After being a “townie” for close to 20 years, I have returned to the country and have been gradually working towards becoming more self-sustainable in big and small ways. I have expanded the size of my garden, preserved my garden harvest through canning/freezing, raised a small flock of chickens and, just recently, started composting. I admit, it took me awhile to get on the composting bandwagon. Every time I thought about the process of composting, I ended up with more questions than answers and it was that uncertainty that kept me at bay.
I could have maintained a big visible pile of compost but, and call me Felix Unger, I wanted to keep it contained in a neat and tidy compost bin. There are an overwhelming number of choices for composting units on the market to choose from, many of which are giant ugly plastic drums. I wanted a compost bin that was attractive and built to last, which is why I opted for a Gardener’s Supply Cedar Compost Bin. It’s not only pretty to look at, but the cedar smells really nice too. It was also very easy to assemble with a screwdriver. Gardener’s Supply also sells other cedar products such as raised gardening beds and potting benches if you are keen on having a cohesive look to your outdoor landscape.
So, you now have the composter sitting there all pretty, but how do you compost? Is it as simple as dumping food scraps into the bin and walking away? Not quite. There are four things to consider in order to have successful compost: browns, greens, water and air.
You need to maintain the proper proportions of “greens” (nitrogen) and “browns” (carbon). One source of “greens” is food scraps (including coffee grounds and tea bags), which you can collect on your kitchen countertop using a stylish Gardener’s Supply Rustic Compost Crock. Fresh grass clippings are another good “green” source. Conversely, “browns” include dry leaves, twigs, straw, paper napkins and newspapers. Some “composting no-no’s” include meat, dairy, diseased plants and pet feces. A good rule of thumb is to have at least twice as much brown as green; otherwise, you may need to approach your compost bin with a clothespin clamped over your nose. You will also invite odors and pests if you do not cover your newly added “greens” with a “brown” layer. Tossing in a little soil every now and then is good as well to introduce more organisms into the mix.
Aerate your pile every now and then by carefully turning the compost with a hoe or small shovel if you can. And, to keep the micro-organisms alive, make sure that your compost is properly hydrated but not over-saturated. Your greens will probably provide enough moisture but, if they don’t, you might want to consider adding a little water.
How do you know if your compost is ready? On most compost bins, there is a bottom access panel. Open this and inspect the compost. If the compost is dark brown in color, feels crumbly and smells earthy, then you’re good to scoop out what you need.