Composting: What They Don’t Tell You

Composting- What You Need To Know and What Others Won’t Tell You

When I was little I saw a special on television where a scientist dug into a section of a landfill from thirty years before and pulled out a pork chop that looked perfectly preserved. He explained that although the meat was biodegradable, the landfills are so packed down that the bacteria involved in breaking down the meat can’t get enough air to do their job. This means that the landfills are unnecessarily filled with biodegradable objects that should have been composted and bypassed the landfill completely but are instead being preserved forever. After seeing that special I was obsessed with the idea of composting, but circumstances did not allow me to have a bin until recently. Although I read everything I could get my hands on about the process, there are several things that I have learned that no one warned me about so I thought should share them with you.

The first thing I realized is that you need some sort of container. I tried just piling everything up in the corner of my yard but the pile never got big enough to heat up so I never got any useable compost this way. I now have two bins, a cheap plastic one that I bought at Home Depot that I use for my everyday additions and a second one made of four old pallets that I wired together on end to make a box in the corner of my yard. When my plastic container is full, I move the entire contents to the pallet bin to finish composting.

The second thing I learned is that the produce scraps attract mice. Everything I read said not to add meat to prevent attracting animals, but no one warned me that mice are still attracted to whatever food you put out. Every time I turn or water my compost, mice scatter across the top trying to escape. My chickens love this because they catch and eat the mice that run out of the bin but I am not too crazy about it since mice attract snakes. Earlier this spring I took my kitchen scraps out to my bin and was greeted by a very angry rattlesnake that was hunting mice. To prevent attracting unwanted visitors, use a material that mice cannot chew their way into, such as lining your bin with metal wire. Or try a compost tumbler which keeps everything high off the ground where the mice can’t gain access.

Finally, no one warned me about the fruit flies. Always bury your kitchen scraps or you will become infested with fruit flies. For awhile, every time I opened my bin I would be inundated with a swarm of them. I began attaching fly strips across the top of the opening to reduce their population and stopped being lazy about turning my compost and burying the food.

Having said all this, I don’t want to turn you away from composting. The process is actually very simple and one of the best things you can do for the environment. If you have any doubts, they will be erased the first time you use your compost. I was amazed at the results of my first batch. I added a one inch layer to the top of my vegetable garden, watered it, and left it alone for a week. When I went back to water again, all of my plants had doubled in size. So go out and get a bin and begin composting today. I am sure you will be very happy with the results and with knowing you are taking steps to help our environment.

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