Monday, June 2, 2014

Mindful Monday: ABC's of Composting

Did you know you can compost all year?  That's right.  You can toss your organic trash in your compost bin even in the dead of winter.  In the colder months the breakdown of organic material takes a little longer, but it still happens.  If you mix up your pile, you'll unearth a steaming mass of matter.  That steam is the proof in the compost puddin'.

I wanted to make a fun list of things you can stir into your compost puddin'.  Something you can share with your kids to help them learn about composting, but with amusing tidbits for the adults as well.

First, a brief reminder of the importance of balancing "greens" and "browns" in your compost.  The "greens" are the nitrogen-rich additives.  The "browns" add carbon.  I try to keep about a 50/50 balance, although there are experts and compost "companies" that give varying ratios.  The about 50/50 ratio is just easier, and it works for me.  To be honest, I toss my scraps and cuttings in about once a week and turn it about every two without measuring anything.  

Your compost bin should not have a stench to it.  If it does, add more "browns" and give it a turn. If you notice that it's not really breaking down, add more "greens" and a turn.  Keep it moist, but not soaking, and turn it every so often to keep the ingredients well-mixed.  I turn mine at least every two weeks, but usually more often.  But, no matter what you do or do not do, you will get usable compost. . . eventually.  The cycle of life says it must.

Now, my ABC's of composting:
Apple cores, stems and skins.  Seems obvious, I know, but I needed a starting point.  Greens

Banana peels are another great source of green compost matter.  Just make sure you remove any stickers.

Corks from your wine, or anything else that uses them, are compostable.  The wine will even aid the compost process.  However, with today's rubbery corks, it's important to make sure only real cork goes in the bin.  Browns

Dust bunnies and dryer lint are, perhaps surprisingly, fine to add to the compost.  Adding a bit of moisture helps it begin the process.  Browns

Egg shells, as long as they are crushed or powdered, are good too.  They add a bit of calcium to the final product, but they take a while to break down.  That's okay, though, since the crushed shells are a deterrent to slugs.  Neutral 

Fish tank water is one of the best things you can add to your compost.  Heck, you can pour it straight onto your garden.  The emulsion is very high in nitrogen, making it part of the greens in your bin. 

Grounds of coffee from your machine are great, too.  Add them right with the paper filter because that is also compostable.  Coffee grounds are another additive that can be put right on the garden, but I would be shut to mix them into the soil.  Worms love the grounds.  Greens

Hair and animal fur can be composted.  So clean out your brushes and scatter the hair in your bin.  It works a little better if the hair or fur isn't clumped.  Greens

Ice cream when it's melted is fine to toss in the bin.  I found quite a few places that said "melted ice cream," but none of them stated why it had to be melted.  So, my guess is that the cold is counter productive to the composting process.  Since the microorganisms and other creepy-crawlies that do the breaking down of material create heat, they probably wouldn't be too happy if you dropped a block of frozen ice cream on them.  There's the possibility of creating thermal shock and killing all those organisms that come in contact with it.  Greens

Jams and jellies, being made from fruit and sugars are another obvious add.  Greens

Kiwi skins.  Okay, okay.  It's hard to come up with something unique for every letter of the alphabet. Bare with me here.  Greens

Leaves, both fresh and dead, add browns to the pile.  They break down faster if that are shredded or chopped.

Manure.  Can I say enough about this fabulous, odiferous material?  After all, composted sheep manure gave me the name for my blog, for that is what I put on my garden and in my compost every year.  The stipulation is that the manure should come from herbivores.  Dog and cat feces is not something you should add to your pile.  However, that from sheep, horses, cows, and goats is fine.  Also, if you use pine shavings for your rodent or feathered pets, or another natural bedding for reptiles, that can go in the compost.  Browns

Newspaper is okay to add, too.  Avoid the glossy pages, though.  Ad be sure to shred or tear it to aid in the breakdown.  Browns

Orange peels are fine, but again, they should be broken into smaller bits before getting tossed in.  I put mine in the food processor and pulse them until they are almost a pulpy texture.  That way the acids contained within can be spread around instead of concentrated in one area.  Greens

Paper towels and paper napkins (and toilet paper) will decompose well in the compost.  Food and drink debris is fine, but make sure they weren't used to wipe up chemicals. As with so many other things, I like to tear mine up.  I also only use white.  When white isn't available, I don't throw the towels with dye in the bin.  I'm just not sure about those dyes.  Browns

Q-tips are another source of brown material.  Be sure that the stick is cardboard and not plastic.

Rice, brown or white, but it needs to be plain.  No fried rice, or rice slathered in butter.  Fats are not good for compost as they create a barrier of sorts to the process.  Greens

Sawdust from untreated wood and lumber is another way to add browns.

Tea is a great addition to the compost.  You can toss the whole bag in, but be careful of the tag, string, and staple some varieties have.  Greens

Urine.  Okay, I had to get creative with this one, but it's true.  Urine can be added to the compost.  

Vacuum contents follow the same line as the dust bunnies and dryer lint.  Assuming, of course, that there aren't any Legos, twist-ties, or other non-biodegradable stuff in there.  And don't toss the bag in.  Browns

Wood ash is okay in small increments.  Too much can hinder the composting, though, so be careful.  Neutral

 X-mas trees and wreaths are suitable for composting, but since they are so big, they should be broken down into smaller pieces.  Most bins are too small for a full-size tree anyway.  I have a separate pile for trees and other such large objects.  If you do put your tree in your bin, make sure to remove all tinsel.  Browns

Yard waste like grass clippings, small sticks and twigs, plant pruning, and weeds that haven't gone to seed are great browns to add.  It also cleans up your yard.  Browns

Zucchini.  Another obvious thing to toss.  Z was hard, though.  Greens

Happy composting!

This post is part of the Clever Chicks Blog Hop!
It is also part of Fit Foodie Runs' Linky Party!