Friday, July 25, 2014

How to Make Good Use of Your Home Compost Bin

From the Kitchen to the Garden Through the Seasons

backyard compost bin To be honest, a trip to the garden compost bin after a snowstorm has never been my idea of a fun time. But with the kitchen collection bin overflowing, there is never a choice and a trip to the backyard cannot be pushed off until later. As the seasons passed and my gardening prowess increased, I began to learn little tricks to make that trip not only bearable, but a delight as well.

Summer Care of The Compost Bin
 
It's hot, and I know there will be some smells emanating from the compost bin if I haven't been diligent. To keep down odors, I make sure not to add dairy and meats to the mix. Scattering a handful of lime in the bin as well as a sprinkling of water with the deposit will not only break down the material faster, but will help the ph in the soil, something we folks up in NH need to worry about constantly thanks to our pine tree epidemic. Keeping a healthy bin helps to speed up the decomposing process, and as a nice side effect, it quickly removes the foods that mice, ants, and racoons are looking to nibble on should they come across your composting operation. One project I completed to prompt me to visit the bin more often to perform these duties was to beautify the space with a re-purposed brick pathway through my garden mulch. I even added some concrete-and-sea-glass ornaments my girls had made to give it some personality. A few variegated hostas for accent, and it looked marvelous.

Fall Preparation Of The Garden Compost Bin
 
After putting the gardens to bed, which means adding material to replace what came out with the pulled plants, I still have quite a bit of compost left in my bin. I will need most of it in the Spring when I build my new beds and refresh the old ones, but this time of year, my concern is keeping the compost healthy. I will do one last complete turn before the snow falls, and stage a leaf collection bag of 'brown' material nearby the compost bin to add when I do make the trip out back with the kitchen scraps. In the Fall, most of my brown material comes from shredded leaves, as my property is inundated with oak and maple, but I've been known to shred some newspaper to have handy as well.

Winter Duty Means Leaving The House
 
The icy-cold trips out back with two feet of snow on the ground used to drive me bananas, but since I upgraded to my re-claimed brick path, the shoveling to the compost bin is much easier. I keep reflective plow markers at the head of the path so I know where to aim my snow shovel, and keep a shaker of environmentally safe ice melt nearby just in case. This gives me solid footing when I'm making a deposit and makes the job of shoveling much easier by breaking away at the ice dams that have collected on the bricks. Also at this time of year it can be a pain running a hose out to the bin to add moisture. But if I have snow, a few handfuls per deposit seem to do the trick, as the heat from the cooking compost will melt it down to water.

Spring's Fully Realized Compost Bin
 
It's the season I look forward to all year round. The bin is brimming with my composted materials, ready for spreading through the budding flower and garden beds, to be placed in my planters, and for sprinkling across the bare spots on my lawn. The bin empties quickly at this time of year, so it's important I remind myself of the compost formula before rushing to fill it back up with whatever is handy. I stick to a recipe of 1/2 brown material, and 1/2 green.