How to Save Kitchen Scraps for Compost
My outdoor compost bin for kitchen scraps
Why should you compost?
Composting kitchen scraps goes along perfectly with the green lifestyle. Not wanting to waste anything, composting is something I like to do. Oh, I know; I know that kitchen scraps will soon turn back to dirt anyway, but why not use them for something useful, something that will enhance your garden or even your yard.
If you live in an apartment, there may not be much use for compost unless you have a patio full of plants. If you would like to learn what and how to compost, read on.
Or use a cheap kitchen scraps container
What do you need for composting kitchen scraps?
You will need something to catch all your scraps. Instead of carrying your kitchen scraps outside to the compost bin after every meal (assuming you have scraps after every meal), save your trips by having a container for scraps under your kitchen sink or at some other handy location in your kitchen area.
I keep something under the sink. For a while, I used a 40 pound cat litter bucket. Boy, did it hold a lot of scraps, so I didn't have to lug the thing out to the compost bin very often. It sure was heavy when I did, though, and it took up a lot of space under the sink.
So now I'm using a large coffee can. I make more frequent trips to dump it outside, but it's much lighter and doesn't take up very much space.
For the outside, you will need some type of compost bin. You can build one or buy one. You can even dump the waste in a pile in the corner of the yard, a choice that won't be aesthetically pleasing and will attract all sorts of varmints, including the family pets. I have a large bin I bought that is right outside my kitchen door that is handy for scraps from the kitchen.
I also built one several years ago out of wood scraps. It is in the back yard by the shed and has become the compost bin for dumping yard waste such as grass clippings and leaves. I do put some leaves and clippings in with the kitchen scraps, too.
Find a good spot for the bin for your kitchen scraps. Don't put it so far away that it's too much trouble to take out scraps and you send them down the garbage disposal instead. Choose a place that is convenient but where the bin isn't an eyesore.
What Kitchen Scraps to Compost--and not!
vegetables--whole or peels (rotten or moldy is okay)
any meat (includes fish)
fruit (same as above)
egg shells, crushed
bread, crust, cookies, etc . . . (flour products)
other dairy products
rice and pasta
grease or oil
bones or any meat waste products
limes (due to acidity)
What kitchen scraps do you save for compost?
While you can compost a lot of your kitchen scraps, you can't save everything.The list to the right will give you the basics of foods that should and shouldn't be composted.
For the things that can be composted, it's okay if they are even rotten or moldy. For larger items, such as banana peels, breaking into smaller pieces will hep them to decompose faster.
For the items that shouldn't be composted, why? Because they take longer to break down and stink really bad! Plus, they attract animals.
The table gives basic food scraps that you can compost, but there are many other non-food items that can be composted. If you're interested in composting your dryer lint, gerbil droppings, and cardboard tampon applicators (really?), check out TLC for 75 items you never thought you could compost!
My homemade compost bin for yard wasteClick thumbnail to view full-size
Composting for Dummies: How do you compost?
Dump your scraps into the compost bin every few days or week or when your kitchen container is full or starts stinking. An air tight lid should help prevent too much smell.
Sometimes all the work I do is carry out the kitchen scraps and dump them in the big bin, taking the lazy way out and just letting the bin set. I do this for at least a few weeks.
While the lazy method does produce some dark rich dirt, the process takes a really long time, and I won't have much compost for my garden the following year.
Plus, if you don't mess with the compost, it will smell pretty bad! So, every few weeks, if you take some time to do maintenance on your compost, the process will work much better and much more quickly.
Here are some tips:
- Lift and stir the compost every few weeks to aerate it. A pitchfork works well. Stirring the mound will reduce the smell.
- When you stir the compost, add some water to it. Water helps stimulate the composting. Don't get the mixture too wet, but it doesn't need to be dry, either.
- When you have a good layer of kitchen scraps, add some yard waste--a thin layer of grass clipping or leaves--to keep down the smell and balance the nitrogen levels. Leaves make great compost.
Some folks like to add worms to their compost to speed up the process. A properly balanced compost bin with kitchen scraps and yard waste that is watered and turned regularly should generate heat to speed up the process of composting. Plus, it will produce its own organisms to help speed up things. You can generate dark, rich soil in just a few months.
Following these methods should give you some rich compost for the following year and save you money on fertilizing your garden, yard, and indoor plants.