kicking up the composting

new_apartment_21This new apartment…

It’s looking up. Even though it means a month of our mattress on the floor until we road trip to IKEA. Even though there are still spider webs everywhere. Even though I tore out so much poison ivy that one spot on my leg looks like the most disgusting staph infection you can imagine. Even though the medicine to help get rid of the poison ivy resulted in a horrible allergic reaction. Even though it will take a month for my leg to look normal again.

We’re loving it. My dad installed a bat house. We uninstalled a rat habitat–we hope. There’s still an ominous-looking hole in the back of one raised bed. We installed a large compost bin. We’re taking this compost thing very seriously.

And by that, I mean we’re trying to work as little as possible at having as much compost as possible. Like this, from Urban Farm Online:

Start with two enclosed compost bins, sturdy enough to deter urban wildlife, and line the bottoms with hardware cloth. Make sure the lid has openings to allow the rain in: Dry compost is inactive compost.

Sprinkle a little garden soil over the kitchen scraps. The garden soil “dressing” distributes composting bacteria throughout the pile. They will out-compete the rotting bacteria that cause kitchen scraps to stink. Keep a garbage can full of shredded leaves and a garden fork nearby. (Mine is broken, but re-purposed.) Toss a forkful of leaves over the kitchen scraps in the compost bin to keep down fungus gnats. At this point, the cook would mix the dinner salad ingredients, but there’s no need to mix the compost ingredients.

Start filling your first bin this spring, then start filling the second one in early or mid-summer, and leave the first one alone. By fall, your first bin will contain finished, or nearly finished, compost. Feed this soil salad to your garden, and then start filling that bin again. The second bin will be finished in time for spring planting — or should we say spring feeding?

Okay, so we forgot to put down hardware cloth. And we have a lot of gnats. And we’re using paper/cardboard in place of leaves (since our leaves are mostly poison ivy & thus not safe for composting–just in case). But it’s mid-summer. This means we should have healthy compost come spring planting time!

In our town, anything you can do to reduce waste is great–because recycling is made simple here, from plastics to electronics, and because you pay for trash while recycling is free. Brilliant. Composting means (1) our trash in the house & the outdoor bin doesn’t smell* & (2) you go through far fewer trash bags. $ $ $

For now, there’s no smell. There’s no urban critter habitat forming. There’s only a cloud of gnats attacking your face when you open it… Thoughts on how to overcome that problem are welcome.

The next phase of our mini-home renovations: Planning fall crops for all the glorious raised beds.

*This is largely helped by the fact that we don’t eat meat at home, really. No animal waste = no smelly trash. Remember: don’t compost animal products.


About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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