One of our goals at HMH is to have a yard that is mostly free of chemicals – a green yard (har dee har), if you will. We also want to reduce the amount of waste that our family sends to the landfill. Composting is the perfect marriage of those two ideas. We wanted a system that was easy for composting novices (read: us), and also low cost. We searched and found several articles and websites (here, here, here, and here) that gave us a good idea of how to start.
What you’ll need:
- A plastic bin or garbage can that’s at least 24″ tall, with a lid.
- A drill with a small bit
- Leaves or shredded newspaper (your “brown” matter)
- Kitchen and other scraps (your “green” matter). For a complete list of what you can and cannot compost see here. Basically:
- Fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds and lint = yes.
- Animal droppings, dairy and meat = no.
We used this planet-friendly recycled plastic one from Lowes’s:
…because it was cheap (although I see now that it was cheaper online!), and I liked the idea of using recycled “planet friendly” plastic for our composting project. However, I’m a little nervous about it being recycled, I wonder if it’ll hold up well enough in the elements. Time will tell.
Once you’ve gathered your supplies:
1. Drill holes on the tops, sides and lid of your container.
2. Place the leaves or the newspaper on the bottom of the bin until it’s about 1/8 – 1/4 full.
(Hint: You may want to move it to it’s final spot before you do the next step – after we filled it with dirt, it became really heavy and hard to move.)
3. Place some dirt on top of the newspaper, until it’s about half full.
4. Place your kitchen/other scraps on top, and give it a stir. Look at all the stuff we already saved from going to the landfill!!
5. Place your bin in a shady area away from your home – make sure it’s not in full sun or it’ll dry out. Make sure it stays moist (but not soaking wet), all the time.
6. Spray it with lukewarm water until it’s moist, but not soaking wet – it should feel like a wrung out sponge. We didn’t need to do this step, since we used wet dirt to begin with, so it would be easier to dig out of our rock-hard soil.
7. Place the lid on. (Note: This is another thing I’m leery about with this container – see how the lid doesn’t quite fit securely? It bowed out when we added the dirt, so it doesn’t quite fit. I’m definitely recommending you explore other options than this container, but we’ll see how it holds up over time.)
8. Let the magic happen! When your scraps are completely decomposed, in approximately 3 months, it is almost ready to use. Place it under shelter, away from rain and sun, for about two days until it is cool enough to touch, otherwise the heat may damage your plants. Then it is ready to be used for:
- Potting soil
- Lawn conditioner
- Mulch for flower beds
9. When you use it, make sure you save 1/3 – 1/2 of it to start the process again!
For our scraps container, we went to Goodwill (on 50% off day, woohoo!) and purchased this 3 Qt. lidded container for $0.49. We’ll keep it under the sink and collect our scraps, then dump it every couple days or when it gets too full, whichever comes first. We saved all this stuff in just a couple days!
Every time you add to the bin, give it a little stir, and make sure it’s moist.
Tips and tricks:
- If your compost starts to smell, that usually means it’s too wet. Let it dry out a bit (not all the way!) and see if that helps. Also, don’t add any new scraps until it doesn’t smell anymore, and stir it up a bit and see if that helps.
- It’s also helpful to turn the bin on it’s side and roll it a few times when you stir it.
- Breaking your scraps into smaller pieces can speed the decomposition process.
We can’t wait until we can use the results of our compost pile, and to see how much stuff we can save from the landfill! Anyone else compost or planning to start a compost bin? We’d love to hear any tips or suggestions you have!