Saturday, April 12, 2014


Every gardener should have a compost pile.  Gardens are always producing materials that go into the compost, and thrive on the nutrients from the decayed compost, so it is a win-win.  It is especially a must for organic gardens - creating nutritious fertilizers for those veggie beds in a safe and in a sustainable way.  Not to mention, putting your food scraps and paper product waste into your compost pile can reduce your waste to landfills by up to 30%!

I officially started composting last summer when I bought a Lifetime Dual Compost Tumbler at Costco, for about $150.  After a year, I can safely say I'm very happy with my compost bin choice.  The dual tumbler is very sturdy, so I know I'll have it for many garden seasons to come.  Having the two 50-gallon tumblers allows me to add compost materials to one of the tumblers, while the other tumbler sits and goes through the decay process.  The size of the tumblers is large enough to fit my composting needs without being too large to make it difficult to turn the tumblers.

Composts need a balance of carbon-rich or "brown" materials and nitrogen-rich or "green" materials.  Ideally, this balance should be about 2/3 carbon "brown" materials and 1/3 nitrogen "green" materials.  These materials can include:

Green (Nitrogen)
  • Fruit and vegetable food scraps (usually raw, or at least with no oils if cooked)
  • Pulp from juicing
  • Coffee and tea grounds and filters
  • Grass clippings (only if they have not gone to seed, and not at all if it is an invasive grass like Bermuda grass)
  • Garden waste, cuttings (you can help decomposition by cutting down larger scraps into smaller pieces)
  • Flowers
  • Chicken manure (do not use dog or cat excrement)
My compost loves my juicing pulp.

Brown (Carbon)
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Shredded junk mail (no glossy or colored paper)
  • Paper bags (torn up)
  • Cardboard (including cardboard egg cartons, paper towel roles - shred)
  • Used napkins, paper towels
  • Dry leaves
  • Dryer lint
  • Straw or hay
  • Wood ash (only use from clean materials and use sparingly)
  • Woodchips and sawdust

  • Eggshells
It is handy to have a food scrap collector in the kitchen so that you can collect the fruit and vegetable scraps and used paper towels and napkins over a few days before needing to run out to dump the scraps in the composter.  I use a stainless steel kitchen compost container similar to this one.  But using an old plastic ice cream container works as well.

Once materials have been added to the compost, they need to be aerated on a periodic basis to help the decomposition process.  My Lifetime Dual Compost Tumblers makes this job very easy.  Whenever I put materials in my composter (about 1-2 times a week), I turn the tumbler about 3-5 times to stir up all the contents in the tumbler.  If you do not have a tumbler, turn your compost pile with a pitchfork every few weeks.

Some moisture is needed to keep the decomposition process going, so make sure the compost pile stays moist.  If it starts looking a little dry, add some water until it is slightly damp.  I rarely need to do this, as my green products that are added seem to have enough moisture.

The time it will take for your compost to be broken down will depend on many factors, including what materials are being added, the moisture, temperature, and aeration.  With my two 50-gallon tumblers, and in a two-person household with a small/medium sized garden, my schedule has been to add materials to one compost tumbler for about 4 months, then let it sit for another 2 months (while I'm adding materials to the second bin) before it is ready for the garden.

This mess becomes...

BLACK GOLD (well, at least the gardener kind of black gold)

This spring was the first time I was able to use my own compost in my garden, and I can already tell it is helping my plants to grow big and strong.  I also learned that my dogs are also addicted to the pungent scent of the decomposing materials and like to dig in places where I use this, so I have to be very careful where I use the compost, or at least make sure there is a fence around the plants!

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