Monday, February 8, 2021

Can I Compost Orange Peels?

Oh, sweet citrus. You make my bleak winter months bearable, but our family seems to end up with a lot more orange peels this time of year. If you are in the same citrus boat as me, you may wonder, is it okay to throw all this acidic goodness in with my compost?

Can you compost citrus? The answer is:

               In the backyard = Yes

               In the worm bin = No

Set Your Mind at Squeeze

Yes, if you are composting in a typical backyard composting bin, you can include orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, pomelos, and whatever other kind of citrus you want. The key is to not include only citrus peels.

Orange peels are acidic and if you were only adding citrus peels, you may make the pile too acidic to be a good habitat for our microorganism friends. But it would have to be A LOT of citrus. Like, if you owned a lemonade stand and were throwing 5-gallon buckets of lemon peels into your bin every day, you might have a problem.

For the rest of us, keep on adding the peels. They provide nitrogen to help your pile break down.

Zest One Exception

If you have a worm bin (or vermicomposting bin for fancier folk) then you want to minimize or even avoid citrus altogether.

Why? Two reasons. First, our worm friends are very sensitive to changes in pH and in the confined space of the bin there is nowhere for them to escape the acidic onslaught.

Second, little white mites seem to be attracted to citrus in worm bins. I don’t know where they come from or why they appear in worm bins and not backyard bins. This mystery may never be solved, I just know they are annoying enough to deter me from wanting to feed the worms citrus.

Random Acts of Rindness

So, if you compost in your backyard, keep tossing those peels into the bin. Your compost pile will convert those peels into lovely, finished compost with ease.


I’ll just be over here stuffing my face with orange slices and dreaming of warmer days to come.



Friday, October 30, 2020

Fall Composting Tips from a Mummy

With Halloween upon us and autumn in full swing, I have asked my friendly neighbor spook, the Mummy, to give us a few of his best fall composting tips.

Mummies, of course, know more about preservation and not decomposing than your average Halloween ghoul and they can use those lessons in reverse to teach us the best composting methods.

  • Empty your bins of finished compost now to make room the fall leaves. Just as you would remove the organs from the body you are about to mummify, you need to clear out those bins now so you have space for the leaves that have already started to fall.
  • Create hollow monuments to hold your dead. Maybe not a pyramid or fancy sarcophagus, but a few simple wire bins will help you hold onto those extra leaves instead of sending them off with the yard trimmings truck.
  • Without moisture, we mummify. If you want your leaves, food scraps, and internal organs to be around next year (or 1,000 years from now) you need to remove all of the moisture. We do not want that, so make sure the contents of your compost bin are as wet as a wrung out sponge.

The Mummy recommends holding onto those fall leaves now so that next year you are not cursing yourself with having too little browns.

Happy Halloween!



For past Halloween composting posts check out:

 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Scrap It Up Composting

Food waste or wasted food, what’s the difference? 

Food waste is the inedible parts of our fruits and veggies while wasted food are the bread ends, moldy produce, etc. that were edible but we didn’t eat. We’re all guilty of wasting food with even the least wasteful households in America still throw away about 9% of the food they buy, according to the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

Eliminating wasted food completely can be challenging, but it’s helpful to think of different ways to hold ourselves accountable. The team at Wikibuy shared with us this printable wasted food log that tracks your total grocery bill, the amount of food you throw away, the reason, and the cost. 

 

You’ll be motivated to use up what’s in your refrigerator when you track the financial cost of wasted food and keep those inedible food scraps headed to the compost bin. For more information on proper storage and other great food saving tips visit our website.

 https://cdn.ivaws.com/wikibuy-ads/03-family-food-waste-log.pdf

Fruit and Vegetable Storage Guide
https://bit.ly/3lDxORR 


Guest Blogger and Expert Food Saver, Jenny Lohmann




Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Well, Shut My Mouth!

 

After composting for over 8 years, I’ve been proven wrong. 

I’ve been telling people you cannot grow plants that go to fruit in your compost. After all, compost is organic matter that adds nutrients to soil, not soil itself. Of course, I’ve gotten volunteer tomatoes in my yard where I amend the soil with compost, but never have I had more than flower blossoms on vines in my compost until this year.

Short story is I have been using an open pile all these years as well as this winter. This spring I began using a plastic compost bin purchased at the District’s sale and let the open pile continue to decompose and season. As usual vines emerged and I let them go to harvest the flowers for salads. Much to my surprise one day in June I noticed one of the flowers had actually developed into a baby squash. Days later another appeared, yet different looking. How excited I was!



The first vegetable soon identified itself as an acorn squash but the neighbor and I disagreed on what the other was: honeydew, pumpkin, or spaghetti squash? Spaghetti squash it was. By mid-August I had three acorn squash and one spaghetti squash before the vines died off and they were harvested. The squash were runts but I did love the no maintenance vegetable garden. Oh, and my neighbor now has 4 giant pumpkins growing in her flower beds complements of the nearby compost pile. The grandkids can’t wait to carve them!

Gotta’ go. Need to pick some of my volunteer cherry tomatoes from my flower garden!


Guest Blogger/ Compost Gardener Jenny Lohmann




Monday, July 6, 2020

DIY Worm Bin

Haven't been able to make it to a Worm Bin Workshop? No problem. Today we are sharing a video on how to build your own worm bin! If you'd like to learn more about vermicomposting before you dive in, we recommend checking out the book "Worms Eat my Garbage" by Mary Appelhof.

Materials Needed: 
  • 1 lb of Red Wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida)
  • 10 gallon (shallow) plastic container
  • Drill
  • 3/16 drill bit
  • 2-3 handfuls of garden soil 
  • Fruit and veggie scraps (non-citrus)
  • 3 - 4 lbs moist bedding (leaves or newspaper will work!)
  • Extra lid or drainage basin for under your worm bin
  • Pieces of wood or other material to prop up your worm bin over the drainage basin 


Vermicomposter, Angela Rivera


My Journey to Farming Black Soldier Fly Larvae

I started composting as a young girl by throwing egg shells and coffee grounds into a flowerbed. Although we found this beneficial to our garden, as an adult I began more intentionally  composting. I started with an informal pile in the back of my yard and grew to using multiple tumbler systems. But perhaps the most interesting and most asked about composting system I have now is my Black Soldier Fly (BSF) bin.

"Farming" Black Soldier Flies
Even though I’d accidentally invited some Black Soldier Flies into one of my tumblers a few years ago, after a casual comment made on Day 1 of Civic Garden Center’s Master Composter Class, my interest in this squishy little insect was renewed.  

My husband and I own and operate a farm. Though we aren’t large-scale vegetable producers, we picked up too-ripe-for-people-to-eat-food from a local roadside market. Typically, we would toss these fruits and vegetables straight to the chickens, and then after a few days rake up what remained to put into a compost bin. But I am always looking for a better/faster/less expensive/more efficient way to operate, and I approached the concept of a BSF bin with gusto.

Creating a BSF Bin
Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) eat all organic material – food scraps, fruit/vegetable scraps, manure…  basically, they will eat just about anything that is or was food. When they mature, they will crawl upward and out of their food pile to pupate. Adult BSF’s don’t have stingers, and they don’t even have mouths. They exist for one reason: to mate and lay eggs.

In an effort to intentionally bring the BSF to our farm, to have a self-contained area for the too-ripe-fruits-and-vegetables, and to have an additional FREE source of chicken feed, I decided to build a bin.

Creating a modified version of the Northwest Redworms' Black Soldier Fly bin, our design modifications included installing a 2” PVC pipe for self-harvesting the pupae instead of a centralized containment point, as well as rotating knobs to prop the top open for easy access to adult BSF.

Considering this could also be done on a much larger scale, there is tremendous potential to use BSF as a waste-reduction method to dispose of restaurant and grocery store food waste. Even if you don’t have hungry chickens to feed, wildlife such as birds, lizards, or livestock such as pigs and fish could benefit from this highly nutritious insect – all while keeping food waste out of the landfill.

Questions? Feel free to email Susan at susan@sbbellfarms.com

Susan Bell
Co-owner ;B Bell Farms; Composting Fanatic!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Share Your Compost Bin!

It all started with the question “What is that?” from my next-door neighbor more than five years ago. She was pointing to my new 65-gallon compost bin. I excitedly stated “it’s my new compost bin!” I then went on to explain what compost is, why I do it, and how I will use it. She asked about rodents getting into it (as expected by a next door neighbor), to which I explained that I did my research and, based on the reviews, even bears have trouble getting into it (thanks Amazon reviews!). 


Then I asked the magical question to my neighbor “would you like to use my bin?” I surprised myself by asking this question, but I thought: if I am reducing my environmental impact by keeping food waste from going into the landfill from my home, then why not share my bin with her to reduce her impact, too?

This led me to begin sharing my compost bin with three more neighbors over the past year, and I’m now at three 65-gallon bins! Every time I open up my bin and see new food scraps added , it makes me so excited! I am so happy to help other families reduce their environmental impact. Here are the things I’ve learned and done to ensure that sharing my bins with neighbors has been successful:

·        Create a simple graphic to explain what to ADD and NOT ADD to your bin. This can be based on known compost rules and also your personal preference. This is your bin and you want to make sure that it isn’t mistakenly contaminated. For example, pizza crust can be composted along with bread as long as there’s no butter and cheese, etc. on it. So you may choose to say no pizza crust at all. Below is my graphic I give to my neighbors (download here!). Lastly, make yourself available by whatever means works for you and your neighbor because they’ll have lots of questions the first few weeks. Throughout this year I have not had any contamination issues.

·        Make sure to add much more  “browns” (yard waste, newspaper, etc.) into your bin since you are getting so many “greens” (food scraps) from your neighbors. I check my bin once a week to add browns and turn it.

·        It takes about 3 months to fill up a bin with a total of 4 families filling it. Here is how I use my 3 bins: one bin is the one that gets fresh new scraps, another one is actively working and breaking down food scraps, and the third has completed or almost completed compost. I put a brick on the top of the bins that should not be added to, so neighbors don’t mistakenly add to the wrong bin.

·        Offer the finished compost to your neighbors. My neighbors do not garden so they are not interested in having compost. Interestingly enough, my neighbors use my bins mainly to act as role models of sustainable behavior for their kids, or to help me make compost for my garden. If you find yourself having too much finished compost, you can store it to add to your garden later, or you can share it with your local community garden-- just make sure to ask the gardeners first!

I challenge you to share your compost bin. It is very rewarding to enable someone else to be environmentally friendly and creates community around composting. It grows people’s knowledge about food waste and the environment. And it allows you and your neighbor to connect in a new way.
 If you are interested to talk more about this, please reach out to me at livingearthfriendlyco@gmail.com or on Instagram @livingearthfriendly. 

Can’t wait to hear from you!


Pilar
A Composting Friend and Veteran Composter

Quick social distancing safety tip: when sharing your compost bin with neighbors remember to stay 6 feet apart and always wash hands after handling the compost bin.