COMPOST. COMPOST. COMPOST.
Say it again?
I have wanted to have a compost bin for SO LONG let me tell you. I made one in my classroom last year (our science kit contained a pack of live, red wrigglers) but then it got soaked and drowned out at my apartment in Newport. Too many holes.. too much rain. It smelled- bad.
So, now I’m trying again, and this time I’ve got the right stuff for the job. First, a small plastic container to keep on my kitchen counter. Second, a Home Depot bucket for quick, weekly collection on our back deck. Third, a real, honest to goodness composter for a location farther from the house because WE DON’T WANT ANY RODENTS HERE!
I did a lot of research about the perfect compost bin and landed on the fact that really- there isn’t one. Everything ends up being about the same price whether you buy one or build one. Rotating vs. non-rotating? Eh, it’s all preference. They all work! It just comes down to you and your efforts to remember to collect your food scraps. Heck, my mom just has a pile in the backyard where she dumps stuff. Doesn’t turn it, doesn’t bury it, and guess what- I used the GREAT composted soil underneath the whole thing in my garden last year.
When it comes down to it, composting simply requires a little effort and commitment. There are some rules to follow to make yours better, but any action is making a difference and benefitting our planet. That’s what we’re doing here: giving back to the Earth.
Rule #1: Stick to a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of brown:green composting material.
I learned this rule for the first time last year, when the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Center came to my classroom for a composting presentation. You need a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of brown to green materials in your compost. If you have the wrong ratio, your compost will smell! If you need a simple visualization, imagine this. If you collect one zip lock bag of green materials, you need to combine that with two or three zip lock bags of brown materials in your compost.
Brown Materials: dead leaves, cardboard, paper towels, hair from your hairbrush, newspaper, grass clippings
Green Materials; fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds, weeds, egg shells, animal manure (vegetarians only!)
Rule #2: Apply heat!
Organic materials break down faster when heat is involved in the process! Most of the time, this simply means placing your compost bin somewhere where it can get a lot of sunlight. If you apply heat, your materials break down and your compost becomes compost in weeks rather than months.
Rule #3: Your compost should be as wet as a rung-out sponge.
Moisture is another big part of the composting process. Again, water helps break down the materials you’ve combined and a process that might seem to take a while, speeds way up.
Rule #4: Avoid animal products & grease.
Animal products and grease breed bacteria. Sometimes, in industrial compost, this isn’t an issue because the compost gets really, really hot. However, in your backyard, especially if you plan to use your composted soul in a garden, it’s best to steer clear of animal products- just in case. This includes grease from meats and animal manure from animals that eat meat (again, bacteria growth!)
Rule #5: If using worms, avoid citrus fruits.
Worms are amazing to add to your compost! The folks at RIRRC shares with me that in there vermicompost (worm compost) they had a pair of cotton jeans disappear in a week! All that was left was the button and zipper! Those suckers are thorough!
If you can get your hands on some red wrigglers, your compost will decompose EVEN FASTER. It’s a no maintenance solution! However, avoid adding citrus fruits in this case because they will burn poor wormy’s skin.
So, have I convinced you? Are you going to start an at home compost bin? If you’re not ready to take the plunge yourself, I suggest looking into local organizations that will take your compost. I know that on Aquidneck Island, the Aquidneck Island Community Gardens will collect your compost at local farmer’s markets, for a small fee, and use the compost in local, community gardens. So, you’re giving back in that sense as well! It’s really a win-win. Or compost at home and reap the rewards yourself!