Garden Diary: Simple Kitchen Composting

better compostWay back on March 30th, as hinted at in my “How I Built up my Planters” post, I also started a compost bin. (Just for the record, I wasted no time: since I’d brought it up, I went ahead and did it right away!) Using an ordinary, plastic, kitchen trash can, it was the easiest thing I’ve ever done.

First, I lined the bottom of the bare can with some packing peanuts I had laying around. The idea is to have a bottom layer in which any liquids can be collected, without having the trash bag laying in there soggily. There are two reasons why I was expecting liquid:

  1. if we inadvertently over-watered the compost, or
  2. from worms

Trash Bags, Dental Floss, & LightbulbsYeah, I said worms! It’s called “vermiculture” (or “vermicomposting“), and it’s all the rage in green households with gardens. The idea here is to use worms (preferably “Red Wigglers”, because they like to hang near the top of the soil eating the fresh kitchen scraps you throw their way) to chew on the material you throw in. In exchange, they not only turn the soil over, but also eliminate (in more than one ways) the food and paper scraps, thereby keeping the overall volume of your compost bin down a bit.

That crack about “eliminating” refers to the worm castings (aka “poop”), which is a great fertilizer for your plants. If you put said castings in some water, you can water your plants and feed them at the same time. Neat, huh?

Anyway, I next cut some holes at the bottom of a tall kitchen trash bag so it could drain, if necessary, and placed it in the garbage can. Next, I tore strips of a newspaper (black ink only!) and lined the bag with that. Again, with the intention of getting worms, it was necessary to put in some carbon-based materials in there.Red Wiggler Worms

Then, finally, a layer of dirt and some of the pre-made compost, maybe 4 inches tall or so, and I was ready for food scraps.

We’ve been loading it with things like onion peels and other vegetable trimmings since then, periodically covering each layer with a little dirt and sometimes pre-made compost as well. My bin is now two thirds full…. and we haven’t got the worms yet. I’m a little reluctant to purchase through mail order, and the worms in our back yard tend to burrow, which means they’d be more likely to get to the stuff at the bottom (unlike, presumably, the red wrigglers, who prefer being near the surface). I’m undecided.

One more thing, we’ve been leaving the bin uncovered. If/when we get some worms, we might put a mesh covering of some sort on it, but since I didn’t make any holes in the container itself, we’ll want to keep the oxygen coming in from the top. Just like the natural composting that happens outdoors.

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