Seattle Tilth, tucked away in the Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, is an urban garden and non-profit educational resource center devoted to organic gardening and farming. I recently spent a sunny afternoon with Lisa Taylor, master gardener and compost evangelist.
The bottom line, according to Lisa, is that “composting reduces the amount of waste that leaves your property.” 30 to 40% of what we discard is organic matter that could easily be converted into a great resource for gardeners. “There is no need to throw away your organic material and then buy fertilizer. It is simpler and more cost effective to compost it yourself. Besides, you get to experience the cycle of how organic matter is converted to life again in the form of vegetables and flowers.”
Lisa reassures even the most wary that compost really does just happen! Follow these few simple suggestions and you can be assured of a successful, smell-free composting experience.
The basic ‘recipe’ for compost is half browns and half greens. “Greens are wet and juicy” and include grass clippings, green plant material (except evergreens) and food waste. “Browns are dry and crumbly” and include wood chips, dry leaves, dead plants, straw, sawdust, and even paper. Not enough browns? Just let your greens dry out.
To turn or not to turn, that is the question. Lisa explains that while “turning is not necessary, it will help your pile to compost faster.” For the easier, no-turn method, continuously add materials to your bin or pile throughout the spring, summer, and fall and harvest fresh compost from the bottom of the bin. You may choose to mix your browns and greens before you put them in the bin to speed the process.
A rule of thumb for the budding composter is that “compost should be wet like a wrung out sponge.” So reach in, grab a handful and squeeze. “The key is to make sure the entire pile is wet, not just the upper layers.”
And one final word about food scraps. Food scraps should not be composted in an open bin or pile, but in a bin that has only very small holes, a bottom and a secure fitting lid to keep out unwanted pests. An effective way of starting the composting process with food scraps is to use a kitchen compost bin with a charcoal filter to prevent odor. You can purchase one of these kitchen bins as part of our composting kit.
Don’t be put off by the odorous myth surrounding compost. Take Lisa’s advice, convert your organic material and realize that compost really is a gardener’s sweet smell of success!