Composting for the Lazy Person

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.)

kitchen waste, composting, yard waste,

Photo: kthread

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:

compost, garden, kitchen waste, yard waste

Photo: jessica mullen

 

Use logs to contain it:

composter, kitchen waste, yard waste,

Photo: jessica mullen

Line up bricks or concrete blocks to contain it:

composter, yard waste, kitchen waste

Photo: reynolds.james.e

Or use a commercial composter (this is similar to the one I use):

compost, kitchen waste, yard waste, passive compost

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?

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  • Susan W ,

    I agree that composting is easy.It has also significantly cut the amount of trash we put out.

  • Kris Bordessa ,

    Susan, people would not believe the small amount of trash my family of four generates, in part due to composting.

  • Jane ,

    I’ve have “compost-phobia” for years now, for fear it was too complicated and time consuming. Though, it sounds like a very do-able family project. Do you have to turn the compost now and then?

  • Kris Bordessa ,

    It is truly SO easy. I mean look! That guy is doing it in his pajamas! This version of composting – passive composting – doesn’t require you to turn it. Of course, it won’t HURT if you do.

  • NoPotCoooking ,

    My parents were composting in the 70s, so I grew up doing it.

  • I love your photos! I have been composting for years. Made good compost until I added worms. Now, they eat all the compost and leave me worm poop, which I am not crazy about.

    • Kris Bordessa ,

      Why do you dislike the worm poop? Those castings are great for the soil. Is it the texture that bothers you?

  • Yay compost! Our method is pretty passive, although we built a huge bin with a chicken wire lid for our pile last summer. I’m so excited to start spreading it around my garden in a few weeks.

    • Kris Bordessa ,

      Can’t wait to hear how beautiful your compost is. What a weirdo, to be excited about compost, eh?

  • This looks like something even I could do. My SIL keeps a hollowed out milk jug on her kitchen counter for composting scraps and then adds them to her garden later. I always thought that was a great idea.

    • Kris Bordessa ,

      It’s just a matter of finding a spot to do it. Beyond that? Super easy!

  • Michele ,

    Last year when we moved to the farm I wanted to start composting my kitchen scraps. I was suprised that I had so little trash that was then going to the dump. Not only that but my kitchen didn’t smell with yesterdays onion peels. Then when I got my chickens I started adding their hay & pine shavings to the pile. I tried to go out with a shovel to turn the pile but that was easier said than done. So … I coaxed my chickens over to the pile with treats and they started turning it for me. Granted they don’t go all the way to the bottom but they do mix it up a good bit while they are looking for tasty worms and scraps. All of this will be tilled into my garden in the next few weeks.

    • Kris Bordessa ,

      Michele, my chickens follow me around, waiting for me to flip over a corner of the compost pile for them!

  • It is truly amazing the BULK of waste that is reduced to practically nothing with composting. Plus the chickens do love turning it.

    • Kris Bordessa ,

      We don’t pay for garbage service here, but if we did, composting would definitely be a way to reduce our monthly expenditures.

  • We’ve been composting for years now, and it really IS easy. We don’t do so well achieving hot rot but we do have hundreds of worms in our bins. Trash smells disgusting with kitchen waste in it, and there’s no reason, none, to throw compostable food “away” (as if it goes anywhere, it doesn’t…)

  • i’m going to try composting for the first time. My parents have been doing it for awhile, but I haven’t done so yet, with so little outdoor space. Now that we have moved into a home with a yard for the first time, I’m ready to try. I look forward to your post on composting in a more limited space, though, so I know what to do when we are living in an apartment again some time.

  • Since we’ve just moved into a condo, I miss composting. Please hurry with those apartment-composting ideas.

  • Hilary ,

    Can you use a kitchen counter composter without using a backyard composter??? Will it create compost? I’d love to start composting, but dont have the backyard space!

    • Kris Bordessa ,

      The kitchen counter “composters” are more like containers to hold trimmings until they can be sent to the actual compost pile. Have you considered a worm bin? They are – I promise – not stinky and can be tucked into a closet or cupboard. I’ve used one like this in the past, and it was very efficient: http://t.co/Al0Ej5H. You can also make your own (post upcoming on that).

    • BOBBY ,

      if u have no room then do TRENCH COMPOSTING,CANT GET ANY MORE EASY THAN THAT,just dig a trench 8 to 12 inches deep throw in and cover ,worms love it so will the soil bobby

  • Liz ,

    I have a bin like the last picture and my compost does not look as good as that! But I should probably turn it more often. I find that adding comfrey and manure are great to stimulate the microbes to do their thing. I was also reading recently about the benefits of compost and I didn’t realise that its not just about adding to the soil the nutrients that are in the veges that you put in the compost, but also all the microbes that are living in the compost add their own nitrogen AND help the soil structure when you dig it in, amazing stuff really!

  • April ,

    Last week I built my first compost bin by lashing g together wooden pallets that I got for free. I’ve been taking my kitchen scraps out daily. Since I’m juicing a I get a decent amount. I love the milk jug idea! Handle and everything. My inlaws had their lawn guys bag up their leaves and final grass cut for me (and I need to go get them but they don’t live super close). So I’m going to add that. I got some chicken poop from a neighbor last week too. Then on Monday I unexpectedly also got my first chickens. 8 mature layers so I will be getting poop from them. So my first question is which is more efficient giving my scraps to the chickens and then getting the poop or putting the scraps in the compost heap? Also the side has plenty of ventilation for air to get in so should I put a tarp over the top to keep excess snow/moisture out? I’ve never done this before. I’m going to be turning and working mine so I can get as much as possible by spring when I will be filling my garden boxes.

  • Gene ,

    I live in the woods of NE Georgia and use a passive compost pile. During the winter I collect the scraps in the freezer for a warmer day, then take them all out at once. I used a counter top collection device but ended up fighting those little flies. That’s how I discovered I could just collect things in the freezer and disperse at my convenience.

    I’ve very much enjoyed discovering this website. Thanks for the yogurt recipe. It’s wonderful

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