Monday, December 21, 2009

Compost Soup for the Soul

Making compost is a lot like making soup, throw in the right mix of ingredients, add water, stir, and let it cook (luckily compost "cooks" itself). The key to perfect compost soup is balancing the brown or high-carbon ingredients (dead leaves, straw, paper) with the green or high-nitrogen ingredients (grass clippings, veggie scraps, coffee grounds).

I go for about a 2/3 brown and 1/3 green mix, but a compost snob (throat-clearing sound) will tell you to achieve a much more specific mix. Just eyeball it, no need to get out the measuring cup, people, we're talking about dirt!

Some composters prefer to make more of a compost lasagna with carefully constructed layers of brown and green and if you have this type of patience more power to you. My bin is definitely a soup- I throw stuff into the pot and just like when I cook my favorite potato leek or lentil soup, I test it occasionally for consistency. If the pile is dry, I add water or leave off the lid before rain. If it's too wet, I'll hunt down some leaves or shredded paper.

Of course just like with soup, sometimes the pile needs a stir. This is where you need what my mom would call "elbow grease." Get that pitchfork or compost turner in there and mix it around. Mixing adds air heating up the pile and speeding up the composting. And you know what they say- if you can't stand the heat, get out of the compost bin.

Bon appetit.

Friday, December 11, 2009

In Search of a Compost Bin

Seeking: Single, down-to-earth composter, who enjoys contributing to the garden and spending time lounging in the sun. Looking for an outdoorsman who doesn't mind eating leftovers and is not afraid to get dirty. Only those willing to take my trash need respond.

We all want the perfect compost bin in our lives but your search need not involve a personal ad. When looking for a composter, you want to think about what features you'll need in a bin. This post focuses on run-of-the mill, humble composters. If you are looking to spend more than $100 on a bin, I'll have a post for you later on tumblers and other fancy composters. For your basic bin, add these to your checklist:

Durability: Will it stand up to the elements? Does it have a warranty?

Size: Is it small enough to fit in your yard but big enough to hold all your compostables? Think about leaves too!

Lid: Does it lock to keep out curious critters? Are there holes to allow rainwater in?

Recycled Content: Does the bin contain recycled plastic? Close the Loop!

Open Bottom: You gotta invite all the great creepy crawlies living in the soil.

After making a checklist of features, you can proceed in the quest for the perfect bin. Hamilton County has a composting event once a year to sell discount compost bins with experts on hand offering demonstrations and answering questions.

Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to catch the sale, but fortunately we have several great local stores who sell compost bins year round. Park + Vine (appropriately named for their location at the corner of Vine and Central Pkwy) sells a number of compost bin types and the necessary accessories. Worms Way in Erlanger also sells different bins for a variety of budgets. Sam's Club on North Bend usually has bins at a very reasonable price (just don't expect employees to offer composting advice).

For the DIY types, I will soon be posting info about making your own bin at home but in the meantime you can check out this site for some good models: