Our garden soil, just after addition of our compost bin. Bits of visible egg shell and food peels tell the story of our life, making this soil so much richer and more meaningful to our food and our land then a purchased bag of uniformly milled soil.
I can’t say enough about composting. I can understand why some folks feel resistant to it, I know I used to. It seemed like it would smell bad, would attract vermin into my yard, and on top of that, be a pain in the butt.
But when we moved into our current home three years ago, I wanted to give it a try. We were putting in lots and lots of gardening beds and planting lots of trees… and I wanted a renewable and inexpensive way to produce organic nutrition to amend the soil with in between garden cycles.
The easiest way in the world I know of to compost is to get an old plastic trashcan, like we did. Eventually, we added a second one on… we started getting so addicted to composting that it is actually really fun to fill each one up and then let that one sit and mature while we fill up the second one. By the time the second one is full, the first trash can has matured into a usable compost and we can empty it into our garden beds. Then we start filling that one back up, while the other trash can sits and matures.
Trashcans have several advantages. The best thing is that they are on wheels. This makes it soooo easy to wheel the bin to whatever garden bed you want to add the soil to and just dump it on in.
The second thing I love about using a trashcan is that they are already made to be vermin-resistant. Because trashcans are designed to sit out full of trash on street corners, they make them with lids that are tough for raccoons and other trash lovers to get open.
I can honestly say we’ve never ever had a problem with animals getting into our compost. Never. We’ve seen raccoons and opossums and snakes in our yard, but *none* of them has *ever* bothered with our compost. That just goes to prove to you that composting truly smells great. I have never had a bad odor waft up to me when opening the compost bin and adding more scraps. Most times I smell nothing, and then when the time comes to use the compost, I think it smells earthy and good.
So, we’ve never had a problem with keeping unwanted pests out… but how do you get the wanted animals (like bugs and worms) IN to your compost pile?
This is so simple.
You just take a drill with a large drill bit on it, and drill several holes along the bottom and several along the side.
This allows worms and bugs to wiggle up into the bottom of the compost bin and live happily among your scraps, slowly but surely turning it all into soil.
I put five times as many holes in the bottom of the bin as in the side. You can even put some holes in the top, to let rain water fall into the compost. You want the compost to be a bit damp, never dry. I didn’t put holes in the top but I think because we add so many moist/wet ingredients, it always is a moist bog down in there anyway.
Items we add to our compost:
veggie, fruit, and starch/grain food scraps
tea bags and coffee grounds
pet cage shavings (we have guinea pigs and use pine chips for their bedding… because they are vegetarian animals, you can safely use their bedding and waste in your compost bin.)
leaves and excess yard trimmings
Items we *never* add to our compost:
animal food scraps like meat and dairy
pet droppings from meat eaters, like dogs or cats
large seeds that you don’t want growing in your garden, like pumpkin, watermelon, or gourds
So we have a lot of pets and of course they get first dibs on our food scraps… but the left over items like avocado rinds and banana peels and egg shells go right into our compost bin — these elements are considered *green* components to your compost.
We add more bulky earthy components like the pine shavings from our guinea pigs cages, dried leaves and yard debris, and shredded paper in their too — these elements are considered the *brown* components.
I mention that because if you look up composting on-line, you are going to get a million and one rules thrown at you about the different ratios of brown to green, the temperature the pile should be, and the moisture level. It’s articles like those that kept me from composting all those years prior to just DOING IT three years ago.
Please don’t let the science behind composting deter you, and don’t let those complicated articles trap you into thinking this is going to be a lot of work. This is what happens naturally any way, whether you check temperatures and dampness or not. This is the natural decomposition and turn over of organic matter… you don’t have to do anything special at all.
I can promise you I’ve never even CONSIDERED sticking a thermometer in my compost pile, as I’ve seen recommended time and time again. I’ve never tested the pH. I’ve never monitored the moisture level. We don’t even turn our compost at ALL. We throw our scraps in the bin and let nature do what it does best… make lucious rich soil. It’s not our doing at all… it is pure magic at it’s best!
If I read about how mature the compost has to be before you use it, how I have to turn it monthly or even weekly, how to deter vermin, etc… I don’t want to do it. If I follow my heart instead, putting our scraps into the bin and throwing our yard waste into the bin and then letting it sit… turning it out into my garden when I need it, even if it is not fully finished… then I marvel at how smoothly it all works and how gorgeous and lush our garden becomes. Letting the compost finish composting directly in the garden beds works very well for us… we have huge harvests and lots and lots of produce.
This is an old black banana peel, still composting. We worked it right on it to our garden beds. Was this compost ready for use? Most google searches on this would turn up the answer “no.” We said “yes!” I’ll share with you the results as our garden progresses this spring and summer, along with lots of recipes that we use when eating our freshly grown produce!
So I highly encourage you to go for it with a light heart and keep it simple. Food + plant matter = rich organic soil. Point blank.
Find an empty garbage bin, drill in a few holes, and watch the magic begin! xoxo