As much as I love sharing what I learn with all of you here on the blog about the various Real Foodie or health and nutrition topics I come across, I also like to ask questions because there's a lot I don't know.
Today I have composting questions.
See that picture above, the one with the eggs and coffee grounds sitting in a bowl on my countertop? Well I'm sick of looking at that, and I'm wondering, what do you keep your kitchen scraps in before you get out there to throw them onto the garden? And should it be covered? Does it matter how long you keep it on the counter? (Thank you again, reader friends, for always helping me with my burning questions!)
Get this: their baaaaaaack…
In my last gardening post, Next year we'll just have a tomato garden, I showed you our pathetic looking organic broccoli that something apparently without feet came into our garden to feast on. Someone, either in the comments or on Facebook, had said it's possible that the broccoli will come back. They were right! Look:
Pretty fun, huh?!
What we've enjoyed so far:
We've eaten only green beans so far from the garden, peppers, and one cucumber, but the tomatoes are very close, and I can't wait to just throw some sea salt on them and bite in to that delicious in-season tomato sweetness!
That's it for this gardening update, what's been coming up in your gardens?
I use a plastic bucket on the counter and have used the same one for years. It holds about a gallon and probably originally had spackling compound or some such thing in it. It’s plain white and while it’s not as pretty as a cookie jar, it’s not all that noticable. There is no cover and I rarely have trouble with smells or insects. If there is something smelly, I just stick a small plate on the top as a cover until I’m ready to empty it. In the summer it gets emptied every day or so, but in the winter it can be days and days. Before I take it out to the compost pile I run a little water in it and swish it around as I carry it out. That is all the cleaning it needs sometimes.
I think the important thing is to make the compost container more convenient than the trash so composting is easier than not composting.
I do keep my eggshells in a cookie jar and crush them with a potato masher. I use the crushed shells around plants to discourage snails and add calcium to the soil at the same time.
I use a plastic yogurt tub, and keep the lid on. It’s free, reusable (for awhile), seals out the bugs, and if the plastic gets smelly I just throw it away and use a new one. They are not recycleable where I live.
I use BioBags — they’re breathable, compostable plastic bags made from corn. The company makes a fully-biodegradable plastic compost bucket, also, that allows for air flow to minimize odors. It’s not the most beautiful thing, but it’s got a lid that closes to keep out flies and can go either under the sink or stay out on the counter. Relatively cheap, and the plastic lining means you don’t have to clean goop out of your scrap bucket/bin.
I’ve always thought a decorative cookie jar near the sink would be ideal for scraps . I don’t generally like plastic. The right cookie jar no longer used for cookies is easy to access, easy to clean in the dishwasher, and easy on the eyes-maybe even easier on the waist! I also found, as far as composting goes, that the old saying ‘just do it’ is best. In a confined space I’ve used a storage tub with a few holes punched in the bottom. Pitch in some dirt, scraps, and grass clippings and you can learn as you go. I threw in a few wigglers found in the yard and the grandkids loved helping me ‘feed the worms.’ Good luck!
Since we’re in Colorado with very few bugs, I just toss compostables into an old plastic colander, which sits in a plastic tupperware bowl to catch water and small leaky stuff. I leave it uncovered as we have no flies in the house. It never smells this way. Then I take a trip several times a day out to the compost pile, where both bowls go, including rinse water. After all, the worms need their chow! (And the little outdoors house-mouse who adores the old incinerator which is also converted to a small composter.)
I just use any old bucket, and due to our ant problem, I do put a lid on it and make sure it’s sealed tight! Our compost bin is down by the chicken coop, so it isn’t hard to empty it daily.
I use a discarded Almond Butter bucket from Whole Foods. It is the kind you dip out of to fill your smaller container. I put two plastic bags in it as liners and when I empty it, which is usually twice a week, I wash the bucket thoroughly and the spray it with Lysol. No problems with odor or bugs. And yes, the bucket has a lid and stays under my kitchen sink. Just FYI, my family growing up used the same “pickle bucket” for 25 years!
Kris Johnson says
Fresh chicken manure is “hot” and shouldn’t be put around plants when fresh, but kitchen scraps are not a problem, esp. if they have been ground in the blender. As I said, my WAPF co-leader does that all the time in her little garden, and the worms and plants love it. On the other hand I have another acquaintance whose finances are limited, who eats mostly raw, but won’t pay the extra for organic or unsprayed fruits and veggies. He’s managed to kill the worms in his worm bed twice. I think it was because there were too many pesticides on things like banana peals, etc. He insisted on grinding them in the blender first, which probably just made things worse.
Andrea Merrigan says
I’ve never kept scrapes and I just garden in pots. But I am looking for a good natural fertilizer for my plants outside. Can I keep scraps and just put them directly on the dirt in my plants of tomatoes and peppers? I would love to start composting, but we still rent and dont want to deal with a “real” garden or composting till we have our own place. I would love any advice!
Also, does anyone have a natual plan food solution for house plants and potted herbs I grow in my window?
Hopefully someone who knows will respond to you!
Kris Johnson says
The usual natural fertilizers are fish emulsion and kelp. Sometimes you can find them in combination. My friend grinds her kitchen scraps in a blender and pours them on the garden, and reports good growth. She lives in a trailer park and has a very small garden. The worms love it.
You really can’t add the kitchen scraps to your potted plants until they have totally broken down. That is the point of a compost pile, is that it let’s the microbes go to work, heat up and then turn the scraps into dirt. If used too soon the scraps may produce too much nitrogen and the heat may damage or kill your plants.
However, if you just have egg shells, you could crush those and add to your plants. If you have any roses, you could put banana peels into the dirt. If you have blueberry plants you can ‘water’ them with leftover coffee and coffee grounds.
Andrea Merrigan says
Thanks for advice…still not sure what I should do but I picked up a few gardening books at the library that are specifically for potted gardens. Hopefully I can find some good information!
Andrea, do see if you can find a book on “lasagna gardening.” It’s not nearly as difficult as the books say, but many gardeners have successfully layered the “brown, green, brown, green, brown” and then planted directly into it, myself included. Because it’s not a thick pile, it doesn’t heat up like a regular compost pile does, and the variety in a typical lasagna will give a variety of nutrients with a sustainable release. It does work in containers, but my suggestion to you, particularly if you have alot of composting material, is to keep a separate “container” or pot (or, more than one!) to layer your compost in regularly, and then use that to mix into the potted plants each spring, and that should also help fertilize without having to buy something else (I don’t know if you’re on as strict a budget as we are). Just remember to always top it with something brown (aka “dried,” such as leaves), or at least some somewhat-dried lawn clippings.
Melissa C. says
Great comments from all. I, like many others, just use an empty plastic bucket with a lid (sometimes 2 buckets if it’s CSA cleaning day!) and empty it every couple of days. I keep the bucket(s) under the sink or on the counter until I throw the scraps on the back hill in a pile. In a year or so I can pull the finished compost from the bottom of the pile or start a new pile if the first one gets too big. I never fuss with my piles too much, as there’s always more “important” work to do elsewhere.
Glad to hear about your broccoli coming back. Mine started to make a recovery after the first leveling, but the deer (or whatever) just had a second feast and now it’s all gone for certain. I was able to harvest two nice batches of lettuce… so yummy!… before the critters leveled that section of the garden. And this week we picked the first of the green beans. Green onions are almost ready (they were planted late this year) and I have a second wave of beans (a wide variety) coming along nicely. Next summer I’ll be working on a more elaborate scheme to keep all the wildlife out of the garden, so we’re not wasting seeds and food that our family should have the pleasure of enjoying!
I just have a gallon bucket with a lid sitting on the counter, but it drives the hubby crazy. I think I’ll take up all the smart ideas here & stick it under my sink. Ours goes out a couple times a day, but I gave up on composting cuz that just drew the chickens into the garden & we had to replant just about the whole thing. So now it just gets dumped over the pasture fence near the chicken coop & they gobble most everything up, than the cats & dogs finish it off! In the winter we just dump it into the garden, not sure if its doing anything or not since we’re not actually composting, but it’s gotta be better than scraping it into a garbage disposal or the garbage can!
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Thank you for the seeds.
Love your newsletter.
i keep my kitchen scraps in a plastic fruit/veggie bag from the grocery store (i save them all and have a stash) in a drawer in my fridge. this slows down the decomposing – once a week i take all the bags of kitchen scraps out of the fridge and bury them in a currently unused spot in the garden. i don’t have a real compost pile or composter yet.
Kris Johnson says
Low tech here – I have several clear plastic 1 qt containers that I get nuts in. I use these for my kitchen waste, unless it’s something sizable that I run out to the worm bed right away. I’m careful to keep the lid on so fruit fries aren’t attracted. I put a square of newspaper in the bottom to facilitate emptying. It just sits handy on my counter, and when full I pull out the next one. When emptied I rinse them and put them in the dishwasher.
I bought this nice ceramic compost bin with a filter in the lid to keep odors at bay…but I don’t use it. When I used it I would just forget to empty it until it was so gross I didn’t want to deal with it (out of sight, out of mind). Now I just collect all the supper scraps into a bowl and take them out to compost bin each night. I have heard of people keeping them in the freezer or fridge. It sounds like a good idea but I haven’t tried it…I don’t have a lot of extra room in my fridge.
I have the lovely ceramic thing too and I forget – or my dish doers forget and it can get gross so we have 2 containers – one for the compost (old coconut oil bucket with lid) and one for the chickens – any bowl – they both get emptied most every day.
I don’t store mine in anything. Whenever we have scraps, we just run them out to the compost pile, which is far enough away, but still close enough by to do this. I don’t have much counter space, so this method works out nicely.
Yay! I’m so glad that your broccoli came back–that is so cool!
Rachel J. says
Former spring greens mix plastic container under my sink. The lid fits loosely now because it’s so old but I still don’t really have a problem with smell or fruit flies. I keep a small jar with old water kefir and dish soap next to it, hopefully to catch any fruit flies buzzing around. I will probably transition to one of the gallon contains that coconut oil came it. It has a lid and a handle 🙂
Melissa @ Dyno-mom says
I have a thrift store enamel stockpot with lid and it sits under the sink. We put egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags, peels and cores and take it out every other day. Pulp from the juicer goes out immediately, but since we only juice one a week or so, we can get the kitchen bucket, too. I can’t stand having anything on my counter.
We asked for the large frosting buckets that they have at bakeries (they are big and have lids) and best of all–they are free! The lids also help to keep the fruit flies away. We empty ours every few days and it’s large enough to fit a ton of stuff-especially watermelon rinds. Hope it helps!
I compost all kitchen and yard waste, all year round. (I live in Chicago burbs). I use an old flour canister inside the house. I use an old wooden spoon to mash the eggshells and everything else. It is great stress relief, makes more room in the canister, and breaks up the pieces so they decompose better. I like the idea of adding minerals from eggshells to my garden. My farmers fed the chickens well. I get to recycle it :D. I have composted for > 10 years. For me, eggshells don’t break down that well. It’s fun to pound them.
When the kitchen bucket is full, it gets dumped into the compost bin way in the back of the yard. I cover that with dry leaves. I made a big, round bin out of chicken wire. Every fall we save the leaves from our enormous maple. Compost is successful with layers of green and brown material. The ratio is supposed to be 2/3 brown and 1/3 green. I never have enough brown. (and they come at different times in the season) Covering the fresh kitchen waste with leaves or soil cuts down on the smell. Compost is supposed to heat up but mine never has. I am careful not to put seeds in my compost because they might sprout after I dump the finished compost in the garden. If my compost were to heat up, the seed issue wouldn’t be a problem. I could work on it more, but I have better things to do. There are 3 black compost bins in my yard. My county sells them for about $60. When one gets full, I move to the other. Because it doesn’t get turned often, it takes > 1 year to break down enough to use in the garden.
In winter I don’t like to trudge out there when the kitchen bucket gets full. I keep 5-gallon buckets on the back deck for the kitchen waste. It freezes and gets snowed on. I wait until a thaw in the middle of winter. Then I either use a wheelbarrow or I carry the buckets back to the bins and dump them out.
One of my friends runs the local community garden. She is very creative when it comes to sustainability. She says we can shred all kinds of paper and put it in the compost instead of putting it in our garbage. When she mulches landscaping, instead of weed fabric, she uses newspaper under the wood chips.
I keep my kitchen scraps in a stainless steel flour cannister. I keep the lid on as it builds heat & begins to break down. It gets emptied every few days (into a composter) or when full.
I have a stainless steel compost bucket with lid and carbon filter that my husband found at the thrift store for a couple dollars. We fill it up in a couple days and then add to the compost.
So hat do you do with the contents of your bowl? Do you just dump it directly on your garden, or do you have another compost thingy outside that you have to put it in first? I am so new to this!
Ziploc baggie in the fridge. I don’t ever throw it out, just add to it and dump it out. It’s easy to grab from the fridge when I’m making a meal, and I stand it up so it doesn’t leak (if I don’t close it right.) No flies, no odor, no mess on my counter.
Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama says
I haven’t done it this year (I’m only keeping eggshells…most of my other scraps can go in my stock, lol), but I kept mine in a big, cheap plastic bowl on my counter. Ideally we’d have taken it out daily; usually it was once or twice a week. This was not so good (for us) because it meant the fruit flies definitely got to it and were quite annoying. We’ve kept them at bay this year partially because we don’t do that. Instead I keep my cartons of egg shells, closed, in one area and we take out 4 – 5 dozen at once (about once a week). Those don’t get the fruit flies, and then we can take our cartons back to our farmer.
I have a covered pottery bean pot from a thrift store sitting out on my counter.
My grandpa always had a trash can in the kitchen for compost. Sometimes there was an odor because it was so large. We have a small compost basket under the sink lined with a Bio Bag. We empty it outside maybe once a week and there’s never odor or bugs.
Barb @ A Life in Balance says
I have a plastic storage container with a lid that we keep on the counter. We always have a lot of scraps going into it, and right now with the tomatoes ready for harvest, there’s a LOT going into it.
I do keep the lid on because of the fruit flies. I just read that a saucer of apple cider vinegar with a little soap will kill the flies.
So glad that the broccoli came back! Fresh broccoli is so good!
Vintage ice bucket w/ lid from the thrift store. 🙂
I just use an old bucket. I like one with a cover–if you can get an ice cream bucket (presumably from someone else, as they always seem to have the worst quality ice cream inside), those are about ideal. I keep mine under the kitchen sink, and empty when it gets full–every couple or 3 days, usually.
I like to keep a lid on compost and keep it in frig to keep mold and odors down.
I just keep an old mop bucket under my sink, and I toss all compostables under there. I take it out to the compost tumbler every other day, generally. I have never noticed a smell or had any bugs.
personally i keep my scraps in this:
it’s pretty and it has a carbon filter for smells!
did i mention it’s dishwasher safe?
it works pretty well for me, though i’m only composting for one person so it takes more to fill then a family would….but you get the idea i suppose.
also, i’ve been known to have left it for long enough for things to mold inside it but because the flies are kept out and the smells in its really an ok amount of time since it is a small container.
i don’t think leaving it open would be harmful but i imagine all kinds of fly larvae happening in there and i don’t know about you but that grosses me out in a kitchen. and the smell would be rancid. so a day or two of good scraps in that little pail will fill it up and then just take it out chuck it in the garden. spray it out with a garden hose if you want or just pop it into your dishwasher!