I have to confess I have a keen interest in something that may thoroughly disgust others. Before I turn you off, it’s really not that bad. I am very fascinated by compost. Is it obsessive if I secretly covet a heap of vegetable scraps when at friend’s barbeque? I can’t help that my mind, when eyeing a pile of cucumber skins, onion tops, and potato peels instantly tells me that, “that would make great compost!”
Maintaining a compost bin or pile is a great way to create a soil additive that is rich in microorganisms that help break down organic material and aid the soil in creating its own fertilizers. Compost contains nutrients and holds those nutrients in the soil until a plant is ready to use them. Additionally compost aerates clay soils, and holds water in sandy soils. In short, it’s really good for the garden.
Compost can be used as a soil additive, some use it as a mulch around their annuals, perennials or garden plants, others use it as a potting soil, and it can be also be used as a compost tea. Portland Metro has a compost recipe that is very straight forward and easy to put to use, one part green, and one or two parts brown. Green refers to fresh grass clippings, plants stalks, fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds and or tea bags and egg shells. Brown is materials like woody leaves and twigs, straw, wood chips, dog hair and even dryer lint. Do not use weeds, or seed heads, because they may not get broken down and will become a nuisance in your garden. Also, don’t use meat or fish parts, dairy, grease, or dog poo.
Some tips to make your compost efforts a success. Turn your compost pile and chop into it with a shovel. This also happens to make for a pretty good workout. For home use, a pile or bin roughly 3’x3’x3’ is an ideal size, and as Metro states, is ideal for hot and fast composting. To expand on that, your compost will mature faster in warm weather verses the cold weather. Bacteria love temperatures between 110 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Get that pile hot and the quicker you will have compost for your garden.
I use a bit of a hybrid method and have had great success making compost. Remember, I am slightly obsessed with this mass of organic materials, microorganisms, and bacteria. So I give it a lot of thought. I have put together a three bin system. One bin is a for kitchen waste, like fruit and vegetable scraps. The other is for yard waste, such as grass clippings, flower petals, and plant stalks. The last bin is where I store the end product compost from the other two bins.
As for the compost bins, I personally use two of the Enviro World compost bins that are sold by Metro for $45. And for storage I use a 3’x3’x3’ square bin that I found on the curb. One thing I do when installing the bins is to line the bottom with hardware cloth to keep rodents from digging their way into the pile.
I also added red wigglers to the kitchen waste bin. The red wigglers seem to have an appetite that doesn’t quit, in fact they can eat half their body weight in a day. You really only need to purchase the red wigglers one time, as they are hermaphroditic, meaning they have both male and female sex organs. In essence you only need two worms to create more worms.
My process for getting the kitchen scraps to the compost bins works really well. Beneath the sink we keep a small container with a lid. When we cook we simply put the scraps in the container. When the container is full I take it to the kitchen waste compost bin. After opening the lid I dig a hole in the center of the pile and dump in the kitchen scraps. I then back fill the hole with the material that was pushed to the sides. Next I rinse the bin and fill it with water and pour the water into the bin. This helps keep moisture in the pile.
Occasionally I will give the red wigglers a treat for their loyal service. From the local coffee shop I will get a 5 pound bag of coffee grounds and work them into my kitchen scrap bin. We all like a little caffeine, and who knows, maybe they work faster with more focus after the coffee grounds.
I hope you found this blog about my odd obsession useful. If not, well, compost happens.