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New to composting and have some questions

Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 1:06 pm
by tru2pru
I have been dilligently collecting all of my veggie "waste" over the past week. I would love to start a compost pile, but have no idea where to start. I live in a very rural area, and have lots of land, but that also means I have lots of critters that enjoy eating the tasty leftovers before they even have time to start to break down.

I was thinking about something indoors, but I'm worried about fruit flies and the smell. Outdoors would be ideal, but how do I keep the local wildlife out so that it can do it's thing?

Also, we have a wood stove and I was wondering if the ash could be added to my pile.

Any help would be appreciated :D

Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 5:15 pm
by rainbowgardener
Welcome to the wonderful world of composting! :) Single best thing you can do for your garden!

Yes you do need some kind of containment for your compost pile, to keep it piled and to keep critters out. That can be simple and home made or elaborate and expensive. Here's steps to making a simple wire compost bin (but for the critters, you would also want to make a lid to put over it)

I have one about like this, but mine came with a top panel:

They can also be made from wooden pallets, concrete blocks with open centers or whatever you have on hand.

This has plans for several different kinds of homemade bins:

The indoor alternative is worm composting aka vermicomposting. Type vermicomposting into the Search the Forum feature and you will find a lot of info about it. A worm bin is small and tidy for indoors and will turn your kitchen scraps into lovely worm castings. Will not have fruit flies or smell. But it is mainly for digesting your kitchen scraps, IMO (not doing worm composting myself) it would not be what you would do to deal with yard waste.

I live in the city, but we have possums, very bold raccoons, squirrels, groundhogs and a variety of small rodents. My wire bin with the lid works quite well for keeping all the larger critters out of the pile. I know small ones do get in there, because I find stuff dug up that was buried in the pile, but we all manage to coexist. It also does not have fruit or any other flies or smell. When I dump the bucket of kitchen scraps on the pile, I cover it with a good layer of weeds/ leaves, etc. No smell!

What you need for a good working pile is enough material piled up (preferably like a 3' cube of stuff), air circulation, ways for water to get in and out, so it stays just damp. You can add some wood ash, but it is pretty alkaline, you wouldn't want to overdo it. We suggest no more than 10% of your pile be any one ingredient.

Hope this is a help for getting started!

Posted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 3:14 am
by tru2pru
Thanks :D I think I'm going to go with the pallet bin. I have some 2x4's that I pulled from my father in laws trash pile and have been saving for a fun/easy project to do with my kids. It will be a little more work since we have to make our own panels prior to assembling the bin, but it will be fun. Spring break is next week, so I know what we're going to be doing :()

Posted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 9:33 am
by rainbowgardener
Sounds great! What a wonderful thing to be doing with your kids! Great education you are giving them.

I realized I didn't say anything in the above about "greens" and "browns," though I did mention the leaves and weeds. Do check out the greens and browns sticky at the top of this forum. The basic idea is along with your veggie scraps (which are greens, i.e. soft/moist, high in nitrogen) you need to balance your pile out with some browns (ie hard/dry, high in carbon) such as fall leaves, wood chips, sawdust, shredded paper, etc. I put "greens" and "browns" in quotes, because it is really not about color, coffee grounds and manure being "greens."

Let us know how it all works for you!

Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 11:16 am
by scoobdoob808
That sounds great you will love the benefits of compost, it is like nothing else for your garden. I am extremely excited as I am getting a compost tumbler and it should be arriving tomorrow, hopefully it will take a lot of the the waiting time out of the compost game.