A Journey to Grow a Little Food Close to Home

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Growing Dirt #4

When we left off, we were exploring the world of loam and were talking about organic matter (leaves, grass clippings, etc). I mentioned that a good idea would be to take whatever organic waste you might have and pile it up in a corner of your yard. While this is the most simple of compost piles, it is not neccessarily the most attractive. Today, then, we are going to talk about compost bins.

Compost bins come in all shapes and sizes. Many are now on the market ready for purchase. Typically, though, one might see a tumbler style like these:

or a tower style like this:

As with all things, there seem to be advantages and disadvantages to each. The tumblers are said to make compost faster than the towers but can only do so in 'batches'. That is, once the organic material is added and the door is closed, it has to stay closed until the compost is finished.

The towers, on the other hand, can have material continuously added (to the top) and removed (from the bottom) but, because of that, take a little longer to produce.

For some, the thought of spending a lot of money on a box that makes dirt just isn't rational (even though it is sooooo important to human existence). In that case, a wire bin might be for you.

To save even more (and be able to customize), the do-it-yourself option is always available. Whether a single bin made from recycled materials...
or a custom three-bin system, (click the pic for plans)

the do-it-yourself options are endless. Whatever bin you choose, make sure that the mix of ingredients that goes in it is right for composting. Remember: no meat, no cheese, no dairy, no fat. Old fruit, salad greens, and uneaten veggies are great! You can put kitchen scraps in a compost crock (which you can get in white, stainless, bamboo, or other colors) so that nothing smells.

Also good for the outdoor compost bin is lawn waste. This includes grass clippings and leaves. Twings and sticks will break down, but will take longer. One thing to note...the ingredients in compost are typically labeled either 'green' or 'brown.' Green waste is, well, green. Fresh lawn clippings fall into this category as do most kitchen scraps. Brown waste is waste that has dried out. Lawn clippings that have been sitting on the lawn for a few days and are then raked are brown. Dried fall leaves are brown too. The thing with compost is that too much green material, while it will decompose, will make the compost pile so nitrogen rich that it might smell and might be a bit mucky. Try for a nice blend of green and brown materials. Also, be sure to turn the compost occasionally so that air can mix in and help the break down process. Tumblers make that easy. For bins, use a shovel or digging fork.

Usually, you will have to let your compost 'cook' for a while before it is done. It should no longer smell like rot when it is done. In fact, it should have a rather clean, earthy smell and look like...dirt!!!

A little material that hasn't been broken down (as is visible in the pic) is just fine! Now that is something that your plants will love!!

For those of you who don't have yards (i.e. apartment/condo dwellers), check this out!!

Tomorrow we'll wrap up the dirt postings with some info on...poop!!

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