Make the Most of Your Composter

Emmaline Harvey
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Compost is a natural soil amendment that helps soil retain moisture and nutrients. Best of all, it’s incredibly easy to make your own compost – Mother Nature does all the work!

Compost is created when organic matter such as discarded leaves, grass clippings and food scraps are layered and decompose naturally, creating a potent cocktail of nutrients.

If you own a composter, you already have the perfect environment to allow this decomposition to occur.

Start the process by layering garden and kitchen waste in your receptacle. Keep a balance of about 75 percent green (garden) and 25 percent brown (kitchen) materials. The smaller the ingredients you put in, the faster it will break down. Minimize odor by adding a layer of leaves or straw on top.

Turn the pile regularly to reintroduce oxygen into the mix, encouraging increased decomposition. (Watch this video to learn more about the specifics of composting.)

Place the composter in a somewhat shady area of your yard. The internal temperature of compost piles can reach 140 degrees due to the decomposition process, so it’s crucial to avoid direct sunlight, especially if you live in a region that regularly sees high temperatures.

There are several types of composters, all of which produce the same results but vary by the amount of effort you must exert to regularly turn the compost.

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Compost bins are typically large plastic containers with side air slits. They allow gardeners to create a very deep compost pile, which creates a higher inner temperature to allow for quicker breakdown.

Owners of compost bins should erect two next to each other in the yard. Fill one at a time so that while the compost is decomposing in the first bin, you can gradually contribute to the pile in the second bin.

Face the openings of the bins upright so that you can easily insert a shovel or pitchfork to manually turn the pile once a week.

Tumbler composters are the easiest way for most homeowners to compost as they are compact, clean, and make it very easy to turn the pile. Just flip the tumbler once or twice a week. 

tumbler composter - THD - 300x300Due to the smaller size of tumbler composters, they’re more effective when the entire compost pile is added all at once instead of gradually. A two bin system can also be used here, or you can just gradually contribute materials as usual, but expect a slower breakdown.

As you continue to use your composter, you may notice long-term interior compost buildup has caused the bin to grow dirty and develop a bad smell.

The next time your composter is empty, use a hose to wash off as much of the buildup as possible. Use a scrub brush or high-pressure nozzle to help get the more stubborn spots.

Mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and baking soda in a large bucket of warm water and use a long-handled scrub brush to scrub the solution on the interior of the container. Don’t forget the lid!

Allow to soak for 10 to 15 minutes, then use the high-pressure nozzle to rinse thoroughly. Empty out the water as best as you can and allow the bin to sit in the sun until dry. 

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