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.

Composting Process

Every day or so, I walked up the hill and dumped the contents of the food scrap pail in the compost bin.

As I mentioned in part 1 or this 3-part post, I am not a fan of creepy crawlies so I usually wear pull-on rubber boots when I walk around our yard, which is much more like a wilderness than what many people think of as a yard.

So emptying the food scrap 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 pail was a wet and cold operation and brought the creepy crawlies to the surface (yuk).

Dry versus Green Materials

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 I saw around town in other people’s yards.

Compost Aerator Tool

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 I went back to the store to purchase an aerator, which has a propeller looking device at the bottom and a handle. The propeller folds up when you jam it in the pile and unfolds as you pull it up bringing some of the material with it. So stuff on the bottom gets shifted to the top.

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

Wonky Compost Bin Door

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 its tracks—the material at the bottom was definitely not ready. So my spouse screwed the door shut.

Second Compost Bin

According to my research, after just a few months, I should have had 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 bin is made out of much beefier plastic and has vents on top to take advantage of rain, in addition, the sliding door looks like it will stay in place.

Composting Happens

Eventually, the first batch was deemed completed.

Shoveling compost out of the compost bin was excellent exercise and I felt a sense of accomplishment as I spread it around our newly planted Monterey pine trees. Unfortunately, my initial compost bin was demolished in the process and would never see another batch of compost so it 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 and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

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