Tuesday 7 June 2011

The Compost Junkie

I'm addicted. I'm addicted to composting.

I read about it, I go to classes about it, I talk about it with friends. I sit around the lunch table at work cringing as people throw away their cores, peels, crusts and think... "Maybe I could take those home to my bin?". Once I even asked, and then passed it off as a joke as my coworkers stared at me like I was insane. The fact of the matter is, I LOVE the idea of taking something that is garbage, and turning it into something useful,and full of potential--that earthy smelling black gold.

For beginners, compost waste is classified as two main groups "browns" (carbons: shredded paper, dead plants, brown leaves/grass, wood chips etc.) and "greens" (nitrogens: fruit peels/cores, veggie scraps, plants, tea leaves, coffee grounds etc.). Of course there are many more nutrients and elements making up your compostables, but this is the main way that these wastes (let's call them "building blocks") are separated into groups. The key to a good, healthy compost is to have the correct balance of browns, greens, moisture and air, otherwise your compost heap can turn into a stinky, slimy mess.

Microorganisms are the most important ingredient to the compost pile and are the starting force of decomposition.  Actinomycetes, fungi, and eventually worms and more complex organisms move in later and help to keep the decomposition rolling.  Where do all these organisms come from you ask?  Well, you are creating a lovely home for them full of food, heat, and moisture, so they will start to move in in a hurry if you provide this type of atmosphere.  Sometimes when starting a BRAND new compost, you need to an an "activator" to introduce some of these organisms, and to provide a rich nitrogen based environment for them to live in.  Chicken manure is said to be an EXCELLENT activator (unfortunately, I don't know anyone with chickens, so this option was out).  I did have the next best thing though...a husband willing to pee on my pile.  That's right!  It took a little bribing, and perhaps a bit of begging, but eventually he succumbed to my pleas.  Urine is an excellent compost activator because it is full of a variety of nutrients within its' yellow streams, and generally carries some bacteria as well.   All in all, a perfect activator for my backyard compost pile.

At the risk of blathering on, I will end this post here, but this is only scratching the surface of composting. I would LOVE to talk about it some more with you, so if you have any questions or comments, let's chat below!


  1. LOVE composting! There are so many things you CAN compost: plain pasta, paper Q-tips, dryer lint, hair, nail clippings, receipts, and even PURE cellophane (actually derived from plants!)

  2. Aaaaahhhh!!! I didn't know about the pee thing! HILARIOUS! I myself started off my new bin with a few scoops of (purchased) compost/dirt, and hoped that would do the trick. But you, my friend, are much more daring ;) lol!!

  3. Any tips on clearing out the big fat MOUSE that I just discovered living in there?! AAAH!

  4. soak pile thoroughly and turn often to decrease the "comfort" factor for mice...maybe try poke it with the pitch fork next time? ;)

  5. I agree whole heartedly! I started a compost pile last October and it is so fun! I bring a bucket with a lid on it here to work and they put all the coffee grounds and filters in there for me and some people put their food wastes in there too. Some even bring me their food from home when they clean out their fridge. I also take home all the shredded paper from here at work and I add that in my compost pile too! We live in the country, so some people down the road from us have 21 horses and when I need manure I just go down there and scoop away. My husband makes rolls for a living, so they get some of the products in plastic 5 gal. containers and we use them to scoop the poo into, then I let it rain into them to clean them out and I dump the water on the compost pile. And yes, my husband happily pees on the compost pile too! LOL! I eat popcicles like crazy here in Texas so I add my popcicle sticks in it to for aeriation. I am an Environmental Development Planner, so I teach people about Recycling and Composting, so I do it so I can learn it. Here are 2 of my slogans, "Learn it & Live it!" "Grasp it, grow n go!"

  6. I wish everyone had your enthusiasm Angela!! Have you ever tried using a Bokashi bin?

  7. Chicken manure is said to be an EXCELLENT activator (unfortunately, I don't know anyone with chickens, so this option was out). I did have the next best thing though...a husband willing to pee on my pile.

    I love this solution. As the saying goes..."one man's trash is another man's treasure." We're currently doing the same thing with a huge mulch pile in our yard. Come spring time, this pile should be well composted and ready for use in the gardens.

    Great post Adobe. I agree with you many times over. There is something so therapeutic and awe-inspiring watching the composting process unfold...not to mention incredibly satisfying.