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As we focus on starting a vegetable garden, one thing you can’t forget is how easy it is for you to create your own soil that is nutrient rich and perfect for growing awesome vegetables. Think of this as a way of turning your trash into treasures!
To get started composting all you need is a bowl. Yep, you are all set without any trips to the store. They sell all sorts of things that you can put in the yard, but honestly after using some of them they aren’t really that user friendly. The biggest draw back is getting your shovel into it to actually use your awesome homemade soil. Since the whole point is to use it, this really is a big drawback. For some folks though, the big black box outside makes you happy. It’s closed in, doesn’t smell and sits quietly in the corner of the yard.
What Can You Compost?
You are going to be surprised here, but most trash folks would say that your house is filled with things that can be recycled or composted and very little trash. The list of what you can compost is very long, so to make it easier I’m going to go by categories.
One tip on anything you put into your compost bucket. Chop, shred or break it into smaller pieces to speed up composting time.
Coffee Grounds (and filters)
Tea (with or without bag)
Fruit & Veggie peels, seeds and other unused portions
Egg shells (crush into tinier pieces first)
Cardboard & Paper (tiny pieces if you have a lot just recycle)
A few things to NOT compost:
Meat products, Fat, Grease or Bones (slow to degrade and attracts animals)
Fireplace ashes (can contain materials that end up killing future plants)
Used Cat litter (can contain micro-organisms that will be harmful in food items)
I’m serious when I say all you need is a bowl. Pick a bowl that you are cool with living on your counter all the time. If you are like me and don’t always remember to empty your compost bowl everyday then you can “splurge” and get a composting bucket.
We have one of these and the filter int he top of the bucket works wonderfully to where I’ll forget to empty it for days… The bowl works just fine though if you assign a kid the task of emptying it daily.
The jury is out on whether you should have open air or closed box composting systems. Some cities will only allow closed systems, so find out what you can have before making a plan. In general the closed system is meant to do two things: keep pests (animals) out and speed up composting time by keeping it hotter. They aren’t the most user friendly when you are ready to use the soil, but they do get the job done.
For low out of pocket costs, go with an open air system (that works just as well). Build a small box like a raised flower bed that is at least 3ft x 3ft. You can even used old pallets for it and spend nothing (watch Craigslist and other free trade sites and businesses will post them free for any to take).
Once you have your box, open or closed, now it’s time to start actually building soil. To aid composting your box needs to have 4 things:
1. Mix of things in it (not just grass clippings).
Make sure that you are composting a wide range of materials. This increases the speed that the items will breakdown. If all you put in are grass clippings then it has nothing to help break it down, versus adding in fruits, veggies, etc. For heat & water these can be controlled by you. You want damp compost but not soggy, so if you bin is a closed unit don’t leave the top off in a giant rain storm. If you have an open air bin and it’s a dry hot summer then add left over beverages and even kitchen dirty water to your compost bucket each day.
Rotation is the only part of this that requires actual work. At least 2 times a week you need to go out and turn your compost. Closed systems will need to be rolled, and open air system you will take a pitch fork or shovel and turn the pile by hand. Again, both work just fine.
Once you get started, this will become a normal part of your routine. You’ll also find that your kids find this very fun and love to see the process from beginning to end.