An awful lot of people have said an awful lot about composting. Mostly, they make it sound like an awful lot of work. Let me clear the air: composting is easy. You (yes, you) are nothing but a middle man (or woman, as it were). The compost? It doesn’t need you. You do not have to do anything to turn your kitchen scraps and garden waste into compost. Mother Nature will do it for you. Your only obligation is to collect material and gather it in one spot.
First, let’s talk for a minute about why we should all be composting.
- Kitchen food waste that is tossed in the garbage ends up in our landfills, taking up space and emitting methane as it decomposes.
- Food waste that’s tossed in the trash wrapped in plastic has a hard time decomposing at all.
- Composting creates terrific soil amendment for use in the garden. Silly to throw away food waste and then go buy compost that’s been trucked in complete with a plastic bag, right?
- Even if you don’t have a garden, there are plenty of people who would be happy to take compost off your hands.
Passive composting is an easy way to turn your waste into a useful product without much work on your part at all. You do not have to have a fancy composter. All you need is a place to put your compost pile. And that’s all it has to be: a pile. Dump your kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, and leaves in a pile and forget about it. (Apartment dwellers, hang tight. We’ll talk about composting when space is at a premium at another time.)
Ooh, I can see the die-hard composters cringing now! But think about it. When left to its own devices, forest waste (leaves, needles, branches) eventually breaks down and turns into a lovely compost. The same thing will happen in your pile, albeit on a much slower time frame than if you really worked at it. You can help the pile to be more efficient by adding two kinds of waste: damp, wet, gloppy kind of stuff (think potato peels, lawn clippings, and tomatoes) and dry, crunchy stuff (brown leaves or straw). In technical terms, those are considered nitrogen and carbon, but my definitions are so much more colorful, don’t you think?
Now, there are some other things to consider. First, avoid composting meat and dairy products. These can begin to smell and will attract animals. And speaking of animals, if you’ve got raccoons or neighborhood dogs that might be tempted to dig in, you’ll want to protect the pile somehow. If fruit flies are a problem where you live, try to keep dry, crunchy stuff on the top of the pile; use a garden trowel to lift the top layer and tuck any kitchen waste underneath. Now, a no-frills compost pile is easy, but it’s not necessarily attractive. If you’d like your pile to look a little neater, you can contain your passive compost pile in a variety of ways.
Use chicken wire bent into a circle like this guy who likes to work in the garden in his jammies:
Use logs to contain it:
Line up bricks or concrete blocks to contain it:
Or use a commercial composter (this is similar to the one I use):
No matter how you choose to contain your compost, passive composting is truly the lazy person’s way to compost. In the future, I’ll be addressing a number of other ways to compost, some just as simple as this, others a little more detailed.
Have you been successful at composting? Do you use a passive method like this or are you more involved with your compost?
Thanks to Jennifer Margulis who linked to this post on her Mothering.com blog, noting that composting is a great way to save water.