Friday, October 17, 2008

What Do I Do with Large Quantities of Material to Compost?

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

Good question. This scenario can play out in so many ways:
  1. You've just pulled out an entire row of dying shrubs.

  2. You had 2 weeks worth of company over the holidays and the leftovers are overwhelming.

  3. You suddenly had to urge to weed, and the next thing you knew it was evening and you have piles all over the yard.

  4. Your husband finally gave you permission to clean out his old clothing, much of which is in no condition to donate.

  5. You went on a shredding binge with your new paper shredder. (Wasn't that liberating to destroy all those pre-approved credit card forms?)

  6. You gave your English Sheepdog his summer crew cut.

  7. Yard clean up day turned out to be more of a demolition.

  8. Your annual crop of Fall leaves is enough to fill a dump truck.

I think you get the idea. In little over a month of my composting program, I've already experienced 3 of the above possibilities, with more looming in the near future. Determined, not to succumb to the ease of sending bags to the landfill, I've sought out how to cope with these situations and have quickly located three feasible options that will suffice until others come along.

  • First, for yard debris, your cheapest and greenest option is the wheelbarrow and some healthy physical exercise. Toting the wheelbarrow around the yard to the compost pile or bin a few times, probably won't be as taxing as the actual yard work was to begin with. If you are too pooped, there is always tomorrow.

  • For scenarios 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 (all but scenario #2) the Home Depot bags (made by Vigoro) pictured above are perfect, and economical. A package of 10 cost me less than $2, and they hold a whopping 30 gallons. They have a boxed bottom, so they stand up on their own, and when the bag is full, just place it in your compost pile or bin. The double layered heavy brown paper will compost right along with your other materials.

  • For scenario 2 above, I might consider using the BioBag Tall Kitchen garbage bags (13 gallon capacity), also featured in my recent post, Composting 101: Part I of V. These bags are made of recycled materials and natural fibers and feel like plastic, yet they are biodegradable and compostable. Although the Vigoro bags from Home Depot indicate they can handle some moisture, company and food could equate to dumped drinks and melted jello salad. I'd go for the more plastic-like bags on these occasions, personally, while opting for the Home Depot bags for larger, less wet loads. When I clean out my rabbit's crate, I am able to put all of his litter (pine shavings) and droppings (vegetarian) into the paper composting bag. The new, compostable wheat and corn cat litters would be good for this also, keeping in mind that you should scoop out the cat's poop and dispose of it separately.

So there you have it. All your problems are solved, right? Ha ha. I can think of another. Last night I had a raccoon raid one of my compost piles. He wasn't able to get in through my fencing, so he appears to have been a creative thief. There are broken branches in the bushes alongside the pile, so I suspect the wiley critter climbed the bush and jumped in. He had a bit of a feast from the top of the pile and then had to figure out how to get out. I'm not sure what his method of accomplishing this was. Wish I could have filmed it! Anyway, no harm done and I rather suspect he won't want to go through all that trouble often. I'll keep you posted on the Raccoon watch.

As my composting experience continues, I will occasionally be passing along new tidbits. In the meantime, if you're interested in checking the earlier posts in this series on composting, here they are:

Composting 101: Part I -- Composting: What Is It and Why Do It?

Composting 101: Part III-- Healthy Choices for Your Compost Pile

You can help by sending me your own discoveries. I'd love to hear from you on any green or organic topic. Feel free to share, and I will pass along the best of your tips to my readers. I've started a list of household things that can be composted, and have surprised myself at its length. Perhaps it will turn into a Composting Dictionary or some such thing for my blog. Any ideas on a title for this topic?
In the next couple of weeks my posts will turn toward a variety of topics including recycling, Earth 911, getting off the disposable water bottle habit, Halloween tips revisited, and some ideas on how to limit your kids' consumption of that big bag of loot they bring home on Halloween.

After Halloween comes the holiday season and I'll be cooking and shopping and talking about ways to save money on all of this. Join me for a few ideas, and PLEASE submit some of yours at the COMMENT link below each post. I'd love to hear from you.

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