Composting in the City

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As far as I know, composting in the city isn’t much different than composting anywhere else. Except maybe, you have a smaller area to work with.

About a month ago, Jared built me a compost box. So I thought why not share a few ideas about composting. Please note, I’m not an expert by any means. I’ve just picked up a few ideas along the way.

Why Compost?

  • It’s “green”
  • Can be used to fertilize the garden
  • It’s free
  • Reduces waste thrown in the trash

How we do it:

We have a box built in our yard. It’s a long-ish, low box with a hinged lid. (Think large toy box.) It’s off in the corner by our wood pile so it’s out of the way. There are many different styles of compost bins. Most that you’d buy at the store are hard plastic with a latching lid, they come in a round or square variety. My parents have a contraption that’s a converted rain barrel set off the ground in such a way that can be turned over and over (so you don’t have to “mix”, see note below). Handy!

Our box isn’t completely closed. By that I mean the slats have space between them. At first I thought this was going to be a problem with rodents, but then I realized that every single compost bin I’ve ever seen is accessible by rats. It doesn’t seem to matter if its closed and latched or not. Also, having it not closed tight allows the dirt and scraps to “breath”.

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What we put in:

  • Raw fruit and vegetables. Apple peels, apple cores, pineapple tops, orange skins, potato peals, rotting fruit that I’m not going to make into something else… those sorts of things.
  • Coffee grounds and coffee papers. (I’ve tried tea bags from iced tea, and they work alright, but haven’t totally made up my mind on them yet.)
  • Eggshells
  • Grass clippings, picked flowers, pulled up plants from the garden. (I do try to minimize these these somewhat since they tend to fill up the box really, REALLY fast. If there’s just a few, I’ll throw them in. If there’s a whole days work of yard work, I’d rather put them in a paper “yard waste bag”.)

We do NOT put in:

  • Cooked veggies.
  • Other foods (rice, meats, breads, etc). This is just something left over from growing up. I always assumed it was because of the rodents, but as I mentioned above rodents are there anyways. It may have something to do with these foods don’t break down quite as well and aren’t as nutrient rich for replenishing the soil.

I thought, or always believed that compost smelled. And while its sitting on your kitchen counter waiting to be taken out, it can get to smelling a bit ripe. But once, it’s in the box and starts mixing with and turning into dirt, that smell goes. It smells very rich and earthy, like wet dirt.

Some tips:

  • Keep the bowl/container for scraps small. A normal cereal bowl is fine. Glass or metal ones won’t hold the smell and are easy to clean once scraps are dumped. Yes, it’s small and will have to be emptied more often (I usually do mine twice a day), but it will reduce the ripe smelliness, and it will keep the fruit fly population down.
  • I try not to dump in the bin after dark (I don’t care for rats or mice or things of that nature).
  • Many times before I open the container, I’ll give it a little kick to get all the critters scurrying out the back. (Again, I’d really prefer to not have rodents jumping out at me)
  • “Mix” the compost regularly (I try to do ours about every two weeks). This helps to get air mixed in. Which helps the “raw” scraps decompose faster. It also keeps some of the flies away. Good big garden spade works well.

So there are just a few little tidbits to get started on composting. Not hard really. And while it probably doesn’t save tons of money, it makes it feel like I’m not wasting stuff by just throwing it in the trash.

~Ruth Anne

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