Compost-Along

by Daisy on 05/28/2012

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I’ve had the dorkiest idea.

You’ve probably heard about Knit-Alongs, where people get together online and knit the same project together in small steps over a set period of time?

Well, not everybody knits.  Even if you do knit, maybe you’ve set down your needles for the summer.

I thought of another usually solitary activity that we could do together, step by step, sharing our progress, tribulations, and finally our results.

How about . . .

A Compost-Along!

Are those crickets?

All right, I know decomposing waste may not be everyone’s idea of a fun summertime activity, but if you’re a garden dork like me, or you’ve been meaning to start composting for a while and you need a little push and some support to get going, this could be . . . almost a little bit fun (???).  Rewarding?  Educational?  A way to help keep you out of trouble?

Here’s the set up:

  • If you want to join in, declare your intentions in the comments section of this post.
  • Then, every week I’ll post a new composting “assignment” for us to complete over the course of that week.
  • As we compost together, report on your progress, either in the comments section or, if you have a blog, you can link in comments to a post where you discuss your compost issues.
  • In 8 weeks, we’ll all show off our compost.

I just said “show off our compost.”

To spice things up, not that we’ll need it with all that exciting decomposition going on, we’ll have a couple of giveaways along the way. I think a composting book would be lovely, and, if we can stand ourselves, maybe a composting thermometer.

Katie bar the door.

Are you up to the challenge?



{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Terry May 30, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Great – I will give that a try for container #2. THANKS!

Terry May 30, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Can you use brown paper bags from the grocery store that have colored print on them? I know you can’t use colored glossy printed pieces from the newspaper – but how about colored ink on the regular pages of the paper – like the comics or the auto ads? Is that ink ok?

Daisy May 30, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Terry–That kind is fine.

Jill May 30, 2012 at 9:46 pm

I’ll join in! I’ve been composting for almost a year but have no idea what I’m doing or if it’s even working. I got one of those free black bins from the city and took a short class. My main concern is that my gardener keeps dumping all the grass clippings from the lawn in the bin. I was thinking that since I don’t have enough kitchen scraps to balance out all the grass that I need to take some of the grass out, which I have been doing every week seeing as I can’t tell the gardener to put less clipping in because he’s here while I’m at work and I don’t speak spanish anyway! LOL!

Kevin Ayres May 31, 2012 at 7:49 am

For brown use any paper. I use paper towels, and shredded paper from my shredder, as long as it is not glossy paper like the Sears or Walmart ad. The ink used to print on most things now a days is made from soy. Remember to share a beer and a coke (not diet) with your compost every couple of weeks. The smaller the stuff you put in the faster it comes out. I found a small garden chopper-shredder used for $30 and it makes life around the compost pile a lot easier.

Skye Ingram May 31, 2012 at 8:16 am

I’ll be joining in!

jayne May 31, 2012 at 10:47 am

personally, I’d stay away from the soy inks…..there is little to like about the soy out there today…so I am trying to keep a wide berth.

Shannon May 31, 2012 at 11:48 pm

This sounds like just the help I need, I am a compost ‘newbie’! Can’t wait to get started.

Terry June 1, 2012 at 6:38 am

Beer and soda! Never would have thought of that. How about real, not plastic, corks? Not that I have tons of them, but will they compost?

Oh – how about stale chips? I am thinking not because they were probably cooked in oil.

Thanks Kevin for the ideas! And, all the rest of you. This compost-a-long is GREAT!

Kevin Ayres June 1, 2012 at 7:44 am

I use all my old chips and bread. Old dry bones the dogs have left in the yard are hit with the sledge hammer and added to the lasagna beds. I never tried wine corks. I reuse them by gluing them in a picture frame without the glass to use a bulletin boards. I also use citrus because our New Mexico soil is so alkaline and we do anything to increase the acids. I also bring home bags of pine needles when we go to the mountains. I have friends who use pool acid on their evergreens, I will add apple cider vinegar mixed in water. The beer and soda I posted earlier is for the bacteria to feast on. I have been composting the last 48 years. Long before it was cool.

Kim June 1, 2012 at 11:14 am

We just started a community garden in my back yard, a compost a long will be a fun challenge for us.

Terry June 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Kevin – so glad you are composting along and willing to help us new to this process. THANKS AGAIN.

Terry

Terry June 1, 2012 at 4:55 pm

For cardboard can we use things like cake mix boxes?

Nancy June 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm

I am really soaking in all the tips and wisdom from the Experienced Ones! Just found a little shredder/chipper on Craigslist…only 4o bucks, new in the box. I think it will meet out needs quite well and can’t wait to get started with our project.
Will set it up tomorrow and hope that everything dries out soon so we can begin.

Jan Kolodge June 2, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Can’t get grass cuttings easily. What else can I use?

Daisy June 2, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Jan Kolodge–In terms of “greens” you can use kitchen waste, manures, coffee grounds, tea leaves, hay, prunings/clippings from garden plants. Anyone else have favorite “greens”?

Kaloa Nichols June 2, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I’d love to try. I live in Wyoming and just got my garden planted yesterday. Have wanted to learn to compost for years but didn’t know where to start.

Jan Kolodge June 2, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Thanks

Sarah June 2, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Sounds great! I obviously am doing something wrong with composting, so these tips should help a lot.

Nicole @ Simple Homemade June 3, 2012 at 9:14 pm

count me in! 🙂

Andrea H June 4, 2012 at 7:03 pm

is it too late to join? I just started a compost and would like to learn more.

Daisy June 4, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Andrea H–Nope, come on along! Welcome!

Jenelle Avent June 6, 2012 at 9:43 am

I have tried to compost before but what I get is a pile of garbage. I am late signing up but I will get caught up. Thank you!

Terry June 6, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I added a little to my compost bin today and it smells really stinky. Any hints? More brown???? I know I have a lot more green than brown.

Daisy June 6, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Terry–If you’re having trouble finding brown this season, you might try cardboard. If you’re wondering how that goes, one way is to soak it in water in a wheelbarrow or big bucket and when it’s all soft, tear it into small pieces and mix it into your pile.

Terry June 6, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Thank you Daisy. I will give that a try. Will it eventually compost if it isn’t balanced?

I sooo appreciate all your help.

Daisy June 6, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Terry–Eventually, but in addition to being smelly and slimy, it can get too hot, encouraging the wrong type of bacteria.

Shawna June 6, 2012 at 9:41 pm

I started my compost like a month ago because we bought a composter that turns..ive added grass clippings newspaper fruit peels egg shells coffee grounds tea bags chicken poo and shavings from their bedding and other assorted materials… for awhile i saw tons of little black flie type thing everytime i opened it to gove it a quick drink or add something…Now i see nothing but some black stuff along w newspaper, shavings and assorted items… i have a similar mix in an open top large white plastic barrel… can someone please tell me where i am going wrong?

Shawna June 6, 2012 at 9:42 pm

I apologize for typos and such i only have my phone to follow along and sometimes it and i do not see eye-to-eye!

Marianne June 7, 2012 at 4:51 am

okay.. call me dumb here.. I have my trash can ready with the holes, it’s up on supports so it has good drainage. Do I put anything special in the can to start the compost? Or just start adding the news paper, coffee grounds and so on? I am really a total newbie to the compost thing, any and ALL help will be greatly appreciated!

Kevin Ayres June 7, 2012 at 8:09 am

Terry, it stinks because it is too wet. Add shredded paper or some straw. Let it dry up some. Sometimes I leave grass clipping wet in a black garbage bag, tied closed and in the sun. After a couple of weeks it has fermented (rotted). Makes a great booster to your pile. Boy it can stink until mixed in.
Shawna, the black stuff is compost, the scraps of newspaper and straw are still waiting to decompose.
Marianne, If you have a piece of PVC pipe you can drill it full of holes and keep it centered in your pile. Add your ingredients around the pipe. This will allow oxygen to get to the center of the pile. You can move the pipe in circles to keep the center looser too. Start with carbon, straw, newspaper, etc. Next add your coffee grounds, egg shells, banana peels and greens. When we say “browns” we mean Carbons. When we say “greens” we mean nitrogen’s. I hope this helps.

Anyone in central New Mexico there will be a composting class June 30 at the Loma Colorado Library in Rio Rancho from 2 to 4 pm. There is no admission fee. It is hosted by the Bernalillo County Master Composters.

Jan Kolodge June 7, 2012 at 8:40 am

When do you add water to your new compost?
This is my first time making compost. I have a compost barrel with holes in the sides and a lid.
Should I fill the barrel with “stuff” or half fill it?

Daisy June 7, 2012 at 8:57 am

Jan Kolodge–The best way is to wet it AS you layer it in, making sure that everything is moist throughout the pile. It usually takes more watering than I think it will–every time I give it a stir I find dry spots. A fine mist is the best way because a heavy stream tends to run off without getting everything moist. Then, when you turn your pile, have a hose ready to add more if it seems dry, especially for uncovered piles that tend to dry out faster.
I think for a barrel to be able to mix when you roll it, up to 2/3 full would allow things to move and shift.

Daisy June 7, 2012 at 9:02 am

Marianne–Good question, not dumb at all! There’s no crucial order, particularly, for compost that’s going to be mixed regularly. With a cold pile that is going to be basically left alone for a year, it’s a good idea to start with twigs, something to allow for aeration, but in this case, just toss it in. Nothing super goopy right on the bottom, but otherwise just go for it. Some browns, then some greens, etc., watering with a spray or a shower mist as you put things in.

meg June 7, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Talk about perfect timing! I just received your book a couple of days ago, and the chapter on composting has *almost* given me the courage [that can’t be the right word for discussing composting] to give it a try. Count me in!

Marla B. June 12, 2012 at 6:59 pm

I made me one too & I need to check my bottom layer…it should be ready to use. I am getting excited about real trash-to-treasure!

Terry June 12, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Shawna – I am new to this as well, but kinda think the black stuff is the materials becoming compost. Let’s hope so.

Shawna June 13, 2012 at 8:24 am

Yea i figured the black was gold but with all the bedding chunks &a other items not broken down i wasnt 100% positive im doing things right

Leah June 13, 2012 at 10:40 pm

I’d love to join but I’m kinda lazy. I have an enclosure that I just throw stuff in and didn’t realize I needed to add water or keep it covered. I spend most of my time keeping my beagle out of it.

Kaitlin Jenkins June 18, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I’ve got two bins going now, but I have a lot to learn. I want to be able to figure out when my compost is ‘done’ enough to be adding to my plants, I want to get the full benefit to my garden plants this year.

Laurie June 20, 2012 at 6:49 am

I’m late to this party but will get up & running this weekend! I started a compost pile years ago but abandoned it because I couldn’t effectively turn it. I really need a bin or some way to turn it. My “pile” just became a heap of leaves and stalks.

Megan B June 29, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I’m a little late, but still joining in!

Terry July 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm

My compost is filled with larvae of some sort. They seem to be loving my compost as it is teaming with them, but they are turning it into soup. I added some leaves today, thanks to our drought, but don’t know if this will be salvageable???

Serena August 4, 2012 at 9:41 am

I am way late, but want to follow along anyway.

Nancy August 4, 2012 at 4:07 pm

A bear demolished my compost bin. :{
Have to figure out a way to salvage it and go forward. :}

Jayne August 4, 2012 at 8:45 pm

I ‘discovered’ a trick for keeping the compost bucket smelling sweet in the kitchen counter….toss in a fresh sprig of basil! i did it accidentally, but glad it happened, now I do it on purpose, no more sour face when I have to add to the compost.

Jane August 11, 2012 at 12:22 pm

I don’t understand compost piles so will be reading and doing everything you tell me. This is fun!!

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