"In the process of nature there is no throwing away."
It was recommended to me by a composting veteran to read two books: Let it Rot by Stu Campbell and Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Applehof. I'm most of the way through Let it Rot so far. This is what I've found:
Each household in the US produces 230 pounds of yard waste and 100 pounds of food waste each year. Obviously, there are many residents like myself that don't have a yard, so our primary waste is food waste. This seems to be the ideal situation for indoor composting. Not too much waste being produced, and worms to speed up the decomposition of food.
Though the focus of Campbell's book is on creating compost for a garden, it is good information for indoor composters who simply wish to create less waste as well. Campbell goes through a list of 'beneficial compostable materials' which I will summarize here:
_ASHES: which coal ashes are toxic, wood ashes provide potassium and can be a pest deterrent. Burning skins of some foods is also a good way to release this potassium.
_GARBAGE :this is my main compost item in the form of food scraps
_GROUND STONE AND SHELLS
_NEWSPAPERS: black ink in newspapers is contains Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) which are toxic. There is some debate about how these molecules break down and are neutralized by compost. Colored ink, however is fine.
_VEGETABLE PLANTS (once harvested)
_WEEDS: compost can 'thermal kill' weed seeds so that they are safe to spread on next years garden
In general, it is good to avoid:
_CLOTHES (all synthetic now)
_SLUDGE (human waste)
Another main point Campbell makes is that the ratio of carbon to nitrogen (two key ingredients for decomposition) should be around 30:1. Nitrogen is plentiful in greens and leaves, whereas carbon is found in vegetable scraps.
I have been composting for 62 days now and have not had to empty my bin. In fact, it is only about half full ( I am beginning to believe my friend John who claims that worms allow the compost to not really accumulate. We probably over feed our worms between the 3 of us in my house, as we all cook quite a bit. Campbell says that after 2-3 months, compost is nearly 'finished'. A way to harvest this compost to make compost tea (a natural fertilizer) or to spread on a garden or mix with soil is to move the compost to one side of the bin. On the other side, place a new wet bedding of newspaper and some new food scraps. The worms will eventually begin to migrate to the new food scraps on the other side.
I opened the bin today to find sprouts in my compost! Maybe it is starting to become finished compost. There are dangers to using not-finished compost to grow plants because bacteria in the compost may get into the roots of plants, which is fine for the plant, but won't be good for you to eat it. Campbell introduces a way of burying compost in rotating trenches in your garden each year to let it mature in the soil for a year before planting directly in it.
|sprouts in the compost!|