A Prepper’s Step-by-Step Guide to Composting

my family survival A Prepper’s Step by Step Guide to Composting

This is a guest post by Gayle from Gainesville

[This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win a number of prizes including an 84 serving storage bucket of Wise Food Storage, 500 rounds of 9mm ammo, a NukAlert a copy of my book The Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat and a copy of my CD It’s The End Of The World As We Know It – And I Feel Fine . For complete rules and list of prizes see this post.]

DSCN0300 300x225 A Prepper’s Step by Step Guide to CompostingI have learned so much from this survival blog and I wanted to give back. So I thought long and hard about what I could contribute. Having read the posts on garden woes for the past few weeks, I thought it might be good to write about composting. I have been compost gardening for a couple of years now, and the difference is marked—increased production, and fewer disease and pest problems.

Why compost? First and foremost, it’s a good idea to improve your soil before a SHTF scenario, and composing is the best and cheapest way to improve your soil. After things go south, we may not have ready access to composting ingredients. Second, post-SHTF there will be little access to fertilizers and pesticides. So, it’s best to learn to garden naturally.

What does composting do? Composting improves the biodiversity of the soil, which means the harmful bacteria will have to compete with the beneficial bacteria, and in the composting world, the good guys almost always win. Composting adds organic matter to your soil, and that in turn improves the soil’s texture, drainage, moisture holding capacity, and fertility. Healthier soil means healthier plants, and healthier plans are better able to withstand pests and diseases. Healthier plants are more tolerant of temperature extremes and drought.

It is easy to get started. You do not need a compost bin to compost. Composting happens on the forest floor without a handy-dandy bin. There are advantages of building a bin. The first is cosmetic—a bin keeps things tidy. The second advantage is structural—there is a critical mass necessary to generate heat, and heat speeds decomposition. A good size for a bin is three cubic feet. Anything smaller won’t heat up well; anything larger is cumbersome.

Experts who write on composting usually talk about “greens” and “browns”. The “greens” are nitrogen and the “browns” are carbon. Examples of nitrogen-rich greens are grass cuttings, veggie and fruit peels, eggshells, used coffee grounds (with the coffee filter), and farm manure. Examples of carbon-rich browns include autumn leaves, corn stocks, straw and hay.

Experts also talk about the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. The C:N ratio should be about 25:1, that is, 25 parts carbon for every one part nitrogen. To have a workable compost pile, you don’t need to weigh your ingredients and determine ratios of this to that. Your pile will tell you if you’ve got too much nitrogen (the pile will stink) or too much carbon (the pile won’t heat up).

Here’s what you need to do. Get some leaves, corn stalks, or other dried material (the browns) and dump them on the pile. Keep a plastic can (a coffee can works well) on your kitchen counter. Every time you peel carrots or potatoes, put the peelings in the can. Put in every bit of fruit and vegetable waste (greens). When you fill up the can, ask your dh to take it out to the compost. Keep some browns on hand so that when you dump the greens, you can add-on some browns. If you collect the clippings when you mow the lawn, put them in the compost. Then add more browns. You may need to add water during hot or dry months, but that’s it.

If you are in a hurry to get your compost finished, you can use a pitchfork and turn the contents from the inside of the pile to the outside and vice versa. If you are in no particular hurry, then just dump the materials on the pile (alternating greens and browns) and let nature take its course. You shouldn’t have any trouble with foul odors, but if you do just add some browns and turn the pile. Then determine why you had the odor—most likely you either added too many greens (and not enough browns) or you let your pile get too wet. Learn from your mistakes and go on.

That’s it. Come spring, mix in your compost with your soil and plant.

Post Script:

Some compost ingredients are better than others. The bulk of your browns will probably come from autumn leaves. The bulk of your greens will come from yard trimmings and kitchen waste. Do note that some kitchen wastes are important to put in the compost because of the nutrients they contain: eggshells contain calcium and calcium prevents blossom end rot. Coffee grounds are an excellent source of nitrogen and also contain magnesium and calcium. Banana peels contain potassium. Besides the run of the mill yard clippings and autumn leaves, the three key ingredients for composting are eggshells, used coffee grounds (filter and all) and banana peels.

For further reading, I recommend The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin.

Comments

  1. Thanks for a very good post. Composting should be part of our prep discipline. I’ve been composting for about 30 years with great success. My compost size is about a cubic yard and is easily managed. This summer I had to add some water from time to time because of the extreme heat we’ve had.

    Over the years, a number of people have made comments about composting and I’ve always wondered if these comments were true. One person said to never put onions in it and another said never put paper in it. I have always ignored the warning about the onions and haven’t had a problem doing that. On the other hand, I have avoided putting paper in it and I’ve been careful not to include the coffee filter. To me, it would seem that the paper would break down easily and perhaps I’ve been wasting the effort in separating the paper from the grounds.

    One of the curious side effects I’ve had from using compost is having a number of “gypsie” tomato plants sprouting up where I’ve used this soil. Sometimes these plants product abundant tomatoes. Apparently, some of the seeds resist the effects of composting and stay viable in the end product.

    • I too get gypsy tomatoes; I call them “volunteers”. Paper products will break down just fine. I put paper towels, napkins and used coffee filters in there. City folk around here have to go to Home Depot or Lowes and purchase brown paper bags if they want the city to pick up their yard waste. The city requires yard waste be put in these bags because they decompose. (So even brown paper bags will decompose.) Last year I ran out of leaves and put in torn up newsprint (not the shiny advertisement stuff) and it decomposed fine. Some people put down newsprint before they put down their mulch in the spring in order to keep the weeds from growing.

    • We’ve used some small amounts of shredded paper in the compost and it has worked out fine. Since paper is made from wood fiber, it takes a lot longer to decompose if you get too much of it. The big issue with newspapers, which I think is no longer a problem, was the early use of heavy metals in some of the colored inks. I think most printing inks are now soy based and are no longer a problem from that perspective.

    • W,

      I have composted the paper filters for coffee for years, Onion peels go in my compost as well..

      When I lived in the artic for a number of year, we did all our composting by worm bins, the newspaper, cardboard and paper filters etc where about the only real carbon materal you could get to mix with wet matter, and they composted down just fine.

      IMO, add that filter to your compost pile..

  2. I love this post, the no-nonsense straightforward approach. This is pretty much what I do. I have two bins that I wired together made from old wooden pallets that I got free. Each year I add all compostables to one, leave it over the winter and use it in the Spring. In the winter, I throw our kitchen “greens” into the other pile. I know I don’t produce as much compost as possible, but it can be done this way with minimal effort and the compost it makes is wonderful.

  3. Thanks gayle! I’ve been curious about composting. My plans are to go a little bigger on my beginners garden next year. I didn’t know grass clippings could be included as well. Incidentally,in the picture that accompanies the article,I noticed that the compost pile is against the house. In the gulf states there is a termite that is particularly ravenous called ,the formosan termite. Behind the compost pile would be the perfect shaded damp area for them to gain access to the buffet that lies behind the Sheetrock. It would be prudent to keep an eye on that area for the little boogers. Thanks for a well written and informative article. Brad

    • BC,

      Thanks for the heads up. I keep a close eye on the bins and actually have an inch and a half between the house and the bin for air circulation. That was one of my big fears but the termite folks said having the bins next to the house wouldn’t be a problem as long as they weren’t flush up to the house.

      • thats great gayle. termites cant jump or make tunnels that arent connected to something (they swarm once a year but only to soil) the air gap between the compost pile and house would be more than sufficient to keep it dried out as well.in the picture it looked like it was up against the house and in my haste to make you aware that there might be a problem,i didnt think to realize you where most likely well aware of the potential problems, and kept it far enough away to prevent those problems. Brad

        • BC,

          No problem. If I were reading this post, I would have said the same thing. When I had the house built, I had them do a complete termite treatment on the soil before construction, and then instead of using wood siding, I went with concrete siding. The termite company comes out once a year and does an inspection.

          My biggest fear was roaches, a big problem in Florida. But I haven’t had a problem and the compost has been out there for a couple of years.

    • Grass clippings will work; however if you’re one of those folks who has the yard service treat your lawn with weed and feed products, you might want to rethink things (in more ways than one). Other than mowing (and occasional thatching) our grass gets no special treatment including watering.

      As for compost piles next to any wooden building, I was told years ago to avoid doing so. A block or concrete building might be OK. It is a tempting thing to do since is saves constructing a 4th wall, although we have over the years had compost heaps with no containment that worked fine.

  4. JO (Georgia) says:

    I love what composting has done for both our waste reduction and our garden. A few other things you can compost are, all your junk mail (as long as there’s no plastic), and all those personal documents (no one will a be able to steal it once you’ve shredded it, dumped a bucket of water on it, and then covered it in food scraps!) chunks of card board, toilet paper tubes, boxes etc.
    I started worm composting last year too they make the best seed starter dirt. So now we do both. Important though that any weeds go in the regular compost where the heat will kill the seeds. The worm bin always has stuff trying to grow out of it.
    I’ve started placing my worm bin (a sterilite container with 1/4 inch holes in the bottom) around the garden moving it every few weeks to each empty spot it will fit in. as it rains it washes nutrients down into the garden, making compost tea with out all the work.

    • JO (Georgia), I’ve been wanting to worm compost but was told heat would be an issue. The examples I’ve seem show 2 buckets being used and they are placed in a cool area. Do you have problems with the heat here in Georgia? Also, where did you get the worms?

      • JO (Georgia) says:

        Em,
        I ordered the red wigglers online from uncle jim’s worm farm. I started with 1000, and I’ve had them for two years, I’ve been able to separate them out so that now I have three bins, and one under the sink bin. They multiply pretty quick so you don’t need to start with a lot of worms. I havn’t had problems with the heat. one of my bins is a grey sterilite bin, it sits in full sun. I do not put “green” waste such as fresh cut grass in that one, because it would heat it up too fast. I leave the lid off that bin, and its the one I move around the garden for compost tea, so it gets watered when the garden gets watered. I also think they go out the bottom during the hot part, and come back at night to eat sometimes. So they are kinda free range. The other bins I keep behind the shed. They work faster, probably because its cooler in the shade. That being said, I do pull them in in the winter. But I’m told they don’t need to be they will just go dormant. Their favorite foods are potatoes and cardboard. hope this helps! I’d be happy to answer any other question you may come up with about them. They are very low maintenance and kinda fun, especially if you get a clear bin then its like an ant farm.

  5. Great article. I started composting early this year. I confess to having one of those handy-dandy bins, but it’s a good way to get rid of kitchen scraps rather than tossing them in the trash(which we pay for) as long as no meat and dairy products end up in there.

    I do have a question though. How long does it take for this material to break down and become usable for the garden?

    • Lynda,

      It is possible to have usable compost in a few weeks, if (a) you live in Florida with a heat index of 100 degrees, (b) you shred the ingredients very finely, and (c) you turn the compost when it starts to cool down. That’s a lot of work. To answer your question in a more scientific way, the composting process generates heat and the more your pile heats up, the quicker decomposition happens. If the materials are chopped up finely, there’s more surface area for the bacteria to get at, and that speeds up the process.

    • Kate in GA says:

      Lynda,

      I have one of the bins as well. The neighborhood nazis (HOA) won’t let us have a compost pile. I have had my bin about 2 1/2 years. Although the ads say it composts in a ‘few short weeks’, it doesn’t. It takes about the same time as a regular pile. Add to it during the summer – turn it often and next spring you will have compost.

    • Lynda,
      The answer to your question is, “it depends”. If you actively monitor your pile, heap, bin, etc. Turn it regularly, make sure it stays moist, and it generally runs hot to the touch, it can be as little as 4-6 weeks. If you just pile everything up during the summer and into the fall and let it overwinter, it can take most of a year. In any case, you should look at the product being produced as a dark uniform humus with potting soil texture.

    • Hi Lynda

      It depends on what went into the materal, grass clippings and leaves are much faster to compost down then say barn mixings or rabbit poo with shavings etc.

      The other thing that makes a big differene is if you are cold composting, hot composting, turning your compost and or using in ground composting pits etc.

      It also depends on what you want to be putting in the garden, do you want finished black compost that you have screened? or do you want to dump on top and then till in or double dig into the garden?

      Sorry, no quick answer for you, it depends on a few things and how they are dealt with, but on average most piles started in the spring, are good to be spread on for fall and ready to be worked in come spring, but there are things that I perfer to use two year old compost on.

      • Wow, what a response! You are all so kind.
        I just want stuff broken down but my mistake was not chopping additions up finely enough. It’s one of those barrels that you can turn.

        I just want to throw the stuff in with my regular topsoil, cowpucky and mulch. Yes, I haul the cowpucky. Great for the garden.

        Gayle, I live in Massachusetts.

        Thanks to all again.

        • Lynda,

          One additional point–if your bin is only half full, it will take longer to get finished compost. And if you haven’t already done so, put a shovel full of dirt in the bin–the dirt has enough micro organisms to get things started.

  6. Crazy Question- would doing this in the city attract rats ?

    • I will be interested to hear what the folks in town have to say about this, I have my farm cats, and no rats.. but I can say that I have attracted the odd black bear in the spring that thinks my compost pile is worth checking out.

      Part of the reason I tend to use composting pits for household waste more often then not.

      • My property backs up to a greenbelt with a creek, so we have a lot of snakes. That could be why I’ve never had a problem with rodents or bugs.

    • Bill,

      You don’t want to put any meat products or oils in the compost–that would attract unwanted critters. Composting yard materials and the right kinds of kitchen wastes (fruits and veggies) does not attract rats.

    • I’m in the city and have composted for years. I’ve never had an issue with rodents. The key is to keep the compost from getting smelly. Easiest way to do that is to turn it every now and then.

    • We have chipmunks. I am hoping when they take something they leave some poo behind.

      No rats or mice tho.

      • JO (Georgia) says:

        Have never had rats, but I do get the occasional snake. I think they think its like a wood pile.

  7. Tom the Tinker says:

    Thanks Gayle……. I never knew there is a ratio of greens to browns.

    Question……. will the composting take care of the ‘potato’ blite in the soil used in my ‘tater tire towers’?

    In another month or so, it’ll be time to turn out the garden and pile up the soil for next years boxes.

    • Tom,

      I don’t have any experience growing potatoes. You might want to do a Google search for “compost tea” and “blight”. That could turn up some interesting stuff. My neighbor has a huge peach tree but the peaches came out this year with fungus. I am going to recommend some compost tea for the peaches. I’ve seen that work.

      The basic idea is to take a five gallon shrimp bucket (the kind with an aerator) and put in a gallon of compost and some water (preferably well water or rainwater), then let it steep with the aerator for a couple of days so the helpful bacteria multiply. Then spray the resulting liquid (compost tea) on the fruit.

      But like I said, I’ve seen folks use compost tea on tomatoes and peaches but not potatoes. It would be worth some research. Let me know what you find out. I am thinking about planting some sweet potatoes next year.

    • Tom,
      What do you mean by, “take care of “. Do you mean composting the soil so the heat kills the blight, or using the compost instead of or as an adjunct to your soil? The blight is a fungus and over winters and spreads via a spore. It might depend on how hot you need to get the spore to kill it. Unfortunately, spores are generally tough little guys.
      My potato crop although small is doing OK so far, but I’d also be interested in what you find out.

  8. I got my first real lesson in composting, from an uncle, when I was about 10 years old. He worked in the mines, but at home had a huge garden, cows, goats, chickens, etc., and a compost heap. His daughter, my cousin was only a year older than me and I would spend weekends at their house. He mentioned something called spontaneous combustion, and how piles of wet hay or straw could catch fire, all on their own, and I quite frankly didn’t believe a word. He sent me to the workshop and had me bring him a spud bar (a 5’ long heavy pry bar made of steel), walked over to a pile of leaves and stuck it deep into the pile. Sometime later, he asked me to retrieve the spud bar, and I nearly burnt my hands pulling it out of what turned out to be one of his compost heaps. Lesson learned!

    The one thing I was taught to do to my compost, which to date has at least not hurt anything, was to add an occasional layer of topsoil from the garden, along with all of the other organic material. It was explained to me that the soil introduced useful soil organisms into the pile and helped things to compost faster. This could also be an old wives tale, but has worked so far for me.

    • JO (Georgia) says:

      I add soil from the garden too, I think it helps make the tired garden soil better, and kinda stretches the compost. Kinda like meatloaf, for the garden :)

  9. Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

    Composting is another thing I’m going to try this fall (besides the raised beds). This article gave me good info for getting started, thanks Gayle. Potting soil is too expensive so making my own dirt will be great.

    • LP,

      I did some reading a while back on potting soil. I learned that potting soil was invented in the 1970s when the greenhouse industry was getting going. Prior to the 1970s, every gardener had his or her own recipe for potting mix. You can do a Google search for “potting soil recipe” and “compost” and you’ll get some interesting stuff. The main thing is that in a commercial greenhouse where plants are all pushed up together without much breathing room, fungus and disease was a major problem. That’s why they introduced commercial potting soil–because it’s sterile.

  10. Great thing to do. Only thing Ican add is get it away from your house. Can and will cause bugs and rot.

  11. Thanks for the post on composting, on the farm, with the wide range of critters I have, I do alot of it, and I do a number of different ways of setting up my piles to suit my different garden/pasture needs.

    I have the worlds best compost pile digger, its called the pig :), they do the main part of the work, and I just pile it back up or load it and spread it.. saves a fair amount of hard work in the turning etc.

    The other trick I have learned is if I want a pile to compost real fast, put it out on one of my south facing metal sided barns and make it long and narrow with level top and let the rain come down in the middle line, and between the heat coming on the east side and the metal plus the rain coming down over the line, it will compost out alot faster then other piles do for me.

    I also use pit composting in the gardens, as well as hugelbeets which lets face it really a slow huge composting pile.

  12. Kinda maybe off topic:
    Banana peels can purify water.
    http://www.delish.com/food/recalls-reviews/banana-peels-purify-drinking-water-study

  13. Thanks, a real good article. If I may add, giving your pile a real coke and a beer will help the microbes party begin. Mix them in a bucket with a small amount of water to moisten the pile.

    • A lot of folks think they need a “compost starter” to start the composting process. Home Depot sells a bag for $20–the bag is mostly nitrogen. Instead of pouring the beer on the pile, I recommend giving the beer to your husband to drink, and then asking him to urinate on the pile–human urine is sterile and full of nitrogen. (So a shovel of dirt and a piss on the pile can save you $20.)

      • Gayle,
        I like your style. That $20 can buy a whole case of decent prestarter :)

      • JO (Georgia) says:

        My husbands going to love that. I already told him he had to drink more beer because I was using the bottles to make tiki torches to keep the mosquitoes away. TWO FOR ONE!

  14. Good article. I have been composting for years. I like to have both a conventional compost bin and a worm compost bin. Worm compost is the richest. Also, the excess water that passes through the worm castings (poop) makes worm tea which really livens up plants. It should be sprayed on your plants and prevents many types of plant diseases.

  15. Anyone who needs a good book on composting, I would suggest The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins. It’s pretty much the bible on composting–even if you are not planning on composting your own sh*t like he talks about in the book. It’s available free online. He also has videos on youtube about under the screenname jcjenkins01.

  16. Just a thought, but vermicomposting eliminates the need for the 21:1 carbon nitrogen ratio. I started vermicomposting earlier this year and the production rate is amazing, the worms each half their weight in organic material every day. I do this on a very small scale, I started with two pounds of worms because I only compost my organic kitchen scrapes and my yard clippings, but it could be done on a much larger scale easily. also could be a small second source of income if you wanted to do it at that level, the worms go for about 30 dollars a pound and reproduce very quickly. If I have more land and didnt live in los angeles, I would absolutely do this for a second income.

    • Mike

      Very good point on the amount of carbon needed when working with the worms..

      I do have area’s that produce lots and lots of worms as they work under my indoor rabbit hutches, but I use them for extra protein sources for the birds on the farm (chickens, ducks, turkey’s etc.) in winter, when they can’t go out and do it themselves.

      Its right amazing how fast they will reproduce if given the right conditions and in our harsh cold canadian winters, its the only way to keep composting right though winter if you want to do so.

  17. AZ Rookie Prepper says:

    Thanks Gayle, good article. I started composting this year, but living in the desert I dont get a lot of yard scraps (no grass to cut, not many leaves to rake up). I do throw in vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, fruit scraps, and made a deal with my neighbor to get his yard scraps in exchange for some of the vegetables I grow.

    • AZ,

      If there’s a local grocer that you shot at a lot, ask the produce manager if you can have the spoiled produce. They will probably ask you to bring in a plastic bin to put it in and have you pick it up at the end of the day. You can pick up truck loads of rotten produce.

      • Hi Gayle

        My first thought when I read this idea, was yup, that would provide a lot of possable “green” to add and my second was, that would sure add alot of the typcial food pestcides into your compost pile unless you could get it from the organic area only..

        • JO (Georgia) says:

          I wonder if it would act as a filter, composting I mean, to get rid of pesticides and herbicides. Got to be a way to test for that. People put grass clippings in the piles all the time, and God knows what they sprayed on that….

  18. SrvivlSally says:

    Gayle, you did a wonderful job in explaining composting and also how much nitrogen to carbon is needed. I learned a bit about composting several years ago and after mixing in some of the good underneath worm-filled dirt, dry, dusty, barren soil was turned into a bed worthy of growing anything. I planted walking onions in that bed and not too many weeks ago three squash plants and one tomato plant came up and have done beautifully. I call it a garden within a garden. Another thing that coffee grounds are good for is that slugs do not like them because, as I have been told, they are sharp and conflict with their exterior bodies. I have quite a few typical garden snakes roaming around and they have kept the slug population down but if the slithering assistants were not present then I would lightly sprinkle dry grounds right onto my beds and in those areas where I think the slugs might traffic. Thank you, Gayle.

  19. I don’t know much about compost myself but as OhioPrepper said, composting material can catch on fire, so placing it next to a wooden house might cause a problem. I work in insurance restoration and have seen 3 green waste plastic trash cans combust and catch houses on fire. These weren’t actual compost piles, just chemically treated yard clippings and weeds in a plastic trash can in the hot southern california sun, so that might make a difference but… I don’t keep my yard waste can next to the house anymore and if I ever started a compost pile I wouldn’t put it near the house either.

  20. My comment is about the picture used in this post. I would be very cautious about placing composting bins up against houses or garages. Brick or stone facades may be OK, wood or vinyl siding may be another matter.

    This is what happened to us:

    Unbeknownst to us a tenant started a compost pile behind and alongside their detached garage. One day we got a phone call from a neighbor telling us there was a fire at our property. My husband raced over immediately to find the fire department putting out the fire which totally destroyed the garage, the neighbor’s adjoining fence and burned the siding on the side of their house facing our property. The post fire investigation concluded that the “pile” may have been exposed to too much sunlight, therefore overheating the compost. “Green”/nitrogen and heat producing imbalances aside, and possibly the fault of the tenant’s ignorance, the replacement of the garage, including a new concrete pad cost over $20,000 (covered by our owner’s insurance). The loss of the car in the garage unfortunately was the price the tenant had to pay for their backyard project.

  21. Starbucks packages up their spent coffee grounds and offers them for free. If I pass by I will pop in to get a bag or two and there is no pressure to make a purchase. Free grounds, what gardener wouldn’t love those! I would assume you could ask at any restaurant, coffee shop, or even McDonald’s because all those establishments are probably swimming in leftover coffee grounds.

    • Lane,
      Keep in mind that they also used to be swimming in leftover frying oil and food grade buckets, which are now typically sold instead of given away. Just don’t be surprised that if this catches on, they may someday want some cash for those free grounds. The dynamics of all of the new preppers is changing the model for a lot of commodities that used to be considered waste. Just sayin’

      • JO (Georgia) says:

        Starbucks might not, they actually package it for home gardeners as part of their advertizing campaign. Tax write off for the company.

  22. Mother Earth says:

    Gayle, your post has inspired me to start composting and the DH is totally on board. I’m going to go through the posts and figure out what’s best for me…so thanks!

    • Mother Earth,

      That’s great. You will help your soil and prevent usable stuff from going into a landfill.

  23. Here in Central FL, we always build our compost in the early Spring. This is when our Oak trees shed their leaves. We have found a nearby landscaper who now drops off his shredded leaf bags. In the past, I have been known to chase down landscapers towing bags of leaves in their trailers from their job sites. My husband and I also cruise the neighborhood the night before yard waste pickup. We have been composting for over 15 years. One thing we learned early on, is to use a handful of alfalfa on top of every six to eight inches of shredded leaves. A shovelful of old compost with this also helps. Be sure to water each layer of your cake as you build. By the next day or two, you can feel the heat with your hand in the top couple of inches. We don’t build our composters all in one day, but layer by layer as we have kitchen waste.

  24. This is a very good article and what I like is that it put it into two words that maybe I can remember green and brown.
    I know my uncle composted but think it was mainly right in his garden spot. My late husband built a 4×4 box that he composted stuff at the end of the garden.
    I hope to get a compost pile started. Then again if I can get at least 1 raised box garden put up will compost there to begin with.
    I appreciate the information, thank you

  25. breadmomma says:

    the only thing I don’t put in is animal fat. I throw shrimp and crab shells in the compost pit along with chicken bones, egg shells, neighbor’s goat and chicken poo, lawn trimmings from my yard, all plant life, newspaper, not the shiny magazine stuff- that goes to the burn barrel…I use my back fence method…just start a pile, working your way down…in about a couple of months, you have a long conga line of compost working, and the starting point is just about ready..I keep my pitchfork handy and just toss and mix as I go, covering the wet gooy protein stuff such as the poo or nasty slimy stuff with the grassy stuff…fluffing it up every two days or so…it works really well and things break down nicely…not very scientific, but very efficient. After 4 months the stuff is black, crumbly and solid gold for the garden…

  26. This summer has been a wild composting season at the Fortress of Solitude…
    The county was doing some flood control in a nearby swamp area and I asked if they needed a dump site… volunteered my yard for a few laods (ended with a little more than ten yards of black swamp muck) and have spent a few weeks moving it around to create a compost pile. Mixing in the yard waste- no herbicides in my woods- and will be adding the leaves this fall, tilling in as I go. Also, wood chips from the shop get mixed in, though mostly as filler/moisture retention since they do take quite a few years to decompose. Once the ‘begas are pulled, I’ll move the entire works into the garden and till it in good. Hopefully, this gives me a much better soil than the garden is used to.
    I do toss in the kitchen scraps, but hadn’t thought of the paper products- tell me, would a 50-50 ratio of coffee grounds and dirt be a good soil? :-\ So now, there’s going to be a bit of junk mail- dang, I get a lot from AARP!- and a few fliers tossed in as well. And coffee ground filters. Dunno why I hadn’t thought of that before- so gotta thank you for the idea.
    Great post, lotsa food for thought to growing food.

    • what is it about AARP? i swear they where standing at my mailbox the second i turned 50. its like they are stalkers! ive called and called and asked begged threatened them to take me off thier mailing list but it seems like my requests fall on deaf ears.the AARP supports issues i dont and therefore i dont wish to support the AARP.

      • HeyMickey59 says:

        Agreed! I swear we were getting more junk mail from them than anyone else, makes you wonder, don’t it! Just return some of that junk in their prepaid envelopes and they might get the message! :)

  27. First of all, composting is always a good plan.
    I noticed that you have your compost system next to your house…Get it away unless you like termites, other insects (roaches, ants, spiders, etc) in your house, not to mention water damage. Just a little advise.

  28. HeyMickey59 says:

    Gayle…we are practically neighbors! (Baldwin!) We do come down your way to the VA avbout once a month. Would love to start a dialog with you, if you would like. Ask MD for my email, he has already put me in contact with a nice lady in Tennessee (I am Female, too). Would love to compare notes! :)

  29. Mikey,

    My folks live in Kings Bay, Ga.–right across the state line. We drive through Baldwin whenever we go visit the folks.