Composting 101

A composting system is absolutely essential for island living. It’s a great way to reduce waste, recycle food scraps and create rich topsoil for your garden. Most importantly, it keeps organic matter out of landfills and can reduce the amount of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is emitted during the decomposition process, from being released into the atmosphere.

Composting can seem a bit daunting at first. However, once you choose your composting system and understand your needs, it is so much easier than you think. Here are the 4 things you need to know to get you composting confidently:

Bin vs. Tumbler?

Bin vs. Tumbler

Bins and tumbler are both great composting alternatives but what you choose depends on your location, needs, and budget.

Bins are easy to set-up, cost effective and have a larger capacity than tumblers. Tumblers make compost quicker, are more secure to keep pests out and make it easier to separate soil from waste. If you do not have a lot of space in your backyard and can’t be bothered to turn over your compost each week, you may want to splurge on a tumbler.

Pro-tip: Before you choose, check to see if your city has a composting program. Many cities, like Vancouver, BC will sell you a backyard composting bin and kit for ½ the price of retail.

Indoor Kitchen Compost Bins

Bins 3After being plagued with fruit flies all summer, I would strongly recommend you invest in a tightly sealed, indoor compost bin to eliminate odors and pesky bugs. Personally, I would stay away from the ceramic or steel compost containers as they are harder to clean and are not as airtight. A few indoor bins with great reviews for you to check out:

  • The Oxo .75 Gallon – $19.99  or Tenby 1.2 Gallon for 14.95  – Both are cute, compact, tightly sealed and have great reviews. The smaller size means frequent trips outside but can fit on or under your counter
  • Exaco Eco-2000 2.4 Gallon – $19.99 – At 2.4 gallons, this can easily fit under your counter, which means fewer trips to your outdoor bin.
  • The Full Circle Fresh Air Kitchen Compost Keeper – 2G –  $29.99 – This composter is designed to allow air to flow through to slow decomposition, reduce messy liquid and pesky flies and prevent odor. Unfortunately, you need to buy the compostable bags to go along with it.
  • The Bokashi Bucket, 5Gallon – $60.00 – This 5 gallon composter ferments all kitchen waste including meats, cheese, bread and veggies! You need to mix it with a bokashi solution to help break down your waste anaerobically (without oxygen) and drain the liquid every 2-3 days. The bokashi liquid is called fermented tea, which is supposed to be sweet nectar for your garden. It takes about 10-14 days to break things down and then you can either add the compost to the soil or to your compost bin. I have yet to try this but I love the idea of being able to toss everything organic in here.

Getting Started

Once you have bought and built your compost, set it up in an area that is close to your home, on bare ground and out of full sun.

My 11 year old son initially set-up our first family compost bin. He taught me that in order for an outdoor compost to convert to soil faster, it should have a good balance of:

  • Carbon – (brown) dry stuff you find in your yard like twigs and leaves or paper and cardboard.
  • Nitrogen – (green) wet, moist matter like veggie scraps and coffee grinds.
  • Air – Turn or aerate your compost each week
  • Water – keep your bin out of direct sunlight and add green stuff to help it stay moist

You will know that your compost is ready to use when it is dark brown and soil like. It should smell a bit earthy and have a crumbly texture. Using a shovel or pitchfork, separate the good soil on the bottom from the waste and use it in your garden.

Pro-tip: Mother Nature is the Queen of composting. She doesn’t aerate her garden every week, layer her compost or even use a bin!  So, if you forget to turn things over, your compost will eventually break down. It may just take a little longer.

What to Compost

If you want to create natural soil that you can use in your veggie garden, these are the things that you should and should not throw in your compost:

Meat, fish scraps and bones are on the No List because they can attract animals, stink up your bin and slow down the whole process. Unless you are using the indoor Bokashi bucket, recycle your organic bones and meat by digging a deep hole in your garden or yard and bury them. It’s that simple.

Happy Composting!

If you have any suggestions or recommendations, please share in the comments below. I’m just getting started and learning as I go!

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