Composting has been my on-again-off-again obsession since I received a compost tumbler for my birthday last summer. I say on-again-off-again because I have spent most of that time waiting for the pile to decompose. Composting is the perfect hobby for me in this way because I can’t obsess over it so much that I lose interest. At the same time, the waiting involved tests the limits of my patience. This led me to the compost harvesting epic fail that I experienced last weekend. To help you guys avoid similar fails, I have put together a list of the seven things that I learned in my first seven months of composting.
- Give the pile some help. Break materials into smaller pieces before adding them to your compost pile. They will break down faster this way and it will be easier to turn the pile. Plus, you won’t have to pull large scraps of rotting produce off of your pitchfork.
- Your growing zone matters. Compost needs to “cook” to break down. It’s easier to maintain the necessary temperatures in warm weather. The decomposition process will slow down when the temperature drops. It will take a bit of extra work to keep a compost bin active. I live in Zone 7a, so decomposition has slowed quite a bit over the winter. I know this because I check. Often. Which brings me to my next point…
- Composting requires patience. When I first got my compost tumbler, part of me expected to see finished compost every time I opened it up. It hasn’t happened yet. This is probably because…
- You will never have a finished pile if you keep adding new materials. Have you thought through the logistics? What will you do when your bin or tumbler is full? Will you start a second pile? If so, where?
- Try not to compare piles. Online tutorials and discussion boards are great resources for composters to share information. Just don’t expect your compost to behave in exactly the same way as someone else’s. Any number of factors could be different including growing zone, pile composition, and bin type.
- Dig around in your pile every once in a while. This is the best way to learn. I read somewhere that dryer lint is compostable so I added it to my pile. Then I kept finding these odd little clumps of it that didn’t seem to be breaking down at all. This may be because our clothes contain a lot of synthetic materials which don’t break down. At any rate, I have stopped adding the lint and I pull it out of the pile whenever I come across it.
- Buy or make a small compost bin for your kitchen scraps. Otherwise you will be running out to the compost bin every time you have a cup of coffee or eat an apple. I have a little stainless steel compost bin that I keep on the counter. Some people like to keep a bucket under the sink. (Don’t ask me how this doesn’t attract bugs and critters.)
If you have any tips of your own, feel free to add them in the comments below. Please consider sharing if you enjoyed this article.