squirrelhaven: green fern fronds on dark background (fronds)
[personal profile] squirrelhaven
I feel embarrassingly clueless asking this, but:

The farm we've joined will happily accept our food waste for their compost. As we aren't serious enough gardeners to have much use for compost ourselves (plus we have a dog who's a little too interested in eating anything that resembles food, even when it's decomposed), this seems like a great plan. But we know almost nothing about composting, other than that it's a good thing and cuts down on the garbage we're ultimately sending to a landfill. And all the sites I can find online that promise to help us get started are filled with technical information we don't really need at this point.

My questions are: what types of food waste can be composted, and what can't? What's the best way to store said waste during the week between farm visits without having it stink up the kitchen? Is there anything else we should be doing with this food waste, besides setting it aside in some safe way and then bringing it to the farm each week?

Many thanks.

Date: 2008-07-31 04:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heinleinfan.livejournal.com
David and I do composting and our understanding is: no meat, no dairy, no predator waste. (And by predators, that means any animal that would normally eat meat but doesn't for whatever reason.)

*Everything* else is fair game. Eggshells and coffee grinds are especially good for compost.

And, if we have, say, some sort of meat and gravy dish over rice, and say I have a tiny bit of rice I couldn't finish that has a tiny bit of the gravy left on it, we'll dump that in. Or...maybe half a slice of bread and butter, basically we don't get all militant about small amounts of the meat/dairy, though your farm share may be more strict on that, simply because "small amounts" can mean different things to different people.

My recommendation for storage would be to find a bucket that you think would be the right size for how much food waste you all produce, and make sure it has a pretty air-tight lid.

David and I use a not-at-all-airtight plastic shoe box thing and it does get a bit...fuzzy if we delay emptying it, but it does not stink, really. It's kept on a shelf under our microwave, and not in a cabinet, and we've not had any problem with stink, flies, ants or anything like that, and we're *so* not very diligent about it. So an airtight bucket, especially if it were in a relatively cool and dark place should have no problems at all, I'd think.


OH, and edited to add: the smaller stuff is in a compost pile, the easier and quicker it turns into dirt. So if you were so inclined to shred larger things up some before putting them in the bucket, I'm sure they wouldn't mind that a bit, especially citris fruit peels. I swear, orange and lemon peels take *forever* to break down.

Date: 2008-08-03 05:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] squirrelhaven.livejournal.com
Thanks -- this is helpful!

Date: 2008-07-31 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] melissam805.livejournal.com
BIL using sister's account, it's just easier that way. I've been thinking about getting these:

http://www.leevalley.com/garden/page.aspx?c=2&p=10025&cat=2,33140

These look interesting, especially for transport to your farm:

http://www.leevalley.com/garden/page.aspx?c=2&p=53281&cat=2,33140

Lee Valley also has lots of other composting stuff, including books! I agree with the above comments about meat, etc. Coffee grounds are the best, banana peels, egg shells, dead flowers, basically all organic matter that didn't used to breath.

Date: 2008-07-31 09:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heinleinfan.livejournal.com
Oh, wow...I have compost pail envy now.

Date: 2008-08-03 05:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] squirrelhaven.livejournal.com
I'm slightly embarrassed to say it took me a minute to decode "BIL." But I've got it now. Hi, Steve.

And thanks -- we've realized we had a big ceramic canister we weren't using, presumably designed for holding flour or sugar or whatever, that fits the bill nicely.

Date: 2008-07-31 05:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sylvantechie.livejournal.com
Things not to put in your compost: meats, dairy, oil, salt.
Things too put in your compost: pretty much every other food thing.

Things in contact with meat (unbleached paper towels, compostable paper plates, butcher paper, etc) are technically OK, but probably best avoided for smell and animal attracting reasons.

The two keys to avoiding stink are enough dry, high-carbon material (straw, unbleached paper towels, sawdust, dry leaves, etc. - pretty much any dry, vaguely woody stuff and enough air circulation. For the former, keep a supply of dry stuff to add to your container whenever you add food stuff. For the latter, use a decent sized container and avoid having standing liquid in the bottom (either by not adding liquid or by adding enough dry stuff to soak it up).

Having composted for a while now I'd recommend something like this:
1. a small (1-2 quart) open top container, kept in the kitchen and emptied daily or whenever it gets full.
2. a larger (5-10 gallon bucket) loosely lidded container, into which the small container is emptied. Keep this somewhere out of the way, but not so far that getting to it is at all inconvenient (in a cabinet, down the stairs, something like that).
3. a larger (5-10 gallon bucket) holding dry, high-C material (probably straw or dried leaves. DRY, brown grass clippings could also work - if they look green they're not appropriate for this use). Each time the small compost container is emptied into the larger one add that much and half again of this dry stuff. This stuff provides carbon, soaks up moisture, and ideally is fluffy enough to let air circulate.

I'd be happy to talk more about his at some point, probably at greater length than is reasonable :)

Date: 2008-07-31 09:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heinleinfan.livejournal.com
Heh...reading this, I'm considering my pile...which is pretty much just a big pile of stuff in the yard to which we add our little kitchen bucket full of stuff every couple of weeks...that whole balancing green and brown and fluffy stuff...yeah, we don't so much do that.

LOL

We could probably have better compost, and certainly have stuff into dirt quicker than we do now...but we're so not that motivated.

Date: 2008-08-01 01:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sylvantechie.livejournal.com
Yeah, we don't worry too much about balance per se, but we try to have lots of brown stuff to keep any smell down. Extra brown stuff slows down the to-soil time a bit, but doesn't otherwise cause us any problems.

Date: 2008-08-03 05:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] squirrelhaven.livejournal.com
This is awesome, thank you. Somehow I had a feeling you'd be a good source of information here. :-)

Date: 2008-07-31 06:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] allzugern.livejournal.com
composting is mandatory where I live, so I'm very familiar with it. You should probably check with the farm where you will bring your compost as to what 'rules' they have. I see people saying no dairy or meat, but here everything that is biodegradable goes in (all left over food stuffs including meat, eggs and eggshells, coffee grinds, etc) as well as plant cuttings. Smaller composting sites here don't want things that take longer to decompose ie. orange skins/lemon skins, bones, and larger plant stuffs like chopped branches). As far as keeping it in your house/kitchen I have special composting bags, but you can use any container with a lid. Beware that in warm weather it will quickly mold and you will get maggots. Lovely, eh?

Date: 2008-07-31 09:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heinleinfan.livejournal.com
Maggots would likely only show up in foodstuffs that had actual meat, I've never had any maggots in just my veggies.

Date: 2008-08-03 05:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] squirrelhaven.livejournal.com
Composting is mandatory? Really? Is that a municipal regulation, or specific to the building, or what?

Date: 2008-08-03 05:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] allzugern.livejournal.com
Specific to Germany. Little country, no place for landfills. Everything here is recycled. I have containers in the kitchen for compost, glass (brown, green, clear), plastics, paper, metal, electronic and Styrofoam. Paper, compost and rest garbage gets picked up (twice a month) and the rest you have to bring away yourself. Dude, we even have garbage police. They fine you if you aren't separating your garbage correctly :-/

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