I was at a get together with some of my girlfriends last weekend, and somehow I mentioned throwing something in my compost pile. One of my friends stopped me and said “Wait…you have a compost pile?” Then she smiled and said “Of course you have a compost pile!” because I think I’ve earned a little bit of a reputation with my friends as the “crunchy Suzy Homemaker mom”. I may or may not have thrown myself into this category when I said I made my own granola bars one day. Anyway, back to the compost.
What to compost:
- Vegetable peels and scraps
- Fruit peels and scraps
- Leaves (make sure they are not sprayed leaves if you will be using your compost dirt in your vegetable garden)
- Leftover food that needs to be tossed (I rarely do this – I truly try to use up all of my leftover food because I can’t stand throwing away food, it’s expensive!)
What not to compost:
- The stickers on produce. I have heard from various sources that these stickers are biodegradable, but I disagree. On the rare occasion that one has slipped by, I see it for ages in the compost pile. Plus, what are those stickers made of? Strange dyes and glues? Remove all your produce stickers before washing your produce as soon as you get home from the store and you will keep your compost bin from looking like funfetti cake mix.
- Anything that was not once alive. I actually took a gardening class this past spring and the teacher told us he composted an entire horse after it died from old age. I have not tried this.
You do not need to live on a 10 acre horse farm to be able to have a compost pile. Trust me, I live in a tightly packed suburban neighborhood, with a homeowner association to boot, and I have never had a problem. Compost piles do not smell bad. I can’t vouch for those that have animal scraps in them, but I have never noticed any smell coming from mine and it decomposes a lot faster than you would think. You will be left with a rich black dirt that is great for adding to your garden, but even if you do nothing with your compost dirt, it is still a great practice. You will be amazed at how much less you have to empty your kitchen trash bin and you will be helping keep a ton of trash bags out of landfills.
You do not need to order a fancy composting contraption to have a compost pile. What you really need is a few stakes from Home Depot and a small roll of flexible wire fencing. Pound your stakes into a 2 foot by 2 foot square, wrap your fencing around, and your compost pile is ready to go. I would probably not put it right next to your neighbors porch or by the kids swing set, but if you can find a little area tucked away in your yard that would be the best choice.
You are going to need a place to put compost scraps in your kitchen while you accumulate them throughout the day. I usually dump my compost bin into the outdoor pile every night, but I know some people that go 2 or 3 days before emptying. I have this compost bin for my counter, and while it works great, I do think it is a little on the small side. I have friends that use a food grade plastic 5 gallon bucket with a lid, and this would definitely give you more space, but will take up more room in your kitchen and would not look as nice sitting out on your counter top. Whatever you choose, make sure it has some kind of a lid or you are going to have a serious fruit fly issue.
That’s it! Start composting today and you will quickly wonder how you ever didn’t do it.