Thursday, August 12, 2010

Frosty Compost

Ten Ingredient Project eating produces a lot of compost. The "packages" that whole foods come in--the skins, rinds, shells, peels and stems--bear little resemblance to the packages of your average processed food item. At least, I wouldn't dream of piling the latter in my backyard. But those beautiful biodegradable scraps belong close to surface of the soil where insects, microbes and oxygen work to decompose them into rich, fertile soil.

I don't have gardens at the moment, so my compost pile is just kind of hanging out. But even if you're not actively growing anything, composting fruit and vegetable scraps reduces landfill waste, and provides you with a store of good soil in case you do decide to use it.

In case you're wondering if compost makes a real difference in the success of a garden, check out these two kale plants I potted last spring. The one on the left is planted in pure compost, while the one on the right is planted in organic store-bought potting soil. The compost kale was actually the punier plant to start, too.

The most valuable composting trick I've learned comes from my old roommate Alex, who introduced me to the concept of frozen compost. Instead of keeping an open pot on the kitchen counter to attract flies and... interesting aromas, I keep a large plastic bowl in the freezer, and toss in scraps as I produce them. This technique staves off spoilage until the scraps make it into the yard.

At my house, it takes about 3-4 days to produce a heaping bowl's worth of compost, seen above. My dad pointed out recently that if you're eating the right kinds of foods, the compost pot fills up before the contents have time to fester (he's an old-fashioned kitchen counter composter). That's a good point, and maybe even a useful barometer of your eating habits. Do you compost? How long does it take to fill your pot?


  1. My husband and I currently have three large piles wrapped in fencing. That gives us plenty of time for the compost to mature before we run out of room. And we need it since we do compost a lot. One of the many nice things about being vegans is that everything we eat can be composted. And we do have a lot of compost, though most of it is just the normal scraps from prep and not food "waste" (compost isn't exactly waste, imho).

    We usually keep a bowl in the kitchen throughout the day for compost. Just whatever bowl we have that'll work, nothing fancy, usually a dirty bowl from the sink. Depending on what's in it and how busy we are, we might empty it while we're preparing the food or right after, or maybe wait until later. Some meals take several trips to the compost bin.

    We empty the bowl into an old plastic Fresh Step kitty litter box (the kind the litter came in) in our storage room. We empty that into a pile outside about once a week. It does get a bit stinky, but it's no problem while the lid is closed and we haven't had any problems with bugs.

    The freezer tip is neat, but we definitely don't have enough room for that in our freezer -- well, not after we stocked up on BOGO Gardein at Publix recently. (My husband was a big-time meat-eater before going vegan, so Gardein has been a real help to him.)

    I like what your dad said. I think it is a good indicator of what we're eating. This week I've been lazy and not wanting to go shopping, so I've been eating from the cabinets -- more canned or dry stuff and less fresh. I've also eaten out a couple times. The compost bin is definitely not filling up as quickly, which is almost good because the third pile is full and we need to spread out and restart at least one of the other two.

    I can feel a difference personally, though. I feel so bloated and lethargic :( Totally not cool, even if most of the stuff as technically been ten ingredients or less. But I'm planning to go shopping this weekend and then I'll be back to my normal diet of lots of fresh stuff. Soooo looking forward to it.

  2. Another good use for veggie scraps: broth! Keep a bowl or bag in your freezer, just as you suggest, and when it's full, boil it up with some water for broth. So much tastier and more nutritious than store-bought broth!

  3. Hey Terita, my Mom is trying to take the computer from me, so she can read this post on composting. Before I give it to her, I just wanted to tell you 'nice!'. My Mom composts and I will be soon when I don't have a landlord (smile)...!

  4. Hello, I've really enjoyed reading your blog since I discovered it last week. I thought my readers might like it, too, so I mentioned you in my weekly links round-up. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. So, do I need anything special to make a compost for my outdoor deck? Can I just put it all in an open bucket or do I need a special container?

  6. nice picture, do you mind if I used it in a presentation about a kitchen appliance that recycles waste (and referenced it to you)?

  7. Re: nice picture, do you mind if I used it in a presentation about a kitchen appliance that recycles waste (and referenced it to you)?

    you can answer me at info at urbanfarmsorganic dot com