The Dirt on Composting

Compost BinOne of the most common misconceptions about composting is that you are required to have a pile or trench to have a successful composting bin.  I couldn’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say, “I’d love to compost but I just don’t have any space.”  Many apartment dwellers have a fear of the smell or of bugs overrunning their space.  With an organized compost system you can compost nearly anywhere you want. 

There are many methods of composting, but here is a brief summary of some of the more popular ways.

Anaerobic (pile composting) is the term used for the most common and recognizable method of composting.  The word anaerobic simply means without air. It is a very low maintenance system of composting, since one merely puts their compost in a pile and waits for the slow-working bacteria that will break down the debris. It also, however, releases the foulest-smelling chemicals, such as ammonia and methane.

Aerobic is the term applied to air composting, where the compost pile is turned regularly to expose the material to oxygen. Organic waste like grass clippings and other green materials, such as fresh leaves or overgrown weeds, break down quickly. Generally it’s not prone to smell. It is, however, a lot more maintenance. It’s also an active approach and will need to be turned every couple days to keep air in the system and your temperatures up.

Vermicomposting is great for a home environment, because it is ideal for composting food waste. Vermicomposting, as you can probably figure out from the name, uses critters such as red wigglers, and often other decomposers such as bacteria, fungi, insects, and other bugs.  While doing their natural, earthly function, these organisms break down the organic materials into castings which are rich in nutrients. Oxygen and moisture are key in the process to keep this compost healthy and requires medium maintenance.

If you live in an apartment, or especially if you have children in the house, you should consider vermicomposting. It’s fun and a great help to reduce your carbon footprint.

To make a great vermicomposting bin, all you need is a medium-sized rubber bin with a lid, and perhaps a smaller bin under to catch the tea (excess water) depending on how closely you monitor the moisture. Drill many holes in the lid (about every 2 inches) to allow airflow. Next, drill several drainage holes in the bottom of the bin to help control moisture and collect compost tea.

Compost Bin

To the empty bin, add a large piece of cardboard to the bottom, followed by layers of green organic litter and moistened strips of newspaper or cardboard scraps. Add some dirt to aid with digestion and then one pound of red wigglers to the mix. You are now ready to get started.

Add some food scraps. Make sure you do not add food waste such as meats and cheese, and it’s best to use bread and grains minimally.  Things like vegetable/fruit scraps, eggshells, and coffee grounds are ideal for a worm bin. The best way to add scraps is to add them to the corners, one corner per week. It will give the worms time to finish their previous meal before moving on to another and will also make it easier to harvest the castings.

On top of all that, add another layer of newspaper strips to decrease the amount of fruit flies that might take a liking to you bin. If you notice fruit flies accumulating you can also cover your bin with an old white sheet. This will allow necessary airflow around the bin, but will keep the flies from coming in and out to copulate.

Continue adding food and enjoy the natural glory of the worms. For years I taught preschool/kindergarten Montessori and my class just loved the worms. It doesn’t hurt that those little guys are just plain adorable and it was a blast to add things like apple cores and watch the seeds begin to sprout! Let us know how yours turns out and what clever place you found to stash it!

Jessica is a Los Angeles writer and blogger who has a passion for environmental advocacy and education. After acquiring a B.S. in Environmental Geography and English at Ohio University, she moved with her husband to San Diego where she worked as an Education Coordinator at a reputable non-profit organization. With years of experience under her belt in E.E., she began teaching Montessori to be able to reach children in a comfortable and impacting environment. She now is a writer and editor for Natural Child World Magazine and also volunteers her time for Green Lifestyle Film Festival. When she’s not working hard on her passions, she finds herself playing with her dog and cat, and being outdoor whenever possible: hiking, camping, and climbing.

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Author: Jessica

Jessica is a Los Angeles writer and blogger who has a passion for environmental advocacy and education. After acquiring a B.S. in Environmental Geography and English at Ohio University, she moved with her husband to San Diego where she worked as an Education Coordinator at a reputable non-profit organization. With years of experience under her belt in E.E., she began teaching Montessori to be able to reach children in a comfortable and impacting environment. She now is a writer and editor for Natural Child World Magazine and also volunteers her time for Green Lifestyle Film Festival. When she’s not working hard on her passions, she finds herself playing with her dog and cat, and being outdoor whenever possible: hiking, camping, and climbing.

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