May 23, 2018

The art of composting

My childhood memory of composting was the large compost heap at the bottom of the garden; I was never a fan of walking down there in the colder months having to empty the kitchen food waste bin. My Dad was, and still is a keen gardener and now I am a mother myself, I appreciate all the fresh fruit and vegetables I was fed with whilst growing up. Once my brother even tried to set fire to the compost heap as a joke, but it wasn’t dry enough to set alight and his plans were dashed! In London our food and garden waste was collected on a fortnightly basis. Some local authorities in the UK even use food waste for renewable energy. And since I have lived here in New Jersey I have been saddened to see how much of my garbage is made up of food waste and really wanted to start my own composting.

We had a fantastic workshop at the Maplewood Mercantile on May 3rd in collaboration with Java’s Compost learning about the right way to compost. I left feeling totally inspired. Java and Michelle are passionate about making composting at home accessible to all, and their warm, enthusiastic approach is pretty contagious.

Java quizzed us all on our knowledge and experience of composting which ranged from the complete beginner to the experienced home composter. One overriding concern from many attendees was the problem of pests and odor. If compost systems and waste management are maintained properly and decay is well managed, there is far less appeal for pests to get into your compost, garden or even your home. One of the most practical methods of composting is to use an insulated compost tumbler. There are many brands out there but the best ones have two chambers, are constructed off the ground and have a good latch or lock. Pests shouldn’t be able to get into tumblers or a good quality box bin. Also in an enclosed tumbler such in the JoraForm compost tumbler system you can compost meat, bone and dairy. 

Another vital thing to good composting is getting the right mix of air, moisture, food and dry material. Ventilation is key, but also to create the right balance, dry materials such a wood chips, sawdust, dry leaves or even kitchen towel are a perfect addition to fruit and vegetable waste in your compost bin. These items as well as the food source need to be shredded or chopped, so if your kids are complaining they are bored, get them involved! If the pieces are not small enough the dry material gets clumped up with food that is trying to decompose. You can also line your kitchen food waste bin with dry material which helps create balance and makes it easier to clean when emptied as well. If you make your composting habits manageable such as keeping a small bin on your kitchen counter top or a container under the sink then it just becomes part of your cooking and clean-up routine.

So on Saturday I constructed my compost tumbler and my kids got pretty excited christening it with their banana peels and giving it a good old tumble. Without my food waste going into my trash, my trash bin is rarely full. I generate far more recycling instead, and as I continue to reduce the plastic in my home and make composting part of my daily routine I feel like I am giving my family the healthy, responsible childhood that I once had as well.

If you want to get composting and don’t know where to start, please connect with Java’s Compost. They have starter kits, buckets, dry materials and a fantastic consultancy service. Composting can be fun and accessible for everyone. If you have started composting at home, share your composting stories; we’d love to hear from you!

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