Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Compost. Good for us & the planet

I Thought I'd spend a little time on compost today. Of all the things that we can do at our homes, there's really very few that are easier to start, and both reduce our landfill footprint while at the same time increasing our garden harvests. You can start with something as small as a 30 gallon tote with holes in it, or purchase any number of fancy compost tumblers. Either way, you'll be able to quickly make a reduction in the amount of trash that goes to the landfill, and will be building a source of incredible nutrients and beneficial bacterias for your garden.

If any of you are new to composting, or are thinking about getting a pile started, which I heartily encourage you to do, then one thing I have learned is that getting the pile "cooking" is one of the most important things you can do. Getting the heat turned up inside your pile cooks any seeds, killing them and can help kill pathogens. It also helps the organic material inside the pile break down more completely and more quickly. Getting this heat turned up comes from having a good balance of greens, (which can be fresh grass clippings, kitchen waste that is not meat, fats or baked goods or any other still "wet" form of plant matter) and browns, (nitrogen rich plant material and carbon rich dry material such as dry leaves, straw, or dried grass clippings.) So far I have found straw to be the most consisent material that is easily gotten in my area. When you have this mix in the right proportions you'll need to turn the pile regularly to make sure the organisms in the pile can breath and make sure it stays moist. Not wet, but moist.

You can also get some help getting the pile really cooking with the addition of some high nitrogen materials. Starbucks Coffee has a great program in place called Grounds for your Garden and it's something they put in place to help take care of the some of their coffee grounds waste. All you need to do is go into you're local Starbucks store and ask for their old grounds for your garden and you will get one of their old bean bags filled with used grounds. I am in the U.S. and I do know the program is done here, but I cannot speak for other countries, I would encourage you to check, and ask for trash coffee grounds if you have a coffee shop nearby.

Now, what do you do with them? I'm putting mine into my compost pile, of course. With the nitrogen to carbon ration that they have, mixed with a healthy bit of carbon rich browns, in this case straw, I should be able to kick up the heat in my pile and help it to break down faster and more completely.

Once you have all this in line, you'll be sure to have your pile cooking like a pro. In the little video I made, you can pretty easily see that there's steam coming up out of the pile, this is a sure sign you're on the right track. I hope to cook this pile pretty well through the rest of the fall and into the winter and then finish it off in time for spring planting. You'll know it's ready when it has no real smell other than that of fresh damp earth, and you won't be able to tell what any of the things that went int to the compost were.

There's very few things that are better for building quality soil in your yard than good healthy organic compost. I encourage you to get those greens and some good dry browns together and get cookin'!

A posse ad esse
(From possibility to reality)


jacqui jones said...

ooer i would love even more information on this topic...esp for starting out
straw i can easily get in our area, and the rest is on hand...but i would love to find somewhere a detailed list of what kitchen scraps can and cant go in the heap??

Tammie said...

Great post! I love composting.

I have two compost bins in my yard---one is a fancy one specifically for composting, the other just a plastic trash can with holes drilled throughout. They both work equally well.

flmom said...

I compost in trash cans with tight fitting lids as my version of homemade "tumblers". It's also a comfort to me to do it that way since we have so many snakes (venomous and non) around here. I'd hate to encounter one in a regular bin as it's horrifying enough for me to encounter one just walking in the yard.

Home composting has become even more important to me after reading this - http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/2008-10-01/Aminopyralid-Garden-Threat.aspx

Marjorie said...

It's almost like you have to have two compost bins, though. Otherwise, where do you put your current compost while you are waiting for the compost to be "ready"?
This is our current problem.

claudia said...

Can I just use my own coffe grounds, or do I need a lot to begin with to get the compost started? Thanks for your help! I love this new blog co-op!

Compostwoman said...

You can use your own coffee grounds and the filter bag if paper as well! Starbucks in the UK do the same scheme as well...you can just pick up a bag to add to your compost.

I have many posts on my blog about compost ( surprise , suprise!) as I am a Master Composter ( a volunteer community compost adviser) with the Organic UK charity Garden Organic (aka HDRA) and give advice to ANYONE and EVERYONE about the wonders of making your own compost.

Matriarchy said...

Don't forget the worm composting! I just got worms to start my winter worm farm for kitchen scrap. In the spring, I will have boxes of lovely worm castings to make fertilizer tea.

retire-at-40 said...

I'm in New Zealand and Starbucks does do the "Grounds for your Garden" here too. I don't go in there much, if at all, but one time I did I was pleasantly surprised to see it and thought it was a great idea.