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Beginning Composting

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on October 3, 2010

Do you have one of those little kitchen compost pails someone gave you but have no idea what to do with the contents when it fills up?  Are you afraid you don’t have the stomach to make manure tea?  Confused about composting?  I can help with that.

Composting is simply farming micro-organisms in a way that they break down organic stuff you are through with into nice, rich humus.  No, not that spread people put on pita bread, but humUs.  That is the rich organic part of soil.  Plants love it.

Composting used to be part of life.  Manure and straw were piled up with the remains of the kitchen, plants that were spent, and any other organic debris and allowed to cook into humus so the fields could be fertilized with it.  No synthetic fertilizers, so farmers made their own.

Now, however, lawn clippings, leaves, and other compostable things account for up to as much as 50% of the trash coming into the landfill.  We are running out of room for landfills.  We need to recycle our organic matter just as we recycle our aluminum cans.

I realize that most city people do not have access to manure.  However, you can pick a corner of the yard and build a 3 X 3 X 3 container with no bottom.  That is the compost bin.

Into it you deposit a 3 inch layer of leaves, then a 3 inch layer of grass and kitchen scraps.  No meat, dairy, or used oil as that attracts scavengers.  Then put another 3 inch layer of leaves and repeat until the container is full.  Water the whole thing enough to be damp but not soggy.  If you do this starting in the spring and summer, the compost will be ready for the next spring.

If the compost is ready, it will be dark brown, crumbly, and you will not have any lumps that are identifiable as what they were before they became compost.  You may find that you produce enough organic material to need multiple bins.  That also has the advantage of letting one or more bins cook while you use the first bin.

This just scratches the surface of composting.  I recommend the article on Aggie Horticulture on composting as a more thorough treatment of the subject.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Patricia October 3, 2010 at 10:48 am

Great post Stephanie
I included a compost bin as something to have in the garden in my latest post. Had a guy ask me to do a post on it as he wasn’t sure what to put in his, so will have to tell him about this article as it covers it all. Thanks
Patricia Perth Australia
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Glenn Bronner October 5, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with you even a small urban backyard can scratch out a place for a compost pile. The benefits as you say are not only helping to free up landfill space but that dark rich gold you will produce will help to nourish the earth.
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thingstodowhenyourbored October 6, 2010 at 10:20 am

i totally agree with you that we need to start recycling our organic waste instead of concentrating solely on metals and plastics . This will help to reduce our demand for synthetic fertilizers! A step towards fighting global warming ! Rock on!

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Olivia October 7, 2010 at 8:27 am

It’s absolutely a superb blog about composting. It is always a delight to read your posts as I learn a lot from your thoughtful insights. Thanks for sharing with us. Keep up the good work!

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Fran Aslam October 8, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Hi Stephanie:

This is my first time here. Compost is what everyone wants to make these days. Very good for gardeners. It must be environmentally friendly. Is it ? I am not sure. As I live in a small subdivision where landscaping is done on contract and I just look and enjoy it. But I always like that idea, being busy you can only do so many things. So never got to do that.

Enjoy your week end
Fran Aslam
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Red Bread Bin January 4, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Well, I was thinking about a composting bin to dump all the wastages in to it. Thanks for your tips for constructing my own composting bin. As a home maker I find most of the wastages to be the skins of fruits and vegetables, rotten eggs, dried curry leaves and some flowers. I am glad that I can dig some space (composting bin) in my garden and dump all the organic wastages, greens, kitchen scraps in to the composting bin. I wish that after some days the compost would become a great natural fertilizer and manure to the soil and other plants. I too think that this is one of the best ways to improve the fertility of the soil. Is it not?

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Ben from Green Powder July 14, 2011 at 10:56 am

I love composting and am always looking for ways to do it better. Do you have any tips or tricks that you use to make your compost great? I’m really trying to get our compost to its peak but I think we’re putting too many coffee grounds in there. It seems like our compost is coming out too acidic. I’ll check out that article from Aggie Horticulture. Thanks for the resource.
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Jerry Clifford from minneapolis homes August 24, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Sadly not everyone would be open to the idea about composting but they really should. There are a lot benefits to composting, like it doesn’t harm the sensitive roots as much as chemicals or its organic and doesn’t leave chemicals on our plants. Simple stuff but has a lot of great value. Nice read.

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