighbors. I ended up driving my rotating barrel out to a landfill (with ALL windows open – an unpleasant trip, I can tell you) and emptying it out there. I hope the EPA never catches up with me.

So that leaves me with my current minimalist approach. I do throw a shovelful of garden soil into the bins occasionally, and I do remember not to throw in any fats or meat scraps.

My chicken wire compost bin.

What I get in return is about half a dozen buckets of compost twice a year. For a long time I had a nagging feeling that if I was more diligent about composting, I would get more compost. Then it hit me: even if I used the most sophisticated and complex techniques, I would still end up with the same amount of compost. We only have so much in the way of kitchen scraps and garden waste, so who cares if it decomposes faster or slower?

As is often the case in the garden and in life, you ultimately get the same results whether you fuss with something or not. What about you – are you an ambitious composter or a lazy one like me?

35 Comments on “A Compost Post

  1. I think I will try again. Didn’t have time to do all the tricks they talk about and am happy to see you don’t have to.

  2. I’m even lazier than you. I just toss my kitchen scraps into the shrub border. When trimming, cutting back, or weeding as long as it is not a weed seed head or perennial weed I pull it and compost it in place. The pine straw and leaves get added to the border, too via the chopping of my electric lawn mower.

    • I do a lot of that as well with cutting back, trimming, and weeds. Kitchen scraps in the shrub border? Here that would be hard to get away with, though I like the sound of it. One problem is I have only a push mower, which isn’t really going to do much chopping when it comes to plant matter.

  3. I found out that milk gone bad is good for the worms – they love the stuff. I’ve thought about keeping a separate compost pile for dog droppings (to use on ornamentals only) but that would involve some organization and… work. Like you, I just dump stuff into crude bins, then later dig it out, usually in the early spring.

  4. I really enjoyed hearing about your rotating composter! I have often thought about getting one, but in my heart I know I’m a lazy composter. Now I know what the outcome would have been if I had gotten one! I throw all my waste into a pile for about 6 months to a year, and hope it has a good enough ratio and moisture to do something! πŸ™‚

  5. I compost just like you do – the easy way! I even use the same setup with chicken wire – cheap, lasts longer than wood, and works just fine.

    We have a homemade worm bin in our basement too. It’s my other lazy method. I especially love it in winter when it’s cold and icy outside. I keep it going all year with kitchen waste, and in the cold months, debris from overwintering plants in the basement goes in there too.. The worms do all the work, and they make beautiful compost.

  6. I’ve always wondered how those fancy rotating composters worked! I would love to say I’m diligent about composting but the reality is I just have a lot of piles (we’re rural so I can get away with it). I’ve got a huge compost bin (8 x 4 x 4 feet) and I still manage to dump piles of weeds and other matter around the yard. It takes forever to break down but so nice to have my own homemade compost.

  7. I am a wanna be composter…I wanna do it, we have the material for the composter, but then it’s raining, or too hot, or I can’t go outside because of my allergies….sigh. So I wanna do it, and will one day. Until then we have a rather large pile of “stuff” with garden scraps buried in it. Oh and we need a load of soil to start it turning…out here there is little water, and I am like you, I am not wasting my water on it.

    Jen

    • I didn’t think you were in an arid area? Or do you have to depend on a well? In any case, a large pile of stuff basically is a compost pile, isn’t it? So maybe you really are a composter!

  8. This makes me feel so much better about my own minimalist approach to composting — and equally glad that I never succumbed to the temptation of one of those rotating composters (which I’m sure that I, too, would have turned into a very smelly organic chemistry experiment gone wrong) πŸ˜‰

  9. I enjoyed that, and I don’t even compost, I’ve read about it, thought about it, but I guess I’m just a tad too lazy, to do anything about it.

  10. I am great about recycling and compost all kitchen waste in a city green bin. When it comes to my garden compost pile, I confess to being lazy. I never water or turn it. A testament to my laziness is the fact that the year before last wasps comfortably set up shop in the compost bin. If I had been more diligent in turning the contents, they would not have been as free to lay claim to it. Getting rid of them took some doing.

  11. I’m pretty casual about it. In the past, I had a very makeshift compost heap in the woods. This past year, we added an official small compost bin with a lid and ventilation. But I’m a big fan of mulch that decomposes fast–my favorite is Marsh Hay. It’s kind of like having a productive mulch and compost material all in one. Great questions, and a great post!

  12. I have worm bins in my basement and they do all the work for me. I harvest compost a couple times a year but not enough to keep me from buying it by the bagful when I need to amend my soil. I’m hoping to buy a big barrel composter and now know what will happen if I forget to turn it! I don’t have space for the chicken wire bins. I regularly throw fruit and other funky kitchen scraps into a pile behind my giant Rose of Sharon shrubs. It decomposes so fast, or is given a proper burial by the dogs, that it never smells.

  13. I’m pretty neglectful too – neve rturn it, once in a blue moon I may give it some water, but the earth probably stops on it’s axis when I do πŸ™‚
    we generate quite a lot of scraps what with all the tea and coffee we drink, so there is always something to chuck in the compost bin. Over winter I tend to trench the peeling and grounds, so that come spring my spuds or beans or pumpkins will have a lovelyrich, moist, stinky ptach to grow on – I figure that it saves me the effort of getting the compost out of the compost bins πŸ™‚

    • Here the ground is frozen in winter, so that’s not an option. I do think about going to the local starbucks and asking for their coffee grounds, though.

  14. I’m somewhere in the middle. I have a three layer black plastic bin which allows for two piles going on at once. Just a couple weekends ago, I did the same sort of transfer you wrote about. I don’t worry too much about proportions. At this time of year, we fill it up with chopped leaves, and once in a while during the summer we throw in some grass clippings. My bins are a short walk across the back porch from my kitchen, too, so it’s nice and easy. Last winter when we had barely any snow, I was still chucking in the apple peels and tea bags in mid-January! It is very gratifying to see that lovely, dark, rich earthy matter at the end of the process!

  15. Composting has been on my to-do list for years now, but somehow I always wind up buying bags of Black Cow instead. I plan to try the minimalist approach this winter, although now that I’ve read about wasps taking up residence in the compost heaps, I am a little scared.

  16. Your method is good for the aeration needed in composting. I use tree grower pots. They are big and FREE. I also get two ‘crops’ of compost per year. The garden plants love it. This time of year there is so much to compost with grass clippings and fallen leaves. I too add the kitchen scraps. That is how I ended up growing pumpkins this year. First time in my own small city garden and the compost pumpkins took over the backyard.

  17. This year, I’m even more lazy than you – I do not fuss with the compost, nor do I turn it. I have been know to throw in an old beer once in awhile, tho. The compost in the bins will sit till spring now, Oh, Well…

  18. Somewhat lazy! We have a large plastic compost bin that gets all the kitchen vegetable waste, as well as some grass clippings and plant trimmings from the yard. We don’t do anything to it. A door opens at the bottom, and I get compost out of it when it is ready. We also have a couple of brush piles that eventually break down and provide great compost. We just pile the stuff on and let nature do its work.

  19. We’re pretty lazy. We stopped adding general food waste to our compost heaps as it didn’t seem to break down as quickly as the other matter, and made it all a bit wet. Fortunately we have a kerbside collection for that, so our food waste goes to a bigger compost heap a few miles away, and on ours we just add general garden waste and trimmings from our homegrown veg. We don’t turn our heaps, so it takes a bit longer to break down, but once a year we end up with several wheel barrows full of lovely dark sweet compost, so it works for us.

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