The Joy of Composting

By: Niki Fritz

Spring is in the air and nothing says spring time to me like a good ole fashion heap of decaying vegetables, coffee grounds and leaves. Or at least that is what spring time means to me now after talking to Glenna about the beautiful process of recycling old food waste into fertilizer for gardening.

The fantastic homemade compost bin ala Glenna and Ben

The fantastic homemade compost bin ala Glenna and Ben

I had heard about composting before but never really seen it in action until Glenna invited me over to her perfectly charming house in Prospect Hill, where she and her partner Ben have not one but TWO compost bins.

“We lived in an apartment in Indy last year so we couldn’t compost,” Glenna explains. “When we moved here we had the perfect space for it. There was no excuse not to do it here.”

Their place is perfect for composting. At the back of their little two-bedroom bungalow, they have an old un-used garage, where they store leaves collected in fall. Behind the garage they store their two large compost bins, out of street view and away from interested dogs. Next to the garage there is a small gardening plot, which stands to benefit from the fertilizer they create.  A compost bin could not ask for a better home than at Ben and Glenna’s.

Ben dumping scraps of "green" into the compost bin

Ben dumping scraps of “green” into the compost bin

The whole process is easier than you might think.

“I assumed it was going to be stinky and that it would be a lot of work. I read a lot about it and it seemed intimidating. There were a lot of instructions and a whole list of things not to do,” Glenna says. “But really it is easier than you think. It seems daunting but you really can’t mess it up.”

Ben and Glenna took the simplest approach to composting. They bought a big round cheap plastic garbage can. Then they drilled a bunch of holes all around it. They put some old leaves in the new compost bin and then started adding their table scraps. The bin is raccoon-proofed with a simple bungee cord over the top. They propped it up on two concrete slabs to allow air flow through the bottom of the bin.

Ben "turning' the compost bin which basically means rolling it around on the ground.

Ben “turning’ the compost bin which basically means rolling it around on the ground.

The most “difficult” part of the whole process is turning the compost bin every few weeks or so. This basically entails Ben hoisting the bin off the concrete blocks and then rolling it around the yard a few times. This mixes up all the old leaves and food and encourages the particles to break down.

Besides being really hippy-chic and giving them free fertilizer, Glenna and Ben point out it is extra good for the environment.

“The foods that get thrown into landfills make methane gas which is really bad for the environment. If you compost, it’s not as bad because all the methane gas is not contained within the plastic-lined sealed landfill. You get to put waste back to the earth instead of just letting it sit in a landfill,” Glenna explains. “Plus it reduces the CO2 released by garbage trucks because we are making less waste.”

“It has really reduced our waste that goes to the landfill,” Ben agrees. “And the garbage never really stinks that much because all the food is in the compost.”

If you are still on the fence about whether or not this composting thing is a good idea, Ben has these final words for you:

“Take the plunge and just do it,” Ben says. “Really, it’s not that hard.”

Five tips to start your composting adventure

Although it is relatively easy to start a compost, now that Ben and Glenna are the official resident experts, they do have a few tips to help you along the way.

The kitchen bin with notes on what you can and cannot put in the compost bin

The kitchen bin with notes on what you can and cannot put in the compost bin

  1. Remember the 3:1 ratio; three “brown items” (aka leaves, old newspapers, dryer lint, coffee grounds) to every one “green item” (aka vegetables scraps, fruit peels).
  2. Don’t put any meat, fats, dairy items or oils in your heap, even if they are vegetables that were fried in oil.
  3. Don’t put onions in your compost because they can make the heap stinky.
  4. Get a kitchen bin! It’s just a little bin that sits in your kitchen to collect scraps. Then when it is full, take the little bin and dump it into your big bin. It’s also helpful to put lists of what can and can’t go into the compost heap on your kitchen bin in case you forget.
  5. Use a cheap garbage can; no need to be fancy for composting people!
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