The Art, Science, and Sometimes Magic of Composting

If you don’t eat it you should rot it. I read about rotting it somewhere and the term has really stuck with me. Food waste is a big problem in America. We buy food, ignore it in the fridge, then throw it away in the garbage can. This goes to landfills, compounding our problems.

“In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply. This estimate, based on estimates from USDA’s Economic Research Service of 31 percent food loss at the retail and consumer levels, corresponded to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. ” -From usda.gov.

Composting your own food waste is quite simple, but can be made very complicated. Compost is made of two basic components: brown and green materials. “Brown” means it is rich in carbon: this is wood chips, straw, and dried leaves-aka yard waste. “Green” means the material is rich in nitrogen: this is grass clippings, herbivore manure, and food waste. Getting the right mixture and is easy, keeping it hot and moist enough to produce the “black gold” standard of compost is something every home gardener dreams about. Ideally, compost is made of 25 parts brown to one part green material.

In a previous post (click here ) I linked up to two counter top composters. At home, I have a ceramic crock with a lid on my counter top. It gets emptied every 1-2 days, (if the weather isn’t horrible) into a sealed food waste composter in my yard. It’s basically a barrel on it’s side, with a door for adding waste. It rolls to mix the waste, absorbs solar heat, and breaks down the food in about a month. This is the stinky part of composting, the initial rotting of organic material. The stench is relatively contained within the composter but gets stinky when I mix it around and add more.

After the food is unrecognizable (ie black mush) I add it to a less sealed structure to mix with yard waste (brown material). My husband made this composter based on one at our local park a few years ago. It’s a cedar frame with hardware cloth on three sides. The top is fiberglass shed roofing and is hinged so we can open it to add or remove material and let the rain water our compost heaps. The front boards are tongue and groove cut, so I can remove slats to make working the pile easier. We added a sifter to the top to process the finished compost. We have three bins because we have 1/2 acre property and generate a lot of yard waste. This is pretty advanced composting, but we have reduced our garbage significantly and feed our gardens with our food waste to grow more food.

How do you use composting at your home? Comment below!

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