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Composting is one of the best things you can do on your homestead, or in your backyard. You can put as much or as little time and effort into this endeavor or you want but no matter how much you put in, it is still worth it.  You can go big or small. Believe it or not, if you are really dedicated you can even compost in an apartment! There are contained worm bins that you can use for your kitchen waste that supposedly don’t smell and work indoors. I have not tried them, if you have experience with them, I would love to hear about it. I have used the basic compost heap, a compost bin and now I have a tumbling composter.

Most of my kitchen waste can go into the compost, all of my yard waste can go in the compost. Not only does composting keep a lot of food waste out of the garbage but it feeds your garden. Your soil is one of the most important factors in the growing of your garden and one of the best ways to improve your soil is by adding compost.


Three main ways to compost

  • Cold composting – This is basically just a pile of green waste, yard clippings and organic waste from the kitchen. It takes the least amount of effort and the most time to break down your material. It can take six months to a year to produce compost.
  • Hot composting –This method uses heat (over 130) and requires attention to the proper mixture of ingredients, turning regularly for air flow and water to keep everything moist. In the right conditions you can get compost in 2-6 weeks. Hot compost will kill weed seeds and pathogens at the proper temperatures, but those temperatures are hard to reach and maintain in a regular back yard system. If it gets too hot your good bacteria will also die, slowing down the process.
  • Vermicomposting – This is your basic worm compost. Special worms called red wigglers eat the organic matter and turn it into worm castings that are great for your garden. The worms multiply in a happy compost bin and will need to be fed regularly and kept moist. If you neglect your compost bin your worms can dry out or die.
  • A common home compost will typically be a warm compost. The process of breaking down the materials will create some heat. Temperatures between 90- and 140-degrees Fahrenheit are optimal for the good bacteria that you need to break down your material. The smaller the bits are that you put in your compost the faster they will break down.

    Compost that is breaking down and properly balanced will not smell bad or attract rodents. You should have about an equal amount of greens and browns. Think of greens as fruits, vegetables, and green yard waste (grass and fresh plant clippings). I think of browns as browns, they are dried leaves, twigs, straw and woody branches. The greens tend to be wetter and will break down faster but will get stinky if that is all you have. The browns take a bit longer to break down but add bulk to your compost, which will help increase the air flow and will feed your microorganisms that are breaking down your compost. So, what can you put in your compost? I usually figure if it grew in the ground it can go in my compost bin.

    What can you compost?

    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • yard waste
    • Coffee grounds
    • tea bags
    • shredded paper
    • egg shells

    What should you not put in your compost bin and why?

  • Meats, oils, fats, grease and dairy can make your compost stink and attract pest like rodents. Also, decomposing meat and dairy needs to be done at very high temperatures to kill pathogens that can be harmful to people. Typical backyard composting does not reach these temperatures. Without really getting deep into the science, pathogens are the organisms that cause diseases. For example, you can have bacteria that do not cause diseases and other types of bacteria that do cause diseases, only those bacteria that cause diseases are classified as pathogens.
  • Plants that have been diseased or treated with chemicals as it can add that into your garden and damage the health of your soil.
  • Noxious weeds that have gone to seed -the pile likely won’t get hot enough to kill the seeds and you will end up spreading it throughout your garden.
  • Manure from dogs, cats, pigs and humans can spread disease and parasites.
  • Make it easy

    In the past I have just used a bowl on the counter when I am prepping food to throw my scraps in. Then this would get dumped in the heap in the yard. I always put the pile far form the house so it was a trek to get to and I often threw a bunch of my compostable items in the garbage. Either I forgot to grab something to put the veggie scraps in or it was pouring rain and whatever the reason, it just didn’t get done. I found this really great container for my counter to put my craps in and now we are composting everything that can be composted. It is so easy and it doesn’t smell. I don’t have to run out to the compost every time I make something, which makes it easier and means I compost more. We just fill it up and then take it out and dump it in the tumbler.

    The tumbler we got to try to make compost faster. It is working now that the weather has warmed up a bit, not much will compost when it its frozen. The great thing is that it contains the mess, so it doesn’t have to be as far away. I did get the double tumbler because we have a large garden and I wanted to be able to create a lot of compost. My only complaint is that it was tricky to put together, but with two people it was fine. You just need the extra hands to fit the two sides together.

    Having a good supply of compost will help you improve and amend your soil. You will need to continue adding compost over time but since I can pretty much guarantee you will never run out of green waste what better way to reduce the amount of material going to the land fill and save money on soil amendments?

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