Thursday, November 20, 2014

Top Ten Turkey Day Tips

Turkey Day is on its way (or Tofurkey Day if that’s how you roll) and all I can think about is food. Warm fresh dinner rolls, stuffing (my fav), and pumpkin pie (my other fav). Here is a list of the top ten tips for composting on the most food-centric holiday of the year.

10. Plan  Buy only the amount of food you need to eliminate waste in the first place.

9. Prep  Do most of your composting during food prep. All those potato peels, green bean stems, and egg shells are great material for compost. Use an extra-large bowl to collect all your food scraps.

8. Green Beans — Compost any leftover vegetable if it is not too covered in cheese or cream.

7. Potatoes — Can also go in the compost if they are not overly buttered up or covered in cheese. (If you have leftover cheesy potatoes- can I stop by your house on Thanksgiving?).


5. Leftover wine or beer — YES and YES.

4. Decorations — Do you have any adorable little pumpkins or festive gourds decorating your table? Any flowers, gourds and the like would be compostable. Leave out the tiny plastic pilgrims.

3. Turkey — NO. No giblets, gravy, meat or bones. No part of your turkey should be composted (unless it’s a Tofurkey!)

2. Pie — NO. Leftover pie?! There’s never been much leftover pie at my Thanksgiving dinners. But if there is at yours, it should not go in your compost bin. Too many eggs, butter and other (delicious) pie ingredients.
1. Give Away — Packaging up leftovers to send home with your guests is far better than composting. I recommend asking guests to bring their own containers or send leftovers home with guests in clean butter tubs or old take out containers.
Happy Thanksgiving!!!



Thursday, November 13, 2014

How to Harvest Compost: A Pictorial

Last Sunday while the rest of the family was napping, I rolled up my sleeves and harvested my compost. I thought I would jump out of my comfort zone and rather than explain to you the steps in words, I would show you in photos.

With some captions, of course.


My Pre-Harvest Compost Bin

Tools for composting

The first stab with a pitchfork.

All unfinished compost came off the top and into this container.

Good stuff.

The finished compost goes onto a compost screen over my wheelbarrow.

I use my hands to push it over the screen so I do not guillotine any worms.
Next, I pulled the bin up off the pile to expose the really good bottom compost.
Losing daylight but still smiling. :)

I tossed all the non-compostables into a bucket. Mostly fruit stickers, pantyhose, and "compostable" plastic coffee lids.

Once all the finished compost was removed, I placed the bin back in place.

I threw in some leaves and straw-like grass at the bottom. This should provide a nice airy layer at the bottom to keep the pile more aerated.

On top of the straw and leaves I dumped the unfinished compost I pulled off in the beginning. There was some shoveling involved before this container was light enough to pick up (although feel free to think I have herculean-like strength).

In the past I have used 5-gallon buckets for this purpose and I think they were easier to handle.

Finally, I tossed some old tomato vines on top and finished with the lid.

If you have two compost bins, you can skip the removal of the unfinished compost and just wait for it all to compost. I might branch out and try that someday but this method works for me now.
So there you go, harvesting my compost in pictures. I even included an awkward makeup free "compost selfie" since I love you all so much. :)


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How to Practice Compost Witchcraft

“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.” William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I.

Of all the Halloween “spooks” I wager us composters most closely resemble witches. You know, when you’re out at your compost bin dancing barefoot in the moonlight holding a stick overhead…oh, I’m the only one that does that?...Well…ahem…let’s see what we can learn from those witches.

1. Follow the Spell Recipe with Care. 
A good witch knows what disaster an extra “eye of newt” can bring just as any good composter  knows too many food scraps or not enough water can lead to an unbalanced pile.

2. Don’t be Afraid to Add the Gross Stuff.
Slippery black banana peels, slimy carrots, rotten potatoes; composters know this stuff is compost gold. And, hey, at least you don’t have to add “wool of bat” or “poison’d entrails.” Compost witches have it easy.

3. Communing with Nature Creates Magic.
Sometimes the best place to clear your head is with a pitchfork in hand out in your backyard. Witches understand the power of nature too whether dancing around a bubbly cauldron in the woods or flying over treetops on a broomstick.

The magic we create by changing food scraps and yard trimmings into a rich beautiful soil amendment is the most rewarding and powerful spell of all. Except maybe the time I turned my ex into a toad, that was pretty rewarding (cackling).

Here’s my compost remake of Shakespeare’s witch scene from Macbeth
Round about the compost go;
In the slippery banana throw.—
Carrot, that in fridge unknown,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Rotten flesh of apple therein,
Decay thou first i’ my charmed bin!

Okay, I’ll stop. 

Here are some of our other ghoulish Halloween posts to celebrate the best holiday of the year!
Compost Like a Vampire
Three Warning Signs You Compost Pile is a Zombie
Smashing Pumpkins

Happy Halloween!!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Harvesting Compost from a Simple Backyard Bin

Guest blogger Joy Landry

It’s compost harvest season so now is the perfect time to reap the benefits of your summer composting efforts before winter arrives.

This was my challenge last weekend as I surveyed the fallen oak leaves and a pile of straw in my front yard from a recent gas line repair. My compost pile was getting close to capacity and was going to need room for all that natural material scattered about the yard.

My compost pile is not very fancy – it’s a small square of plastic-coated wire fencing in the corner of the backyard. However, it allows for easy access. After shoveling away the top layer of recent grass clippings, vegetable trimmings, apple cores and banana peels, I uncovered that wonderful, rich dark compost. Another year of natural materials quietly decomposing now yielded the perfect mulch for the shrubs I had planted in the spring.

I made five trips around the house, lugging loads of compost in the old Red Flyer wagon (yes, it’s 30 years old: reuse, reduce, recycle!). As a result, my shrub bed was insulated for the winter and the compost pile was ready for the next season of leaves. After an hour of raking, the compost pile was a nice mix of oak leaves and straw, all first mulched up by the lawnmower.
I felt quite pleased with my composting yard work – too bad the maple in the backyard still has to drop its leaves. Well, that’s a project for another weekend!

Happy composting!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fast and Furious or Slow and Easy?

Guest blogger: Jenny Lohmann

Some people like it slow and easy, others fast and furious. It’s the yin and yang of life. What’s this got to do with composting, you ask? Well like life, sometimes the way you treat your compost pile changes with the times.
Your leaves are ready to come down and you can happily collect them for a year’s worth of brown stuff (carbon). What you do next is up to you-slow and easy or fast and furious.
photo courtesy of
Any seasoned composter knows decomposition occurs quicker when leaves are shredded and food scraps chopped. This type of composting is for those who fit the fast and furious type. When you decide raking is all you need, not bothersome shredding and chopping, you’re of the slow and easy persona.
Either way, you’re guaranteed to generate compost, it’s just a matter of how quickly. I get frustrated with my slow decomposing oak leaves, so I’ve taken to running them over with the mulching mower to shred them. Others have nice chippers and shredders but until I come upon one at a flea market or the like, it’s not in my budget.
Besides the size of your leaves and food scraps, turning and watering are other factors which will determine the rate of decomposition, but please remember not to turn in the winter .
No matter your type or if you fluctuate between the two, in the end you will create an organic, microbial love fest for your soil.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When Garden Season Winds Down, Compost Season is Just Beginning

It’s official. Garden season is winding down. Although I’m sad that the fresh and juicy tomatoes are gone and the abundance of zucchini is finished, fall is actually my favorite season. Not only do we get to wear sweaters and enjoy pumpkin-flavored everything (seriously, is anything not pumpkin-flavored right now?) – compost season is just beginning!

Five reasons composters love the fall

  1. Leaves – Soon the leaves will be falling and these are the perfect addition to your compost bin. Leaves add essential carbon and if you shred them and save them, they can be available throughout the year. 
  2. Decaying plants – Removing spent crops can be therapeutic. They’ve given you delicious produce all summer, and now you can give the decaying plants new life in your compost bin. They will live on in your garden for seasons yet to come.
  3. Pumpkins – Old jack-o-lanterns and other fall decorations can decorate your compost bin when the season is over. 
  4. Rainfall – The Cincinnati area has experienced a lot of rain this summer, but typically we have hot days with lots of dry spells. The fall brings a welcome reprieve with rain to moisten compost piles.
  5. Active living – Composting is a great activity and easy way to be healthy. It’s much more active than other fall past times like watching football, eating pumpkin pie or bobbing for apples.

So put on your sweaters, grab your pitchforks and get outside for some fun fall composting!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

(Compost) Tea Time

I’m thinking about making compost tea. I like tea and I like compost so it seems like a natural next step. Compost tea helps make the benefits of your compost stretch farther in your garden (yay), provides soluble nitrogen and beneficial microorganisms to your plants immediately (yay), and it seems very easy to do (double yay).

So I steeped myself in compost tea videos and compost tea articles. Lots of great information out there but with one problem  there are as many different ways to make compost tea as there are flavors of Celestial Seasonings (that’s a lot for you non-tea drinkers).

In lieu of how-to, step by step instructions, I’ve prepared a piping-hot list of the most common tips to consider when making compost tea:

1. Use de-chlorinated water. Set your bucket of water out for at least a few hours before adding the compost.

2. Add compost. Vermi-compost is best but you can use regular compost as well. You will want a good shovel-full for a five gallon bucket.

3. Only use sweet-smelling finished compost.

4. Stir in about 2 tablespoons of molasses (a spoon full of sugar helps the bacteria grow, the bacteria grow-oh…)

5. Aerate. Either stir it occasionally or buy an aerator to get it nice and frothy.

Oh, and the best tip of all, don't drink compost tea. Even with two tablespoons of molasses, it will still taste like dirt, literally.
Most sites I looked at said to give it 24 hours and then use it on the plants. One video had the great idea of using an old pair of pantyhose to hold the compost in the water like a tea bag. Another explained in detail how you should use a garden stake to create a whirlpool vortex to stir the compost tea every twenty minutes.

I couldn’t find one video I really loved, so I would recommend you peruse and choose your own method.

Well, let’s get this par-tea started! Is anyone going to try making compost tea with me?

I pity the fool who doesn't enjoy compost tea.