Lets Talk Compost

By: Morgan Trout

What is Composting?

First things first, what even is composting? Composting is the process of turning things like food scraps and newspaper into a mixture that is rich in plant nutrients and beneficial organisms which can be used to fertilize other plants. Some people like to use their compost in their potting mix or their house plants to help them grow while others use it as mulch to boost garden harvest. This process of decomposition can be achieved in a few different ways, keep reading to learn about how you could start turning your food into fertilizer!

Ways to Compost

1. Bin Composting

The first and most simple method to compost is with a large bin. These can be aqcuired through the City of Pheonix for $5 and are constructed from old garbage cans. You can also make your own by choosing a plastic bin that’s at least 18 gallons and has a lid. Next you’ll drill small holes 2 inches apart on all sides of the container for air ventilation. You can do the same with a second bin to place the first inside of to catch any leeching liquids. These liquids can be used to fertilize plants as well. When placing your bin, choose somewhere that gets a lot of sunlight and that you plan to plant in later, as some of the nutrients from the compost will seep into the soil below. Next you can start layering in your compost and giving it a daily shake to help things move along. This method will provide you with finished compost in about 3 months.

2. Worm Composting

A worm composting bin, or vermicomposter, is essentially a raised conatiner with worms that you place your compostables in. The worms then consume your scraps and they become compost as they pass through the worms body. This is a good option for people who don't have the outdoor space to compost outside and can produce compost much faster than the previous method. You can make your own vermicomposter using one tall 18 gallon tub and one shallow bin that the large bin can rest inside of to catch excess liquid. Next, drill four 1/8“ holes on the bottom corners of the large bin & two on opposite sides near the top. Cover each hole with vinyl screening and place the large bin inside the shallow one. Mix together shredded paper and soil with enough water to dampen everything and place at the bottom of your bin. Next you will add in one pound of red wriggler worms. You can also use earth worms, but red wrigglers compost waste more quickly. You can purchase them online here. Give the worms a day to settle in and then you can start feeding them all your food scraps in weekly bouts. Once every few months, scoop the liquid out of the shallow container to use as fertilizer in your home and garden. Once the bin is getting full with compost, place food scraps on one side. Once the worms have travelled to one side of the bin, harvest your compost from the other side. Repeat the process on the other side. Alternatively, you can purchase a worm composter online here. Compost through this process will complete in just about two weeks.

3. Tumbler

A composting tumbler is a large raised bin that can be easily rotated and is fully enclosed. By turning the tumbler a few times a week, it allows mixing of the microbes with the organic materials and maintains proper aeration. Tumblers are widely available online and in hardware stores, a highly rated one on Amazon can be viewed here.

What Not to Compost

It is important to know that not all of your food scraps can be composted through these methods. A few things you will want to avoid ending up in your compost pile are:

  • meat

  • fish

  • metal

  • bones

  • greasy food scraps

  • plastic

  • glass

  • styrofoam

  • dairy

  • dead plants

  • fat/butter

  • oil

  • pet feces

Foods like meat, fish, dairy, and bones can attract animals and pests to your bin while fat and oil will coat your compostables making them take longer to decompose. While plastic, metal, and glass always go in the recycle, you can send the rest of these items to the trash.

Composting Tips

1. Layering

One thing you will inevitably hear in the composting community is the browns and the greens. This is referring to the two main compostables that will end up in your pile and is mainly important for bin conposting.

The browns are going to be the carbon rich material used to add bulk, allow air flow, and feed the soil-dwelling organisms that help to break down the pile. This will consist of things like cardboard, paper towels, egg cartons, dry leave, wood chips, and dry grass. It’s important to keep in mind that smaller things compost quicker so shredding your paper and leaves will help you out a ton.

The greens are the nitrogen rich materials that bring nutritents to your pile and aid in the heating process. This will mostly consist of wet, recently growing plants like grass clippings, weeds, vegetable trimmings, tea bags (make sure you buy tea bags with compostable bags, they are more often made from plastic), coffee grounds, and green leaves.

This is where the layering comes in. Adding your compost in layers, alternating between greens and browns, will allow all of the green layers some aeration which will help to compost more quickly. Aiming for a ratio of three or four parts browns to one part greens is the ideal ratio, but perfection is unnecessary. If you notice your pile isn’t heating up, it probably needs more greens. If you find that the pile is starting to smell, you may need to add some browns.

2. Mixing

Another important thing to keep in mind, especially when bin composting, is to mix often. If you have a smaller bin that you are able to pick up and shake, this will be much easier. If your compost pile is too large, you can mix up the compost by using a shovel or pitchfork to stir things around a bit. This process allows more air flow to your waste which will help it develop faster. Tumblers have made this process very easy!

Compost Pick-up

If you don’t have the time to compost at home or have no need for the fertilizer, consider using services offered from Recycled City. This is a business that will provide you with a composting container and pick it up weekly, biweekly, or monthly. They simply swap your full bin out for a new one and take your waste to be turned into compost and grown into food! You can choose from any of their service plans and they even offer a free trial.

For a similar service in Flagstaff, click here.

For a similar service in Tuscan, click here.

Compost Drop-off

If none of these are options for you, you can still properly dispose of your waste. Find out if your local farmers market or community garden have a composting program. You can also check out https://sharewaste.com to see if there are any home gardeners near you collecting food scraps!

Tag us on Instagram and show us how YOU compost @wokthisway.today

Thanks for reading and I’ll see ya next Friday! :)

To learn more about at home composting, check out these helpful links: