Last week I published a guest post about composting mostly yard waste. The author did mention food scraps, and since gardening season is nearly upon us, I would like to follow up by showing you how you can save up food scraps for the compost pile.
Surely you don’t want to lug scraps there every day. So collect compostable material in a compost bin in the kitchen until you have accumulated enough to take out and the weather is pleasant enough.
Besides kitchen compost buckets, this post also reviews options for compost bins, in case you do not already have an established system.
I have had the green compost bin pictured here in my kitchen for about a year now. I am not an especially dedicated housekeeper. I should empty the bucket every week. I should rinse it out every time I empty it. I should change the filter every three months. I don’t. I have changed the filter once.
And my compost bucket does not stink. The last bucket full I emptied started out with orange peels. It smelled citrusy until the day I took it outside, but only when I opened the lid.
The biggest problem with any kitchen compost bin is that the contents get moldy after a while. I live alone, and persisting wintry weather provided a handy excuse not to empty it for I don’t know how long. That white powder in the pictures is borax, an antifungal. I have no scientific assurance that sprinkling borax on something will do anything much to prevent mold. I think it kills what has already developed, but in any case it can’t hurt!
Compost pails can also attract fruit flies. I have only had one infestation and found that they like a little apple cider vinegar with a drop of dishwashing liquid in them even better. It took a while, and I had to empty the jar of vinegar several times after it got too full of dead flies, but I haven’t been bothered since.
You need to be sure not to use a kitchen compost bin with a tight-fitting lid that doesn’t allow air to circulate around the scraps. That encourages anaerobic digestion of the contents, which smells awful and is not good for compost.
I suspect that at least half of what I put in the trash before I bought my composting bucked was compostable organic matter. At any rate, it’s taking me about twice as long to fill the garbage can in my kitchen. I do not generate enough garbage to put it out on the curb every week, or even every two weeks.
All organic matter is compostable, but not all organic matter is suitable for an ordinary compost pile. Meat scraps and bones will attract unwanted critters. Here are some things you can collect in your composting bucket:
- Apple or pear cores
- Peach pits and other fruit seeds
- Trimmings of lettuce and other greens
- Coffee grounds
- Egg shells
- Produce that has started to go bad
- Whatever you scrape off your plates or from your pots and pans, so long as it isn’t meat or other critter magnets.
- Used paper towels and napkins
- Scraps of paper too small to put out with recycling
- Nail clippings
In other words, you can keep more than food in your compost pail. Remember, paper, hair, and nail clippings are all organic. They will break down into compost just like yard waste and kitchen scraps.
Do you have a kitchen compost bin?
Some people might not think a green plastic compost bucket like mine is pretty enough for the kitchen. Other people might object to buying anything made of plastic. Kitchen compost bins also come in stainless steel,or ceramic.
As I looked for these links, I noticed the Full Circle Fresh Air Countertop Compost Collector. It is designed to let air circulate through the compost so that it decomposes more slowly.
It has no filter. You put the scraps into a biodegradable plastic bag, which for some reason has twice the volume of the collector itself.
Most users report that it prevents fruit flies, but some complain that it doesn’t. The most frequent complaints involve the ring that holds the bag in place, which breaks if not handled carefully.
Some people (my mother for one) prefer to keep compostable material in the freezer. I found a special compost collector for use in the freezer. It has no lid, but it has a wire rim that attaches to a counter or cutting board, which makes it easy to fill. If you don’t want to use it you can take it off. Frozen scraps will not stink or attract flies. This collector fits in the freezer door, which means it is rather small and has to be emptied more frequently.
Where and how do you compost?
I simply have a pile between a shed and the neighbor’s fence where I empty my kitchen compost bin and dump yard waste. It is protected from direct sunlight, which would dry it out. It can get rained on, which is necessary, but it’s protected from excessive rain. I ought to turn it with a pitchfork more often than I do.
Some gardeners prefer a compost bin to a simple pile. Compost bins also require a relatively shady spot. Several kinds are available, including a wire bin (this one has a capacity of 18.75 cubic feet), a wooden bin
(9 cubic feet), or heavy duty plastic with a lid (11 cubic feet).
I had a plastic compost bin at a previous house. Like these bins, it was open to the ground on the bottom. That allows worms from the ground to work their magic. It is necessary to dig finished compost from the bottom of the bin with a shovel. I found it very awkward to turn the compost with a pitchfork. This compost aerator looks much easier to use.
If you don’t like the idea of manually turning a compost pile, you can get a compost tumbler do it for you. Plus, they are completely off the ground, which makes it impossible for critters to get into them. That means you can use them to compost meat scraps.
The Swedish-built Joraform JK 270 tumbler has two separate compartments, with a combined capacity of up to 14 cubic feet. Compost matures in one of them, leaving the other to receive fresh material. You can keep a compost tumbler either in a shady part of the yard or in a garage or shed.
Because it was designed for the Swedish climate, Joraform tumblers produce good compost even in colder climates where composting is difficult. Even though it sits off the ground, the stand does not allow a wheelbarrow to fit directly underneath it. It is still necessary to remove finished compost with a shovel.
If you can’t use something so large and expensive (although Jora makes larger ones, too), I have found a more compact Mantis ComposTumbler back porch compost tumbler with a 5 cubic foot capacity. It is light enough that you can wheel it to your garden and use it directly. No need for buckets or a wheelbarrow. Just don’t fill it more than half way. Users report that the spindle is flimsy.
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