Friday, May 31, 2013

The Lazy Composter

You just never know about people.

Walking down the street, that person you pass by could be an axe murderer.  They could have a person walled into a corner of their basement.  They might not compost.

Okay, so maybe that one isn't that big of a deal.  Having a person in your basement, I mean.  Maybe you're a hardcore Edgar Allan Poe fan.  Maybe you've completely thrown yourself into the recent 'vintage' fad and have taken on an indentured servant.  Maybe you were lonely.

People who don't compost, though?  Oh, man.

Now, I'm not saying that if you don't compost we can't be friends.  We can.  Probably.  Especially if you live in the city/ have a yard the size of a postage stamp/ have 3+ small children in your home.  Then I suppose I can understand it.

Otherwise?  Why the heck aren't you composting already?

You know what composting is?  It's throwing your trash in a pile.  That's it.  Sure, you can make it super complicated.  Some people (like those who write entire books about composting) can make anything difficult.  I am not one of them.

How about a quick Composting for the Completely Inept and/or Lazy tutorial?

Step 1.  Pick a spot outside.  In your own yard would be preferable.  Wherever, it should be a sunny location.  We need our special trash to get nice and warm.

Beware:  This is where nurseries and seed catalogs and basically anyone trying to take your money will try and sell you one of those drum-things with a handle that you can turn.  If you feel your life won't be complete without it, go ahead.  But don't feel like you need anything remotely fancy to compost.  Our compost pile is comprised of four stakes surrounded by fine-gauge wire, with one side up against the fence for stability.  I know several people who just have a free-standing pile in their yards or garden.

Step 2.  Find a large bowl or pail or something, and throw your kitchen scraps in (banana peels, orange rinds, eggshells, etc).

Beware:  This is the step where people will try to sell you special composting pails.  This is a glorified trash can.  It does not need to be pretty.  Just make sure your two-year-old can carry it; I'm all about avoiding as much work as possible around here.

Step 3.  Start throwing the kitchen scraps onto the spot.  Any kind of fruit or vegetable waste is fine.  Eggshells are also great.  No meat or bones.  Paper and newsprint is also fine, provided it's shredded and isn't super heavy on the colored ink or has any kind of plastic anywhere on it.  Dryer lint, hair, and the gunk from your canister vacuum is also great.

Beware:  This is where you'll get people telling you things like, "Don't put citrus peels in your compost," and "Always wash out your eggshells before throwing in."  These are I-Live-To-Make-My-Life-As-Difficult-As-Possible kind of people and if you don't plug your ears and start singing "Abba" to make them run away, they'll make your life harder than it needs to be, too.

Step 4.  Throw some yard waste on, too.  I throw some leaves on in the fall, and grass clippings every once in a while.  I know a lot of people throw their weeds in theirs, but the big weed in our yard is Creeping Charlie, and if I throw it in there, it'll just make a giant mound of more Creeping Charlie rather than beautiful compost to put in my flower and vegetable beds.  My advice:  skip the weeds altogether.  Just burn 'em.  Also avoid thick sticks or twigs; they take too long to break down.  I don't put large pinecones in mine anymore for the same reason.

Beware:  This is where that same person will start talking about "hot composting" and "cold composting."  Just walk away.

Step 5.  Turn the pile, basically whenever you think about it.  For me, that's about twice a year.  Maybe you should do it more often than that.  I use a small pitchfork to do mine, which makes me feel all American.  And Gothic.  Put together.  (Who gets it?!)

Beware:  This is where that guy will try to talk you into Vermicomposting.  If you're that desperate to get fancy with your compost heap, dig a few worms up in the yard and throw them on.

Step 6.  This is the best step, because it's the one where one day you turn the pile and discover that there's beautiful, crumbly black compost in there, ready to add to your vegetable gardens and flower beds.  I try to add a scoop anytime I'm planting something- particularly perennial flowers- because hopefully they're going to be there a long time, and they need a healthy start.  Super easy, practically free.  You can't beat that.

Okay, my fellow composters:  What am I forgetting?  Any cheap and easy tricks I don't know about?


  1. Building a compost bin is one of my fondest memories with Dr. Teresa. We built hers with pallets on three sides. I threatened to put a fourth side on it (when she was sitting in the middle) if she didn't stop being so bossy.

    It didn't work.

  2. after you get the hang of dumping your junk in a random pile (i'm guessing most people catch on pretty quickly), look up a list of 'surprising things to compost' or 'things you didn't know you could compost.' we empty our vacuum, dump our hair clippings and even throw popped latex balloons on the pile. i have also heard you can throw condoms on the pile...but i have also heard that the neighbor's dog will fish them out and strew them about your maybe don't do that.

    i owe you a debt of gratitude for being my composting cheerleader when i was trying to rustle up the cajones to start. i could have never had the guts to start my own rotting pile of garbage had it not been for you!


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