Last week I got a closer look at the contents of my outdoor composting bin. It had become so full that there wasn’t any room left to empty out what was in my indoor bucket so scraps had started collecting in a bowl in the fridge until that also starting to max out. Not knowing what to do, since I had no other composting options available at the moment but didn’t want stuff to start ending up in the garbage, I decided to dump everything out on the ground to see where things were in the process.
I’d been watching everything steadily rot away over the months but by the time the bin was at max capacity, the ability to stir it’s contents around had become nearly impossible. The balance remained “off” for the majority of the three months in which it took to fill it. Pretty much everything towards the bottom consistently smelled like the inside of a porto-potty (ick). From what I have read, compost normally does not stink unless there is an imbalance between carbon and nitrogen (brown and green materials). The green materials (i.e. my kitchen scraps) are what dominate my compost bin, naturally lending itself to more moisture and nitrogen imbalance. Also, apparently having a larger volume of these materials requires more frequent turning, which it wasn’t really getting by around the halfway mark (its amazing how hard it is to turn a half a storage tubs worth of rotting food waste). Each time scraps were added to the bin, I would mix in shredded junk mail paper but obviously the amount being added was not enough. At around the time the bin was about 3/4 full I started adding compost soil, which we had leftover from when we plated our garden, in attempt to restore balance. This helped soak up a little of the moisture and I do believe was helpful in keeping things a little more in check. Plus I had read that adding completed compost to rotting materials could actually help move things along, so maybe that has been helpful as well. Then I would often leave the bin sitting in the sun with the lid off in attempt to dry things out a bit (and maybe heat things up as well). By the time it was nearly full, my lavender plants died, and I was getting ready to go out of town. So I threw in the entire root system along with its soil, closed the lid (barely) and left my compost unattended for over a week or so. Not that I thought this would be the solution but was too busy at the moment to deal with it. Cut to having a plethora of biodegradable materials that needed to find a new home stat, the blue bin’s contents got the boot.
While it still has some rotting left to do, for the most part everything has broken down. Three months worth of kitchen scraps, on its way towards becoming nutrient rich soil instead of sitting in a landfill!! How exciting is that? I don’t know how much longer it will take to finish rotting but I hoping in time to use it (and maybe restore some life to my struggling garden). Once on the ground it was much easier to stir things around, but then weeds got mixed in as well. From what I have read, you don’t want weeds in your compost as there is a chance they will survive, and wind up wreaking havoc on your garden. Ehhh I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Seeing as the food scraps were nearly unrecognizable, I didn’t feel like it would attract too many critters and considered just leaving it out on the ground. Lots of people go this route, so why not, right? I wasn’t sure how rain would play in but I had a couple of days until I needed to worry about that anyway. Then hubs mentioned the fact that since I didn’t clear the area, then the compost would probably just fill up with weeds since it was laying right on top of them (we don’t have grass, we have weeds that provide the illusion of grass). That would be worse than the few that got mixed in. Since the blue bin was needed for fresh scraps, and I wanted to get this stuff off the ground, a leftover shipping box (from those July purchases) became my backup container for the time being.
I figured it would keep critters out, prevent rain from washing everything away and would biodegrade along with the compost. But then was it getting enough air, sun, worm access? Ahhh too many unknown variables – so today I decided to just
clear an area scrape away a few weeds and created an “open pile” for now. The box which had fallen apart when I tried to move it was placed on top since we are expecting rain but I really don’t think this is going to do much of anything besides look absolutely ridiculous. At this point I just want it all to rot away while I get a better system into place for when the next tub starts filling up. I need to figure out a second composting solution for when the blue bin starts to get full because while this situation was quite comical, it was also a hot mess (but mostly comical). I’m still trying to decide if the tub system is what I want to continue on with, at least for the second composter. Likely so as I still don’t want to buy anything new and there are a whole lot of old tubs at my parents house just waiting to be used.
So this is where we stand right now with composting. Stay tuned for how the open pile system turns out and what I end up devising to keep things running more smoothly in the future.