Composting Part 2 — Doing It

I was very enthusiastic about composting and I told my family and friends about my new adventure. Some of them were highly skeptical as they know me and I’m not a likely candidate for composting. Every day or so, I walked up the hill and dumped the contents of the composting pail in the compost bin. As I mentioned in part 1, I’m not a fan of creepy crawlies so I usually wear rubber pull on boots when walking around our yard which is much more like a wilderness than what many people think of as a yard. So emptying the compost pail required a change of footwear for me during much of the year, as well as donning the rubber gloves mentioned in part 1. When it rained, emptying the compost pail was a wet and cold operation and brought the creepy crawlies to the surface (yuk).

For maximum results, composting requires a balance between several elements:

  • Fresh green vegetation
  • Dry brown vegetation
  • Air
  • Moisture

As far as fresh green vegetation, we had an ample supply of fruit and vegetable scraps and the occasional specimen past its edible stage. The brown vegetation part proved more challenging. We live in a Monterey Pine forest so have lots of pine needles and very few deciduous trees. Although compost bins will munch down pine needles, it takes much longer than with dry leaves. I began to covet piles of dead leaves and bark chips seen around town in other people’s yards.

Compost AeratorAs far as air, I realized early on that rotting vegetation is heavy and difficult to turn over with a shovel or pitchfork when it is encased in a plastic cube. So back to the store. I purchased an aerator which has a propeller looking device at the bottom and a handle. The propeller folded up when I jammed it in the pile, unfolded, and lifted up some of the material on the way up. It worked great.

Moisture was easy. When the compost seemed dry, I would sprinkle it with my watering can.

The slide up door on my compost bin apparently was to be used to shovel out the material at the bottom because it would become compost first. The model I purchased was not very sturdy and once a quantity of material was put inside the door would pop off it tracks—the material at the bottom was definitely not ready. So my spouse screwed the door shut.

According to my research, after just a few months, I should have a lovely pile of compost. That was not exactly my experience. It took a bit longer.

Compost BinSince the compost bin was filling up, I decided that I would purchase a second one to start a new batch while the original batch finished composting. I wanted a sturdier model this time and found one online. This one was made out of much beefier plastic and had vents on top to take advantage of rain, in addition, the sliding door looked like it would stay in place.

Eventually, the first batch was deemed completed. Shoveling compost out of the composter was excellent exercise and I felt a sense of accomplishment as I spread it around our newly planted Monterey Pine trees. Unfortunately, my initial composter was demolished in the process and would never see another batch of compost so made its way to the recycle bin. It was time to reflect on what I had learned and then decide on a plan going forward.

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information, spark conversation, and convince people to take action to keep earth habitable for all. She believes our individual actions do matter—it all adds up.

2 thoughts on “Composting Part 2 — Doing It”

  1. Linda, I am pleased to report that my spouse was inspired by your example. He went to our garbage company and brought home a small green pail with a tight closing lid. Here in Oregon, composting is done on a big scale. We will now collect our scraps which includes fruit, vegetable, coffee grounds and filters tea leaves and bags, shells, meat, bones, paper towels and napkins, breads, grains and dairy products. Then once a week we dump these scraps into a large green container which contains all our plant and yard clippings. The large container is picked up by the garbage company and the contents is composted at a central location. Thank you for being a good example and incouraging us to get on the green band wagon.

    1. Wow that is fantastic!! A lot of times people forget about coffee grounds and tea bags. Our waste company doesn’t accept meat, bones, or dairy items in the green waste bin.

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