There are endless posts about composting and there are so many do’s and don’ts that many people do not compost because they believe it messy and/or it is hard. Composting a gallon ice cream bucket about every 3 days is the norm for our household.We recycle and compost so much that even with our small family of 4, we only have 2 bags of garbage a week and feel good that we are doing our part to keep the Earth healthy. Plus recycling those big plastic ice cream buckets makes for the perfect size composting bin!
My family was resistant to composting and recycling at first. We have been recycling for over 10 years now and composting for about 5. Even for my 16 year old, it is a normal thing to peel the banana and throw the peeling in the sealed compost bucket in the bottom cabinet next to the sink. I do not bother to decorate the ice cream bucket because we literally wear the lids out about every month (so for me it is not worth the time). When the ice cream bucket wears out and starts to rip, I rinse it out and run it through the dishwasher to be recycled. You will want to change rinse out the bin and wash it every week or so.
Now, I do not have an abundance of sunshine or even yard space left but I did manage to carve out a place for my compost area. I used 4×8′ fence panel from Lowe’s on the markdown rack and cut it in thirds and then used the 3 panels to make a walk in bin-the area is roughly 4’x4′ and it sits under Oak trees. This area only gets a couple hours of late afternoon sun a day so do not be turned away from composting if you do not have a bright sunny location. You do not have to make a bin so large-but I wanted plenty of room to put in old dirt, compost from the kitchen, and to be able to walk in it and turn the soil easy enough. Many do not say I am lazy but I will be the first one to tell you that I will find a way to make it easy so no one has the excuse not to do it. I think those plastic compost bins may work for some…but not for me…that is way too much work and I think it is kind of ugly looking. At least I plant around my compost area and inside I can hide things and even find things growing!
Sure, sunshine is important but it is not detrimental for what I am calling “on the ground composting”. I will confess that I went out and bought fishing worms for a couple bucks to add to the compost area because the area hard red clay with nothing growing (not even weeds!) The first 6 months there was nothing fantastic going on because it took that long to get the family to remember to compost and not put down the garbage disposal. You never put meat in the compost pile or grease-for disposal of bones, fat, grease, etc I save the cottage cheese and misc plastic containers for this purpose so that the non compost scraps can be thrown away without stinking up the place.
I do not compost too many Oak leaves either. I find they take forever to compost and without adequate sun light I was finding oak leaves a year later so I gave that up. I use the Oak leaves as mulch for the natural area and to keep weeds down. Anyhow, I will add a light layer of leaves just for organic material and even a light layer of grass clippings for nitrogen but not a lot. When you do not have sun the compost process is slow. I do find now that the compost pile is 4 years old that it takes about 2 months for most things including the coffee grounds (and filters) to decompose. I told you, I do things the ‘lazy’ way. When I dig the hole for the compost to go in I dig down as far as I can (now I can actually dig about a foot down). I use my shovel and dig the hole (only has to be shovel full wide), dump the compost in and then I chop up the banana peels, egg shells, and such with my shovel -careful not to chop up any worms in the process. Cover the hole back up and your done. Every so often I go out and turn the soil with my shovel and mix in any grass, clippings or even old soil I dump. The surprises come when I find a plant that springs up from the pit of an avocado, seed of a cantaloupe, or from the peel of a potato. I have an avocado tree now in a pot that grew out of the compost and boy do I wish it was hardy for my zone.
Composting does not have to be time consuming or hard and to build a bin like I have you could use left over wood, pallets, or even chicken wire. I live in a planned community which finally allows for composting and the structure has to be made out of lattice or wood and be neat or it can be a compost bin and it ‘should not smell’. Compost does not smell unless you are just dumping the stuff on top-always bury it so the worms will do their job. Speaking of worm, my compost area is a haven for worms and the soil after 4 seasons is rich and black where it once was red clay.
I find that following all the rules in gardening takes a lot of time and sometimes costs you money. My compost bin was under $10 and if you are in to collecting pallets or have materials around, it could cost you $0. If you only have a small area, then start by digging the hole as deep as you can get it and dump the compost in. You only need a hole to dump the stuff and the worms take over from there. Many things compost within a couple months and within a year you could be having a couple shovel fulls to use around plants that need some nutrients or even use in pots (I use much of my compost in pots now and boy does the stuff grow).
Composting has no hard fast rules and neither does gardening. You only need a little area to compost and if you only have a shady spot in the back yard GO FOR IT. I do not spend time composting, turning, or whatever else some people do. I dig a hole, put the compost in, chop it up, put the soil back on and walk away. Sure every now and then I take the shovel and turn the top foot now to stir things up but I do not spend a whole lot of time!
Looking at the pictures I realize that when I get time I need to ‘clean’ this area up… but for now it is hidden and it functions. Happy gardening!