Question: How can I compost without a yard? I don’t have much space for a compost pile. What options should I consider? Can I add dead plants to the compost, or should I throw them out? I’m not really sure how to get started. -Tim H.
Answer: If you have a yard, a patio, or any kind of outdoor space, you can drill some holes in an old trash can and make your own outdoor composting bin and start turning your paper, lawn, and kitchen scraps into a nutrient-rich soil amendment that gardeners need every year. However, even if you don’t have any outdoor space to speak of which you can use for composting, you can still join in on the practice of home composting and start making your own money-saving compost while keeping your excess waste out of the landfills
Question: Can composting make you sick? What should I avoid adding to my compost bin? Can I put raw eggs in my compost? -Heidi R.
Answer: Though any serious health issues that could arise from composting can be avoided by practicing a handful of simple, common sense measures to minimize risks, there are sometimes fungal spores present in compost that can present health problems.
For young children, the elderly, pets, and those with compromised immune systems, the consequences of breathing in certain fungal spores can be a serious health risk, and can even lead to death. A widely-covered news story from 2008 reveals that a man in the UK died from complications resulting from breathing in Aspergillus fungal spores from a leaf mulch pile.
Every gardener knows that they ought to be making their own compost. Heck, even conscientious homeowners know they should be composting. The average American creates 1,600 pounds of waste every year and 65% of that is organic and could be composted rather than hauled off to a landfill.
Having plenty of rich compost on hand is also one of the very best things you can do for a garden. Plants that are somewhat sensitive like tomatoes absolutely love to start life in a big dollop of compost. Check out this guide to starting tomato plants for more tips on that front.
The thing that stopped me from composting for the longest time was just that it seems hard! Should I be using the hot method or the cold method? Do I have enough green versus brown material? Is it getting enough air? Enough water? What’s the carbon to nitrogen ratio?
This is all just stress you don’t need. Composting can be almost as easy as eating bon-bons while watching TV. Below I run through some of the world’s easiest methods for composting and give you a list of things you DON’T need to worry about.
Balancing ingredients – This is the whole green versus brown materials conundrum, but the thing to know is that balancing your materials is completely optional. This is important for commercial production but for your household needs, you can forget about it.
Hot or Cold – This also doesn’t matter much in terms of whether you get compost, it’s just a matter of how fast you get it. Hot composting is faster but takes quite a bit more effort and expertise.
To Turn or Not to Turn – Turning compost gets oxygen through the material but as long as it’s not too wet, compost will aerate itself as it shrinks down.
Size Doesn’t Matter – You hear a lot about how the compost pile needs to be 3 feet wide by 3 feet high, but that’s actually no guarantee that it will work better or faster. Your materials will rot regardless.
Whether the Compost is Done – This one might be a surprise, but if you check your pile and the compost isn’t really done yet, no big deal. You can plant in immature compost and cover it with soil. You can also put a layer of it down in the fall and cover it over for use the following spring.
Now that I’ve put your mind at ease, here are a couple super simple methods to get your home composting practice off the ground.
The Lawnmower Composting Method
I think this is the single easiest method of composting that exists. If executed properly, you do virtually nothing.
1) Have the neighborhood kid who mows your lawn put all the lawn clippings into a tall pile and have him add to that pile every time the lawn is cut. (If you’re mowing your own lawn, you need to work on your laziness.)
2) Water that pile just enough to moisten it all the way through with your hose. This concludes the work on your part.
3) Wait 12-18 months and then use the compost for gardening.
Below is an excellent video showing this method in action. You’ll notice that despite the name of the video he does quite a lot of work with a pitchfork, all of which can be avoided if you don’t need your compost quickly.
The Trash Can Composting Method
Have one of those old metal trash cans? If not, you can still probably find one at the dump and you will have one of the cheapest and finest composters a lazy gardener can own.
1) Punch some holes in the bottom of the can with a hammer and a large nail.
2) Set the can on 4 bricks to keep it off the ground.
3) Thrown in a few shovels full of garden soil, some kitchen scraps and some leaves or grass clippings (about 3 inches of each).
4) Keep putting in more of the compost materials as you have them, keeping the lid on the can.
5) Within about 3 months you’ll have perfect compost, all with no watering or turning.
Composting is one of the most environmentally friendly practices you can incorporate into your household. It’s also one of the key factors that can massively increase the productivity of your garden. Hopefully you’ve seen just how easy this can be…even lazy gardeners can do it!