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Why, What and How to Compost—Part 2

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.

~ Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

In the first article of this compost series I covered basic composting principles. If you’re hesitant to try composting for yourself, this month’s article addresses typical homeowner concerns.

Do I need a bin?

Most people prefer using bins because they keep outdoor spaces looking tidy. As I learned in UCONN’s Master Composting class, Do-It-Yourselfers can make bins from readily available materials. Wood pallets are a handy option, provided they’re free of chemical preservatives. A popular commercial choice is the Soil Saver model. Compost tumblers may encourage regular turning, however, Mother Earth News disputes their claims of making compost faster. Once full, bins are unavailable until the contents are fully decomposed. Having a second bin prevents this inconvenience. As always, research choices before making a purchase.

Compost doctor house calls

Composting food waste is more likely to become part of a daily household routine if it’s convenient. Stockpile food waste from each meal in an attractive kitchen compost bin or in a small covered container and empty it regularly. If fruit flies appear in hot weather, empty the container daily. I moved mine to the garage, which solved the issue. Keep kitchen bins clean with BPI-certified or ASTM6400-certified biodegradable liners. When feasible, place the outdoor bin near the kitchen for easy access in all seasons.

Composting materials should be as moist as a damp sponge, one that holds water when squeezed. Wet piles may cause odors. Add dry browns, described in the Part 1 article, and turn the pile. If the materials are dry to the touch add water and turn the pile.

Should animal visitors become an issue, try using a more secure bin, change the green materials being used, or bury the greens deep in the center of the pile.

Spread finished compost on gardens or use it instead of wood mulch under ornamental plants. In the unlikely case of having too much compost, offer it to your garden friends.

What options are available when composting is impractical?

A purchase of Organic Valley or Harvest Organics potting soil or bagged compost builds and sustains market demand for our local composting facilities that create these products. Contact your Public Works department for guidance regarding disposal methods for food and yard waste, or consult your Local Municipal Recycling Coordinators. CT DEEP offers advice on reducing numerous forms of waste. This ABC Nightline video shows waste reduction practices in action in some American households.

An art as much as a science

Trial and error is the best composting teacher. Go ahead and experiment. Mother Nature will always give you a passing grade because reducing food waste in state landfills benefits everyone.

Michele MacKinnon, is a UCONN-Certified Advanced Master Gardener, garden educator and speaker and a CT_NOFA Accredited Organic Land Care Professional

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