Crazy about Compost

Patrick Scooping Compost from Bin

Today was compost day. I love compost. It is totally amazing to me how we can take our food waste and garden leaves to create nutrient rich organic matter to add to our garden soil, as well as liquid “compost tea” as a natural fertilizer. Our community garden plot is a testament to the power of compost.

Compost Tea

It has taken us awhile to master the process but now we have it down.  We use a composter that rotates so that we can keep things moving and decomposing. The brand we have includes a repository at the bottom to collect the compost tea. I have also learned that if it smells, it means it is too “green,” so we add a few handfuls of dry leaves to absorb the moisture. Compost should be crumbly, dark and smell like earth.

In the summer, it only takes a matter of weeks to complete a cycle. When done, we scoop it out of the composter and store it in plastic kitty litter containers.  (Thank you Hagrid, our polydactyl Main Coon cat who thinks he is a dog.) Then we use plastic bottles or jugs to store the compost tea.  Calvin’s job is to label the bottles so we don’t mistake it for real tea! He is fond of drawing a skull and cross-bone illustration to make the point.

We learned that if we keep adding new material, the process is greatly slowed down and we end up with a mixture of ready compost and non-composted material.  So we created a rotation system. We used a recycled pump-housing box a neighbor had discarded on the curb.  After drilling some holes for aeration, we buried it in the ground.

Pump House Turned Composter

So we fill up the composter bin and leave it to complete its process. Any new scraps go into one side of the two-chamered pump box until it is full. Then we fill up the second side of the box.  (During the winter we use yet another storage box as waste builds up over the winter because the composting process slows down.)

During the summer, once our rotating composter bin batch is ready, we fill the cylinder with the next ready collection of material from the pump box.  When that is ready, we empty out the composter bin and the material from the other side of the box is put in the composting bin. And we continue to rotate…..

Here is a short summary of composting from the Maryland Department of Environment:

Composting is the process by which organic matter is biodegraded to a soil-like condition called compost or humus. Composting works best with a 2:1 Green/Brown ratio:

  • “Greens” are the source of nitrogen and include items such as grass clippings, almost all food waste, old plants, wilted flowers, coffee grounds, tea leaves, and manure;
  • “Browns” are the source of carbon and include items such as leaves, hay, straw, wood chips, sawdust, chipped brush, and shredded newspapers.

DO NOT use meat, fish, bones, dairy foods, fats, and oil or grease when composting because they smell, attract pests, and retard the biological process that converts the organic material to compost.


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