Kitchen Gardens 2: All About Composting
Okay let’s get real. How many of you hear the word compost and are like - yuck, not for me! Only about five years ago I was the same way, but then once I learned how easy it can be, and how rewarding it feels for you and your plants, I was hooked! So let’s talk more about composting…
Composting is the act of turning your kitchen scraps, paper wastes, and lawn/landscape trimmings back into nutrient rich soil for your gardens. It is the act of recycling organic waste back into valuable soil rich with microorganisms. This is super important especially when you read up on how we are destroying our soils worldwide due to unsustainable agricultural processes (you can read more about that here)
Personal composting is beneficial not only for the environment and your local landfills and waste municipalities, but also for your home and your gardens as well. You can boost your plants growth without the use of fertilizers, many of which are harmful for the environment, while also increasing the soil’s ability to retain water, reducing your irrigation needs and your water bills!
Did you know:
The average American family generates about 650 pounds of compostable waste every year!
According to the EPA, up to 60% of landfill waste is organic and compostable. (and will never be able to be recycled into healthy compost when sitting in the landfill)
If we composted the 21.5 million tons of annual food waste currently being disposed of in landfills, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equal to taking over 2 million cars off the road!
Composting options have come a long way from the makeshift wooden crate with tarp covering my parent’s rigged up back in the 80’s! Whether you have lots of land or just a small space there are composting options out there for you. Check out some options below:
Outdoor Tumbling Composter: This tumbling composting barrel is great for those with some yard space. This is the model that we have, and it can hold 37 gallons of glorious food waste! There are two sides to the barrel, so you can be adding scraps to one side while the materials in the other side still cures, so that you never run out of compost!
Indoor Composter: If you are an urban dweller, or anyone with limited outdoor spaces this may be a great option for you! I’ve been really intrigued by the new “Food Cycler Platinum Indoor Food Recycler and Kitchen Compost Container”. This highly modern unit looks like an electric bread maker and is able to compost all kitchen scraps including meats and dairy items. It works by heating the materials, breaking it down into odorless yet nutrient-rich pellets for you to add to your soil as an amendment. The price point is high but it gets great reviews and is all in one, breaking down your scraps into soil within only 3 hours!
Worm Composting/Vermiculture - This method utilizes the assistance of the great decomposers - worms - to break down organic materials into nutrient-rich soil. One that gets the best review is the Worm Factory 360. The worms break down the waste quickly and efficiently and the numerous trays allows you to add more waste as you need to. Additionally as the waste is broken down, moisture filters through the system, taking nutrient-rich particles with it. This makes it possible to harvest organic liquid fertilizer right from the spigot at the bottom!
These are just three of the hundreds of composting vessels currently out in the market! There is so much variety, you can be sure to find the type of composter that will fit your needs!
Once you get your composting vessel here is the breakdown for getting started with composting your kitchen scraps into rich soil for your plants!
Materials You’ll Need:
Medium to large sized composting receptacle
small pail (with tight cover) for kitchen scraps
(optional) biodegradable kitchen scrap liner
What I Compost:
I always start off with a bit of older soil from my raised beds.
Then I add in the yard waste - like lawn trimmings, small twigs and branches, leaves, old flowers.
Kitchen scraps like; raw fruit and veggie peels, scraps, spoils, egg shells (crushed), torn-up soiled paper towels and napkins.
What I don’t compost:
Any kind of animal products (meat or dairies)
Manure or poop of any kind ;-)
“Compostable” disposals like cutlery or even the compost pail bag liners - instead I put those in our Green Waste Bin.
How to Compost:
Begin by adding some soil, lawn trimmings, leaf litter and some compost starter (not necessary although some composters come with this).
Add in your kitchen scraps every week (or day depending on the type of composter you have).
If you have a tumbling outdoor composter, be sure to spin your vessel approximately ten times every time you add more waste. This will assist in the breakdown process as it aerates and turns the organic materials.
Within about three months you should have some compost ready to be added to your gardens!
How I use my compost.
Spread throughout my food garden prior to planting. To fertilize my trees and outdoor plants.
Compost Tea (for plants only!) - put some compost in water tight/safe container. add water (rain water if you have it!) Lit sit for at least 24 - 48 hours. Pour water off the container, and return the compost to your bin to decompose with the rest after giving it some time to dry out a bit. Use the “tea” to water your plants and trees. You can even dilute it a bit and use it with your houseplants as well! Note: Compost tea is for PLANTS ONLY and it totally unsafe for human consumption!
RACHAEL COHEN is the creator & owner of INFINITE SUCCULENT, a plant art styling and educational service in San Diego, Ca.
Through her plant art and styling services, as well as her workshops, Rachael connects and engages her clients with the natural world, while helping them achieve the botanical atmosphere of their dreams!
So there you have it! All you need to know to get started on your compositing journey. I hope you found this information both helpful and motivating. Once you get started, composting becomes an easy and beneficial way for you to give back both to your gardens and to our planet as well!
Have questions? Contact me!
Looking for more detailed instructions for composting? Check out this super informative COMPOSTING GUIDE.