House to House: While It’s Hot Get Started Composting
8 August 2011 - 15:00, by , in House To House, No comments

compost-bin-150x150I am a composter.  Recently, my family built its first composting bin and, wow, are we filling it up.  The kids love it, are learning a lot and, much to my surprise, it is easy to do and hasn’t been stinking up my side yard (even in the 100 plus degree Arkansas heat).   At least I haven’t noticed any stink.

So why compost?  First, it is free.  All you need is a closed container (for instance those plastic ones many of us purchase for the storage of kids clothes and holiday decorations).  My handy-dandy spouse made one out of scrap wood but a plastic container will work just as well.  If you use a plastic container you need to take the container, drill holes in the bottom to allow air to circulate and start dumping food scraps, yard clippings, paper and any organic materials in to it.

Then you have two choices.  You can “hot compost” which means you dump everything in the bucket at once, turn it with a pitchfork every month or so to ensure that you are composting all the materials equally.  You can also “cold compost” which means you just layer materials on as you collect them, add water periodically to keep it damp and let nature do the rest.  No pitchfork necessary.  Obviously, hot composting is a little more work, but it is also faster.

Composting is about the only “good” thing (aside from hanging out at our neighborhood pool) that I can think to say about our hot weather.  Composting works better at a temperature between 120 and 150 degrees.

So what should you put in your compost pile/bucket?  Pretty much anything from your yard.  Avoid weeds unless you are sure that your pile is going to get hot enough to kill them.  Remember, you are going to be using the product of your compost pile to fertilize flower beds later, so you don’t want to be spreading weed seeds around.   Grass clippings are great, leaves, shrub remnants, pine needles and shredded branches.  We just had a stump ground out of our yard and the sawdust went straight in to the compost bin as it is a great additive as well.

There are also tons of items from your home that are great for the compost bin.  Coffee grounds, tea bags, vegetable and fruit scraps, banana peels, crushed egg shells, the newspaper you are currently reading, dryer lint, and all kinds of other food scraps.

What doesn’t belong in your pile/bucket are diseased or insect infected plants which, like weeds that don’t die, can take over your garden plants later.  You also don’t want to include anything that was sprayed with a pesticide or pet waste which may harbor parasites and disease.  Meat is also not a good thing to throw in to the  pile as it stinks as it decomposes and may contain harmful bacteria that can survive the composting process.  Much to my surprise, you also don’t want to include wood ashes because they are too alkaline for some plants.

According to Recyclenow.com, once your compost has turned into a crumbly, dark material resembling moist soil that gives off a fresh, earthy aroma, it is ready to use.  They say not to worry if your compost looks lumpy with twigs and bits of eggshell.

For more information on composting, I recommend you visit HouseLogic.com, howtocompost.org, composters.com or homegrown.org.  Links to all these sites can also be found tomorrow at ArkansasRealtors.com.

House to House is written by Amy Glover Bryant, APR and distributed weekly by the Arkansas REALTORS® Association. 

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