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Composting Tips and Tricks

Category Composting
Woman using a composter
Having the right combination of waste materials, moisture and air can make for a faster compost pile. This guide is about composting tips and tricks.
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By 6 found this helpful
May 5, 2009

Do not throw out your tea bags with the trash. Save them in a dish and then empty them around your garden plants and shrubs. Makes a good substitute for peat and will add plant goodness and save you cash.

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By dunno from Cradley UK

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September 9, 2011

The benefits of composting are many, such as free vegetables, healthy flowers, and the joy of knowing you are removing garbage from landfills.

I started by attending a local "clean and beautiful" event in my hometown of Tucson, where I live in the winter, and bought 2 composters. One for my summer home in Pinetop, Arizona and one for Tucson. I have a friend in Colorado who made one in her back yard with chicken wire. Both will work, but we have lots of desert animals and black bear so we need to keep ours covered.

I used the handouts from the local event so I knew what to compost. I notified friends and neighbors as I knew the two of us couldn't generate enough to make much compost. I was amazed how fast it will accumulate from neighbors coming by on their walks, the coffee grounds from our weekly community breakfast at our summer home, items at home like dryer lint, fruit and vegetable scraps, of course, and trimmings from the garden which add up.

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In the fall, we shred our pine needles and oak leaves then add what I don't use to cover the garden for the winter. Starbucks gives away coffee grounds and my husband is good about stopping on his trips around town to pick up bags for me. We also have a Sunflower Market which has weekly food scrap give-aways in their parking lot for gardeners to pick up.

What I didn't expect were the "free vegetables", which I will explain. In the early summer, after arriving at our summer home, I spread compost around my flowers for fertilizer. Several weeks later, a tomato plant surfaced by a rose bush. I watched it for awhile then decided to transplant it into my small container vegetable garden. By the end of summer, I had beautiful and delicious grape tomatoes. I dug the plant up in October and moved them to Tucson for the winter, and they flowered and produced fruit all winter. I then dug them up in May and brought them back to the mountain and, again, I have fruit and flowers this summer. An amazing plant which must have come from the tomatoes I bought at the supermarket over a year ago. They seem to be so hardy and I would love to be able to identify the variety. I hope you will try this and enjoy as I have.

By Sandra from Tucson, AZ

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July 1, 2012

I garden on what some people consider to be a large scale (to me it isn't). I also compost, I have been doing it for over 40 years. What gets me are the people who make comments such as "I wish I had room to compost" or "I don't have enough to compost", or "I don't know how to compost" and the killer is "I don't have the money to compost".

Composting is simple, easy, takes "no" money and little brains. Do you have a large container with a hole or leak in it, such as a trash barrel, tote, or hamper? If so, use it. If not, composting can be done in a pallet, small fenced area, or simply a pile. It will break down faster if you place it in a sunny location. Your container can not be water tight, as that will hold rain water and attract mosquitoes and your items will not compost properly. I use a animal stock tank (water tank) that has a hole in it.

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Into your compost area, you will put any grass clippings and yard waste, and vegetative kitchen waste, such as egg shells, potato peelings, pot contents from the houseplant that died, the insides from your Halloween pumpkin, that tomato that went bad in the refrigerator, or old salad that never got eaten. Do not use meats, they do compost well, but they smell and attract raccoons, cats, and dogs; so you want to avoid that. Also, do "not" add contents of the cat litter box.

Every time you add something or at least weekly, stir your compost pile with a shovel or pitchfork. If it is dry, water it. Over time, the combination of the sun, heat, and water will break down your pile contents into nice rich compost. When needed, remove it from the pile and use. You may want to start a 2nd pile if the first pile is ready, or you may elect to turn your first pile into a place to plant.

No fancy additives are needed, no fancy equipment or containers. It is very simple, just takes time.

You can also compost over the winter months, but if your area freezes, it will be a slower process.

By April from NW, MO

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May 19, 20103 found this helpful

To enrich my compost, I save my peels as I'm cooking. I blend them till smooth and I stir them into the dirt of my compost pile. It reduces garbage and enriches my compost pile. Also, blending it reduces the chance that animals will smell it since it's totally blended when I put it in and I mix it with dirt.

By Ema from Brooklyn, NY

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By 2 found this helpful
April 5, 2017

Once in a while, we forget to eat a certain fruit or the fruit becomes moldy. Instead of tossing the fruit in the trash, you could cut the fruit into pieces and feed to your fruit trees. The bees will suck the natural sugars from the fruit giving them energy to go about pollinating your trees and helping to set fruit. This will result in your fruit trees being healthy, strong, and bountiful. You do not necessarily have to use moldy fruit; the core of apples, pineapples, and any fruit waste works just as great. Do not let your moldy fruit or fruit cores go to waste!

Below is a moldy grapefruit. In the last photo, you can see a pineapple core that has been left out for a week now.

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By 2 found this helpful
November 9, 2010

Every fall, we see people working very hard with leaves, putting them in paper bags for city collection. Anyone who has even a modest back yard can use an easier method. You may already have a compost heap where you put your garden clippings, etc.

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By 2 found this helpful
April 1, 2011

Many garden tools are designed to make the job faster and easier, but an alternative usually exists that can accomplish the same task for a lot less money. Here's a rundown of six handy composting tools - what they do, why they are helpful, and the cost-saving alternatives.

Picture of a woman using a composter.

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By 3 found this helpful
October 5, 2015

I have a bucket in my kitchen next to the trash can, I call it my slop bucket. In it we rinse out food containers and cans, put in leftovers we don't end up eating, rinds, peels, sweeping the floor it goes in, vacuum bag, and hair cuttings. This bucket is dumped in the garden and flower beds all year around.

roses

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By 1 found this helpful
September 24, 2013

I put eggshells in a tray at the bottom of the oven. They get baked and brittle every time you use the oven. Just keep adding to the tray until it is full.

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June 4, 20051 found this helpful

Composting is a great way to get amazing soil for your garden and keep some trash out of the landfill.

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July 27, 2015

Composting makes great fertilizer for my garden and reduces waste. I have tried a number of ways to avoid walking to compost pile every time I have compostable kitchen waste, veggies, fruit, paper napkins, plates, etc. Everything I tried, even fancy counter compost containers, left me with fruit flies.

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November 9, 20041 found this helpful

For a quick compost container, an old garbage can with the bottom cut out will do the trick. Just toss in fruit peels, vegetable scraps and the like, and pop on the lid.

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By 0 found this helpful
September 25, 2007

A good way to enrich your garden soil and help out the earth is to bury your "wet" garbage. I bury my apple, orange, potato peels, etc. in my garden. We can't have a compost heap, but I've found this works just as well.

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January 17, 2008

Since dryer lint is mostly organic material, it is great for the compost pile.

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October 18, 20070 found this helpful

Looking for advice on starting a compost? Here are some tips from the ThriftyFun community. Most people avoid meat and meat by-products because of the smell and the tendencies to attract flies which do nothing to help the compost process.

What Not to Put In Compost Pile

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By 1 found this helpful
June 4, 2013

Add flat cola to your compost pile. It seems to "richen" up the compost. I read this on some gardening site.

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By 0 found this helpful
September 8, 2008

Do not throw away your daily coffee grounds or tea from tea bags. Mulch or compost them.

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By 0 found this helpful
October 14, 2013

I use plastic 4 gallon buckets with lids to store my compost in by my back door. When they are full, I take them to the compost pile and dump them.

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October 31, 20010 found this helpful

Raked-up leaves make great compost and are good to dig into your garden now to enrich the soil for next year's crops.

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 0 found this helpful
March 19, 2010

I see many references at various compost related info sites, where I often see, "no meat or animal products", but rarely an explanation as to why. Finally saw one response in your site, "because it gets smelly".

Is that the only reason? I thought maybe it might have something to do with such products (meat and meat products) cultivating an undesirable bacteria or something like that. Can anyone enlighten me on this?

By Victor from San Francisco, CA

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March 19, 20100 found this helpful

Such products also draw unwanted critters to paw through your compost pile, such as skunks, opossums, and rats.

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March 19, 20100 found this helpful

Seconding what 'readingiggits' said. Vermin!

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March 19, 20100 found this helpful

The meat also contaminates the soil with e-coli germs and other really bad bacterias. This gets into your vegetables or fruit and makes you very sick. Just stick to vegan scraps and a little bit of lawnmower cuttings and you will have a good compost pile.

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March 19, 20100 found this helpful

Rats! Trust me, you do not want an infestation of rats! So no meat or meat byproducts.

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March 19, 20100 found this helpful

I don't put any meat products in my compost AT ALL and still have a very fat mouse living there! I guess he/she likes lettuce and carrots!

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March 26, 20100 found this helpful

What I learned was that in order to compost meat you need a compost pile to reach really high heats. Since a home compost pile usually can't reach the high heats of commercial pile can, it is not safe to compost meat.

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March 26, 20100 found this helpful

The only reason I know of is Parasites and e-coli. And trust me, you don't want them!

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March 26, 20100 found this helpful

It's because it attracts animals, not because it foments especially bad bacteria. We always composted all household garbage except poultry by the "sheet method". Rotating the spot every year, we'd simply spread the garbage over the ground and leave it. Next spring, we'd till it under. We would use any poultry carcasses to feed the crabs in the salt-water creek nearby, ensuring a good harvest of those as well.

We were out in the country with plenty of dogs around so the wild animals didn't bother the composting area, but the dogs sure liked a good roll. After which, someone would be detailed to take the dogs onto the dock and throw them overboard. Wait for them to swim ashore, catch and repeat a few times, LOL. Got the dogs clean, but scared the crabs away for a day or so each time. Using this composting method, our gardens (on a site which had been used for gardening since the 1600's) have always been amazingly fertile, not needing much amendment except lime, occasionally.

On the other hand, now that I live in a town with neighbors close by, I compost in a bin and discard all animal products in the trash.

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By 0 found this helpful
February 21, 2011

I compost my kitchen scraps, grass cutting, and leaves in pots. I don't have room for composting bins or a space in the ground. It works fine, I have tons of worms and the kitchen scraps are devoured very quickly. I was attending a gardening class at one of our local nurseries and we got on the subject of using compost. The person leading the class said not to use compost in pots, as it is too high in nitrogen and will burn the plants.

I generally mix the compost with soil and have had good luck with growing my vegetables in pots, but wondered if I should be concerned? I am trying to not have to buy potting soil and was hoping that by mixing the compost with my regular dirt I could create a healthy soil for my container plants. Am I causing more damage to the plants and good? Please help.

Hardiness Zone: 10b

By Janice from CA

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February 22, 20110 found this helpful

The below link is a similar idea to yours, but they use a small portion of ground to bury in the compost bin:

http://www.peop  ncone/index.html

Burying a portion of it in the ground would be best. But if you plan to keep it in pots I would make sure your compost is getting plenty of oxygen by drilling small holes in the pot. Also moving the stuff around in the pot every couple of weeks would be good too. Add some moisture every now and then (but not too much moisture or it will start to decompose into a moldy mess which is not what you want. Mold can be very harmful to the respiratory system, you should use a dust mask when mixing compost anyway). Make sure your bin has a lid to keep the mold and other pathogens from entering your home! Keeping it outside or possibly in the garage would be best.

You may want to introduce some beneficial microbes like BOKASHI into your compost bin as well:

http://www.squidoo.com/bokashi

http://www.gaia  +with+bokashi.do

Some of the best things to put in your soil besides composted fruits and veggies is composted animal byproducts like fish emulsion, bonemeal, composted chicken crap etc. You would not want this in your compost bin but these things are very beneficial, probably more beneficial than composted veggie scraps from your kitchen.

Also, you will want some trace minerals in there. Azomite Powder and or Limestone Powder adds organic trace minerals to soil.

Hopefully all of this will insure a very large reward in your near future! Good luck!

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March 1, 20110 found this helpful

I was wondering what type of pots you are using. I don't have a lot of space either and would like to do some composting. I saw where those plastic storage tubs could be used for that. I do have room to use the tub. Where did you get your worms?

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March 2, 20110 found this helpful

I just have some large plastic flower pots that I've purchased at Home Depot. In fact they are the same large pots that I put my tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers in (I have a couple extra). I just started by putting in a little bit of soil in the bottom, then the kitchen scraps, a few dry leaves (when I have them) and some grass cutting that I saved in a trash bag from the summer. Each week I just add my kitchen scraps, a little more dirt, and if I have dry leaves or grass cuttings I'll add them. I mix it all up with a small trowel and cover the pot with a black trash bag. When I first stated I noticed after a couple of weeks a few red worms (they probably got in the pot either through the drain holes in the bottom or from the grass cuttings I had stored).

I never bought any worms at all they just appeared. And now whenever I turn the soil there are tons of big fat red worms. We have always had worms in our soil (big night crawlers in our grass) so I guess we live in an area where worms are very abundant. On a side note, the reason I cover the pots is to keep it dark, I read that worms like it dark. And during the warmer summer months at least once or twice a week, I add some water (not a lot) to the pots to keep it moist. During the winter the kitchen scraps have enough moisture.

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By 0 found this helpful
June 1, 2016

I am very new at gardening. I am growing tomatoes, papaya, corn, peas, peppers, etc. I have started collecting all the the peelings from my fruits and vegetables in jars. How long do I have to wait to mix it into my soil to add to my potted plants?

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February 28, 20170 found this helpful

You probably want one big container v. many little ones. YOu also have to put a certain layer of dried plant matter/dirt interspersed with the fruit peels,etc. YOu also want to cut the peels as small as possible and avoid puting in citrus peels and any sort of animal waste - except egg shells are good.

it takes weeks or months under the right conditions for a compost to work.

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March 1, 20170 found this helpful

It takes a few months of hot weather to decompose. You will know when it's ready when it looks like thick black mud.

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By 0 found this helpful
September 9, 2012

I really should have asked the question before now, but this is the question or problem. I started to make compost for my organic garden, I used carrot shavings, potato peels, apple cores, banana peels, and whatever veggie scraps I had at the time. I threw in some dirt and a little water and made sure I stirred it up.

Now here is the problem, its been raining and more water got inside the little bucket of compost. The mixture has turned into mud and with the extra water it smells bad almost like someone took a dunk in it, but I thinks its the potato peels that stink. I still see part of the apple core, it's black.

My question is: Can I still use the bucket of mud as compost. Should I drain the water out of it. Or should I put more dirt in it, or just dump it in the garden. What should I do?

By Angie

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September 10, 20120 found this helpful

What you really need are some leaves or grass clippings. From what you listed, you have lots of greens but not a lot of browns. You want a ratio of 2 to 1 or at least 1 to 1, browns to greens. So at least the same amount of browns (grass clipping, leaves and other yard waste) as greens (kitchen scraps). To get rid of the muck, you can drain the water and add some dry dirt, then try to find some good yard waste to complete the recipe.

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September 22, 20120 found this helpful

Drill holes in your composting bucket to let air in and excess water out.

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By 0 found this helpful
March 9, 2010

How can you get a very large pile of grass and horse manure to break down quickly?

Hardiness Zone: 4b

By Margaret from Omaha, NE

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March 9, 20100 found this helpful

Keep it wet, for more info go to-how to compost, good luck.

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March 15, 20100 found this helpful

Turn it several time a week and keep it moist but not dripping.

It takes oxygen as well as water to get the compost bacteria multiplying quickly. You'll know it is finished when it no longer is as hot when you turn it.

If your grass clippings were green and not dry, this pile is going to be very high in nitrogen sources and lacking in carbon sources. Do you have any fallen leaves, shredded newspaper, wood chips, or other low-nitrogen waste you can add to it? High nitrogen piles tend to be more smelly, if I remember correctly.

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November 5, 2011

How do I compost eggshells properly so I don't add any disease to my soil? I am new to composting. I do not have organic eggshells to compost. I've read about so many eggs having disease.

If I hardboiled eggs, then I put the eggshells in the compost because the eggshells have been boiled. However, many times I use eggs out of the shells, so I have been washing the eggshells in the dishwater and rinsing them clean after I am done doing the dishes.

What is the appropriate way to handle eggshells for compost use?

By Carol L. from South Bend, IN

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November 8, 20110 found this helpful

I just rinse them out and then crush the shells into small bits before adding them to the compost heap. Crushing them speeds the decomposition.

I hadn't thought of the disease factor, though. No-one has ever got sick from eating anything I've used compost on but we never use anything raw from the garden either. I think if you wash salad veg, and cook other veg thoroughly, anything grown in the compost you should be OK.

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September 9, 20140 found this helpful

Are the balls good to put in my compost pile?

By Bill

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August 8, 20110 found this helpful

Is it OK to have a composting box next to a vegetable garden? I'm having problems with insects eating my spinach and chard. I'm thinking that they are coming from the composting box.

By Ian

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June 3, 2016

I'm reminded of a joke Redd Foxx told. He said two maids were discussing their employers' garbage. One said, 'You wouldn't believe the good stuff they throw away'. The other said, 'Yes, I would. I bring home all my boss's grape skins. I don't put 'em in their garbage'.

Spent Pansies on mulch pile

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