Lazy Composting: how to make your trash disappear
In my spare time I make garbage into dirt.
There are two types of composting…composting to produce loads of beautiful earthy humus (good dirt, not to be confused with the spread) for every season, and composting to make your trash disappear. While I love the idea of making tons of humus to add to my vegetable garden, I’m way too lazy and don’t seem to make all that much dirt, so instead I focus on the latter.
- I have become obsessive about saving my produce waste – it’s like the compost angel sits on my shoulder and gasps audibly every time my banana peel dangles over the trash. I can hardly stand to see a friend throw away an orange peel at a picnic lunch. I know, maybe it’s a bit much. But I’m proud to notice that some form of conservation consideration has become so ingrained in my everyday. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, saving fruit and vegetable scraps is not a big deal.
- If I buy the Spinach-For-An-Army bag at Costco and it starts to get slimy partway through I trade in a little bit of the food-waste-guilt for a heaping helping of just-feeding-the-compost mantra.
- I once gave a presentation about how the psychotherapy process is like composting. It is. Just trust me.
BASIC BIN COMPOSTING:
What you need:
- Containers for food scraps (unless you seriously think you’ll be walking each apple core out there). I wait until I fill up three quarts of yogurt tubs (lazy – the tubs get disgusting inside…but they’re plastic, so only for that brief moment you open it do you have to deal with the stink). There are a number of fancy scrap buckets out there that are supposedly odor free, but I do just fine with my tubs.
- Bin for containing compost. I got mine 50% off (and a book!) for attending a compost workshop at the local community center. I have some issues with my bins holding together (hence, the duct tape) but in general they do the job. There are lots of different bins you can buy online or elsewhere (here’s one similar to mine on Amazon), but with a quick search you could find any number of DIY contraptions that probably work just as fine. What’s important is that there are holes for air circulation (but not big enough for rodents). I have two bins that have three stackable sections each…I rarely have it all in use. But it is handy to have two bins so that one can be “finishing” while you’re starting a new one.
- Tools for stirring. I use mostly The Claw (similar to The Weasel but has bent handles that make it more ergonomic) – great for loosening topsoil of the garden, too. And I use a shovel for moving batches of leaves into the bin or scooping dirt out.
- Place bin(s) somewhere unnoticeable.
- Collect your produce scraps in the kitchen (anything fruit/vegetable…stay away from meat/dairy/bread/things covered in oil since it could attract rodents) and put in the bin.
- Collect your yard waste (leaves, twigs, grass clippings…but avoid crab grass/seeds/diseased plants) and put into the bin. Ideally your produce scraps and your yard waste makes a 50/50 ratio.
- Mix it up (or not), Water (or not). Note – if your bin stinks of rotting stuff and none of your food waste is disappearing after a while, it’s probably too wet – add more dry leaves or sticks, or even shredded recyclable paper or plain dirt.
- Keep adding to the bin and when you see dirt starting to form on the bottom, start a new bin or shovel off the top layer into a pile and take the good looking dirt out to add back into your garden (or just leave it).
KEEPING IT LAZY:
If you baby your compost with proper ratios of browns (dried yard waste) and greens (fresh produce waste, fresh cut yard waste), moisture, and air circulation (stirring), the temperature will get hot and kill off the bad stuff and all the magic will happen more efficiently, you’ll be closer to a dirt factory. BUT, if you simply do bits and pieces of compost maintenance here and there – add some waste one day, add some leaves another, stir at some point (or not)…your stuff will still decompose, dirt will result, it will just take longer. All the while, a lot of the stuff that used to stink up your garbage will now just disappear (seriously, it shrinks up so fast!). Reducing your trips to the compost bin by having multiple food scrap containers is a key to lazy composting. When it’s dark out and you’re doing dishes, believe me, the last thing you want to do is lug your food waste out to the compost. Let a ton of it collect and get gross and then you only have to go out there once a week or even less.
There you go. I hope you’re inspired to join me in dirt wizardry.