Thursday, April 18, 2013

Turn Baby Turn, Compost Inferno

If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend you hustle on over and turn your compost, especially if you’ve added food scraps all winter. Just as good as pulling out the lawnmower or turning on the hose, the inaugural first turn of the compost bin marks an important rite of passage into spring.

Turning will aerate the compacted pile and kick start the microorganisms into full dance fever mode. You’ll notice a significant drop in the pile over the next week from the compostables heating up and decomposing (more disco inferno than inferno inferno). You can almost hear the microorganisms singing Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” (in high pitched voices, of course) as they come back to life.

Troubleshooting and Tools (Disco Ball Optional)
My tool of choice is the wingdigger, but you can use a pitchfork, shovel, or even a sturdy stick. The idea is to get air down into the bin.

You may notice a slight ammonia smell and some squishiness if you’re compost is a little funky (and not in a good way). That’s okay. Just fluff up the pile well with air and even add shredded leaves or paper to give it some umph.

If your pile is more dry wallflower than dancing queen, add some food scraps and water to those parched leaves. Leaving the lid off before a good rain (of water, not men) will let mother nature water the pile for you.

Stayin’ Alive
Once you’ve heated up your pile, consider turning it on a regular basis for the rest of the season. More than once a week is really unnecessary and every other week or once a month will work.

Can you dig it? I knew that ya could.

Friday, April 5, 2013

How to Take Charge of Your Unruly Kitchen Collector

Here is a picture of my real kitchen collector bucket. I’ll be honest, it rarely looks this picture perfect. Most days you would see an embarrassing mess of overflowing asparagus ends, pineapple tops, and banana peels hanging out the top. Perhaps all accompanied by an additional bowl with even more food scraps awaiting the walk to the bin.

So, who am I to suggest ways to tame the food scrap hoarding/ lazy-composters-r-us behavior?

I’ve made a resolution and you can too. We can keep our kitchen collectors tidy together. Composters unite!

Here are five tips for reducing or even eliminating mess and smells from your kitchen collector.

1. Empty Daily. Don’t think of it as a chore. This is a daily ritual, a meditative stroll through the backyard, bringing your food scraps to commune with nature and giving back to the Earth. (Or just 5 minutes to get away from the whining kids and pile of dishes, while pretending like you are actually working).

2. Use Liners. I’ve tried the “compostable” plastic liners and the origami newspaper trick. The jury is still out on the “compostable” plastic but both of these options will keep your kitchen collector clean.

3. Add Ventilation (a.k.a. holes). If you’re not taking out food scraps daily, allowing some holes in the side or top of your collector actually keeps scraps from getting too yucky. If fruit flies are an issue in your kitchen, however, you may want to skip this option.

4. Sprinkle Bokashi Bran. This Japanese import will semi-ferment food scraps if you sprinkle a little on top and allow you to go longer between emptying the material. (Check out Park + Vine or  if you want to give it a try).

5. Rinse Once Empty. Yes, I know you know that cleaning stuff makes it smell good. But this is a step I sometimes skip. A quick rinse will get any yuckiness out of the bottom and hopefully keep the bucket smelling fresher.

I’ve also heard that sprinkling baking soda on top of the food scraps or rubbing vinegar on the lid will help with smells. But if you’re going to take the time to do that why not just take out the food scraps?

My goal is to take out the bucket at least every other day which should be easier with spring here (spring is here, right? Right?). What do you do (or will start doing) to keep your kitchen collector in order?