Scrap That Smell: 5 Tips For A Pleasant Backyard Compost Pile

Composting is nature’s way of recycling organic matter back into soil, as part of the cycle of life. In the process, it enriches the soil in your garden, while boosting its ability to retain moisture. Food scraps and yard waste make up 20 to 30 percent of total household trash, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; thus, composting these materials diverts waste from landfills, while creating a beneficial soil amendment.

Here are some tips to make your compost pile a success, even on small urban lots.

Get the Proper Green and Brown Balance

Compost in hand

If your pile smells or seems overly soggy, add more brown material. Image courtesy of wisemandarine.

Your compost piles should contain roughly equal parts green and brown material. To thrive, you must feed your pile nitrogen, carbon, water, and air. Brown ingredients, such as branches, twigs, straw, and dead leaves contribute carbon. Green ingredients, including vegetable and fruit waste, tea bags, egg shells, coffee grounds, and grass clippings all provide nitrogen. If you are concerned about attracting animals to your compost pile, do not put meat or dairy in it. If your pile smells or seems overly soggy, add more brown material.

Select the Compost Pile Location Wisely

You've heard the real estate expression - location, location, location.  Well, the same holds true for your compost pile. When selecting a location for a home compost pile, find a dry, shady location that is easy to access from your house, - this is because you will be bringing out kitchen scraps regularly. If it is not convenient, you are less likely to use it.

Deter Rodents and Flies

Use a closed bin to keep the compost pile compact, tidy, and rodent-free, especially if space is limited. If you live in a city, put wire mesh on the ground before placing your compost bin on top (to prevent rodents from entering your pile). Then, fill any holes with steel wool to close any gaps. Using a closed bin, like a Soil Saver is also helpful. To avoid flies and to minimize odors, bury green materials under brown. For example, keep a straw bale on-hand and sprinkle straw on top of your kitchen scraps.

Maintain Your Compost Pile

Don't just dump your kitchen scraps and leave the rest to nature. Proper care of the compost pile is necessary for the best finished product, and to avoid odor and fly issues.

Chop food scraps into 1-inch cubes, so they break down more easily and mix your pile weekly with a pitchfork to aerate it. Remember that air is a necessary ingredient for a healthy compost pile. If your pile gets dry, water it periodically until it is moist (but not soggy!). If you have an excessive amount of flies or a strong odor, this is an indication that it isn't properly breaking down, or that you need more brown materials.

Add Compost to Garden Soils When Ready

Applying and mixing compost into the soil before it has properly broken down can drain nitrogen as the compost breaks down. When your compost is a dark and crumbly, it is ready for garden use. Spread a couple inches on top of garden beds in the fall, and then mix them into the soil in the spring.

Happy composting!

Feature image courtesy of Joi Ito

Compost Critters: Vermicomposting Made Easy

Interested in upping your composting game? Consider incorporating vermicomposting into your repertoire!

What is vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting is like composting on steroids.  The technique is the use of worms to convert your kitchen scraps and other organic wastes into compost.

What’s so great about it?

The benefit of this type of composting is that you do not need a backyard to house your composting pile. All the magic can happen inside a container with holes. Store it out of the way where you have space.

Vermicomposting can be done in any climate because it takes place in the container inside your temperature controlled house. Brilliant!

Required items:

1) A CONTAINER - As stated above, you will need a container to house your vermicomposting project.  This container can be plastic or wood but make sure it is not too deep.  Not having a shallow enough bin can lead to odors because a deeper depth is not ideal working conditions for the little worms.  Ensure that the lid is cracked or that there are holes in the bin. Store the container wherever you have space in your residence.  Make sure the temperature of your storage location is decently warm.  Don’t want to freeze nor roast your worms!

Vermicompost bins

Vermicompost bins. Image courtesy of Timothy Musson.

2) WORMS & KITCHEN SCRAPS - Within your container you will obviously need some worms and kitchen scraps. In particular, you will need redworms.  They work best in a vermicomposting bin.  The amount of worms depends on how much kitchen waste you will adding a day to your bin.

3) BEDDING - In addition to your worms and kitchen scraps, an appropriate amount of bedding is necessary for your worms.  Some good items to use as bedding include shredded corrugated cardboard, shredded paper, peat moss or commercial worm bedding (if you want to make that more expensive purchase).

4) MOISTURE - To top it all off, your bin contents especially the bedding needs to remain moist.  An easy way to apply additional water is through a spray bottle. Keep it hydrated for successful vermicomposting!

Vermicompost on 3! 1 – 2 – 3!

Alright team, you are now armed with the basic knowledge of vermicomposting.  You have the power to raise your composting game to the next level.  Go team!

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Has anyone tried vermicomposting before? How’d it go? Share below!

Feature image courtesy of Devon

Three Times The Action: Build Your Own Triple Compost Bin


Image courtesy of Instructables

What's a triple compost bin, and why should you need one? Good question.

Most people don't even have ONE compost bin. That's according to a National Waste and Recycling Survey that found that 72% of Americans do not compost.

With 36 million tons of food waste produced each year, according to the EPA, in addition to yard waste generated from gardening, mowing and trimming plants and trees, there is a lot of organic material being sent to landfills that could be turned into valuable, nutrient-rich fertilizer and garden amendments through composting, instead.

If you'd like to reduce your waste stream while creating FREE fertilizer for your yard and garden, setting up a triple compost bin rather than one compost bin might be the easiest solution. Why?

A triple compost bin reduces the weight in your composting pile, which is important when you need to turn over the materials. Whether you use a standing bin or a rotating barrel or drum, wet materials and pounds of food, cardboard and garden scraps really do add up. The three-bin system also allows you to continue to compost throughout the year, while also having compost readily available for when you need it in the garden. How?

In a three-bin system, the first section of the compost bin is for fresh scraps. This is when the composting just begins to start. As the food and yard waste start to break down, compost begins to form. But if you keep adding new waste on top of the compost that's in development, it takes longer to get quality compost that you need to sprout spring seeds, fertilize a summer garden, plant fall bulbs or add a layer of mulch to a dormant winter garden.

With a triple compost bin, fresh waste is kept in one section. As the compost begins to form, the product can be moved to the second section, where it can heat up and decompose without the addition of any new materials. With the unimpeded composting process, the finished product can easily be moved to the third bin for holding until you need it, without worrying about new bits being part of your compost.

So how can you build a triple compost bin?

You'll need some wood that is pesticide-free for the purest form of compost. That means no pressure treated wood that is common for decks, home projects, etc. Seek out chemical-free woods such as redwood or cedar, especially repurposed wood, for the best rot-resistance.

Building my triple compost bin

Image courtesy of rnshaw

There are several plans available online for building a triple compost bin, such as this one from the Instructables and this one from Countryfarm Lifestyles. Among the key factors in building a triple compost bin is to include removable slats in the front of each bin for easy access to your compost. This will allow you to remove the slats to shovel the compost out of each bin, and also allows you to add more air for circulation and quicker composting by adjusting the slats when necessary.

Using metal fabric, chicken wire or another material that allows greater air circulation while also containing the scraps and compost inside is a great idea for some of the walls of a triple compost bin, if you'd like.

Allow a space about 3 feet by 9 feet wide for a standard triple compost bin. Of course, you can use whatever size or method that works for your needs in your location. The thing that matters most, is to just start composting, regardless of how large your compost bin may be!

Feature image courtesy of Instructables


Save Water, Save Money, And Take Better Care Of Your Yard!

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Yeah, we know it's almost winter. But it's the perfect time to start planning a more eco-friendly lawn. We're going to show you how to save water, save money, and take better care of your yard so you can start planning for the spring.

Show Notes

For more great ideas on recycling check out the following articles and guides:

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