Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Build a compost bin with free materials
A quick look in the want ads will usually turn up companies giving shipping pallets to anyone willing to haul them away. Load up the truck, baby! Place one pallet on the ground. Stand 4 others on end to act as sides. Attach with screws or wire ties to make them easily dismantled and moved. Add more bins in a train formation. Compost can be turned from one bin into the next.

What ingredients are good for your compost bin?
Grass clippings from untreated lawns, hay, fruits, vegetables, tea bags, coffee grounds, eggshells, leaves, manure, straw, weeds that haven't gone to seed, wood chips and sawdust (from untreated wood)

Ingredients to avoid:
Any chemically treated plants, wood or lawn trimmings, diseased plants, human waste, meat, bones, fatty food waste, weeds that have gone to seed, pet wastes.

Does your compost smell bad?
A compost heap will harbor both aerobic and anaerobic microbes. Both of these little critters do the work, but the anaerobes create a grand funk in the process. To prevent them from taking over the pile, make sure plenty of air gets in there. You can fluff the pile by turning it or introduce air by regularly poking holes from top to bottom.

Give it a drink!
Help those microbes work their best by making sure they have enough water. Ideally, your compost heap should be about as wet as a well wrung sponge.

How do I know when it's done?
That depends. What was a pile of plant material will gradually, from the bottom up, turn into a pile of dark stuff that looks like brown dirt. Eventually, none of the items you put in there will be recognizable. If you're using it out in the garden, a few small recognizable bits won't hurt - they'll finish composting in the garden. If you're using it for houseplants or to start seeds, it's better to wait until it's well finished so you don't have microbes attacking the fine rootlets of new plants.

Compost tea
You can give your house or garden plants a boost with a cup of compost tea. Mix equal parts of compost and water and let sit for a few hours. Pour the resulting liquid directly onto the soil. The compost left at the bottom can be reused for several batches of tea and then returned to the compost bin or put directly on the soil in your garden. For use with young seedlings, make a much weaker tea with 4 parts water to 1 part compost.


Sheri Fresonke Harper said...

In Seattle we have a recycle program that collects it all and then we can use the final product on our gardens. Interesting blog you have, I can't wait to see more of it :) Sheri