Making of “The Good Earth”

Composting is hot! Quite literally! I often pass by and give the container a touch to see if it is doing what is supposed to, and never cease to be amazed that it is a brew of activity that can generate heat all by itself. It is like a CSI moment lab experiment, and it is a kick to see how decomposition process works in its regeneration.

Home made kitchen compost bin made from a bleach container, drilled with holes-none on bottom for this method, and a cut flap as opening seems to give enough aeration. Hold hand over flap and give a shake over sink once a day. I often used a stir stick to make sure nothing stuck on the bottom.


For years I misunderstood what compost actually consisted of because of the term “table scraps”. A term I have used myself, and was the reason I was initially turned off from trying it. I pictured “table scraps” as dinner scraps all greased up, before they hit the garbage bin, was grossed out, and immediately decided against composting without truly understanding it. I pooh-poohed people who kept bins, all the while admiring their gardens,-“Boy they must really love gardening to go to that extent! Guess I’m not a gardener.” After research and trail and error, table scraps is not a term I would use any longer to describe what goes into good compost.
Although many people have composted with all types of content, my formula has nothing that includes any meat or grease, living worms, or discards from the dinner table, or cooked food at all, and more of raw vegetable scraps before any cooking, and simply dried plant material.
My first trial was to make compost tea which was unsuccessful, as I had no water pump to aerate it. Composed of water and just basic dried leaves from my household plants it was supposed to decompose naturally, according to an article. I thought I could stir it frequently instead of an air pump. I got to see my first decomposition lessons in a very dramatic fashion, when I stopped stirring it overnight. I woke up to a mound or bubble of fermentation. It was more fascinating than seeing my first yeast bread rise. A brew of activity and bad smell when I stirred again, that gradually dissipated the more I stirred. After several days, I realized that my compost tea wasn’t working out, as I learned it shouldn’t smell bad, but if done properly should smell earthy. So out it went, and a lesson of aeration was learned.
I also learned that compost tea if applied too much could make the plant grow too big. Without forming proper development to hold its new weight, it was top heavy, and caused it to topple. To me this meant some skipped steps which might be crucial for a plant and its resulted fruit, so I decided against compost tea. I wasn’t in the business trade, or wanting fast and big at the cost of fewer nutrients. I wasn’t in any rush, and I wanted the whole nutritious fruit, not some showy, but empty, store shelf decor.

After aeration was learned, the next trial of regular compost, was finding the proper proportions to eliminating any fowl smells. My second and successful compost was basically 3 parts green, to 1 part brown.

One part brown. Dried out used tea, their ripped up bags, with a touch of dried and chopped lemon peels.

Meaning 3 parts whatever vegetable peels of the day and 1 part dried leaves (my finished tea bags that I left out to dry). Brown could also be dried leaves and clippings, and various other items, which are well listed on internet.
Types of things that went in my brew; broccoli, strawberries-(mostly the green leaves of their top and less of the strawberries, due to excessive wetness), banana peels, green pepper remains, (not the seeds), carrot peels, just basically any vegetables (not including potatoes-smelly), some fruit rinds and peels-but not too much as it would make it too acidic. Generally I avoided overdoing any one vegetable or fruit, and tried to keep everything in good proportions for my batch.
My bin was a thoroughly rinsed bleach plastic container which was drilled with holes, and a cut open lid. As it was indoors it was not drilled on the bottom, but I made sure it was never wet enough to drip or be waterlogged on the bottom. My bin size was more wide than tall, and that gave it enough air that seemed to work in it’s favor, as when I tried a different container that was taller than wide, it seemed to choke and start to stagnate. I usually never had to add any water with daily additions and a daily stir, as most vegetables contain enough water to keep the compost damp enough while decomposing, but not sopping. I chopped matter quite fine before I threw it in so it would decompose faster. If it was too moist or did become too soppy, I just added more dried leaves and saw dust, and a just a bit of earth until it’s consistency was more like damp earth.
After two months..voila! earthy compost! And, it smelled good and wholesome, almost like fresh cut grass! I am letting my first batch sit for another month, while I have started a second, to make sure it is thoroughly decomposed so as not to burn my plants.
I learned that it is continually active, and truly a living process, a brew and concoction. It is only good for plants at a certain stage, before it too starts to loose its nutrient value, while it continues on its path to change into something else again, timelessly regenerating.
I always thought earth was just something that was mysteriously there under my feet, I never realized you could actually make good earth!

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2 Comments

  1. Great information on composting. I love the use of a bleach bottle to make an indoor composter! In our community, we have curbside collection of food waste and compostable papers. Because we can control the temperature, moisture and aeration of those materials in our composting facility, we permit meat and bones in the program. But most indoor home composters (and backyard composters for that matter) cannot reach the temperatures required to adequately, and safely break down meat. Again, great information, very user friendly.

    – John Watson, Waste Diversion Education Coordinator, Halton Region
    BLOG http://www.haltonrecycles.wordpress.com; TWITTER @HaltonRecycles

    Reply
  2. Judi

     /  June 18, 2012

    Thank you. I’m rooting around for a suitable container, something a bit larger, we have a vegan in the house for the summer….

    Reply

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