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Guide: Compost all your organic scraps

Steps to get it done:

Check out this guide, and get motivated
Composting can greatly reduce the amount of waste your household generates and can produce a great, natural fertilizer as well.
Step 1: Designate an area
You can either get a composter, build a box for it, or just designate a corner of the yard for waste. There are advantages of some systems over others that we will go into more detail discussing next time we update this guide.
Step 2: Find an airtight container to store compost inside
This is an important step to keep your kitchen from smelling and making it so you don't have to walk outside every time you want to compost something. You should probably empty it every day though so it doesn't start smelling.
Step 3: Add organic materials to your compost pile
No meat, dairy, or eggs, but any other organic waste mixed with yard waste. You need to have a good mix of "greens" (things with high nitrogen content, such as food waste and grass clippings) and "browns" (things with high carbon content, such as leaves, paper products, or sawdust).
Step 4: Adjust the level of browns as needed
You need to have a good mix of greens and browns, as mentioned above. It's usually best to add food scraps as you acquire them, and then mix in as many browns as needed. You want about one part greens to one or two part browns, although it's not an exact science. If it starts smelling, add more browns.
Step 5: Turn the compost
Turn the pile once every week or so to mix everything up. This is a bit of an optional step, as some prefer "cold" compost, which takes longer to finish, but requires less maintenance and may produce a slightly healthier fertilizer. "Hot" compost requires a bit more attention to your greens and browns ratio, but finishes faster and kills weed seeds and diseased plants that may have been thrown in. Basically, the more you turn it, the faster the compost will finish.
Step 6: Enjoy your fertilizer
It should be done in a few weeks to a year, depending on how often you turned it. Basically, go with it being done as the initial components are unrecognizable. Add the compost to gardens or share with the neighbors.
Start this Guide!

Comments

Sam Fladung May 28, 2009
While step 6 is cool, do I really have to wait until the compost is complete to check this off?
Steven Skoczen May 28, 2009
That's up to you, but waiting does have the advantage of making sure you follow through and that things work - steps like this are generally there to help people finish what they started instead of falling off the wagon.
Susan Gunther June 17, 2009
Re: airtight container
Can you keep the inside compost material in a closed freezer container for a few days in lieu of dumping it every day? More convenient and less smell!
Jeff Gunther June 18, 2009
There isn't much harm in freezing compost as far as the compost pile is concerned. It may slow down the composting process, but that's about it.

There are two other issues to keep in mind, though. First, your compost container needs to be somewhere in the kitchen that is easy to get to so that you actually use it. Second, putting food in the freezer takes energy to cool those scraps down (plus the energy used every time you open the door).

An airtight container capable of storing a couple day's worth of scraps is probably best, but if you don't have one of those, a freezer might work in the meantime. The big thing is just to make sure that whatever system you choose is easy and convenient for you to use.
Kaitlyn Van Arsdell Aug. 9, 2009
I want to do this but need some more info... I'm thinking I'll set a bin up in my parent's yard, store my scraps in a container (or the freezer?) at my apartment, and bring them with me when I visit home. My mom has an amazing garden, so she can use the compost herself next year. Hopefully my whole family will add their scraps, and I can work out the browns when I'm there. Unfortunately I don't have a whole lot of time to research this, tho.

What happens with this in the winter? It needs to be outside because it will smell, right? But does it matter if it freezes?

Okay, first step is figuring out a bin. All the ones that I'm seeing on-line are very expensive, and I don't have time to make one. Any suggestions? There *is* an area in the back of the yard that would work for a heap, but should we worry about raccoons etc?
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