Monday, March 30, 2009

More on Naturally Enhancing Your Compost

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko
Free Coffee Grounds
for your Compost are a
Good Excuse to Get a Latte!

I know I've shared with you some of the strange things I put into my compost. Geeky as it may seem, I find it rather fascinating that I can toss odd things like receipts, straw wrappers, and dryer lint. The thing is, good compost needs a balance of green (live stuff) and brown (dead, like paper) stuff to maintain its balance. This keeps it smelling like a rain forest.

So, what am I getting at here? I suppose I am just trying to let you know that you'll need more brown matter than the small items I listed above. We all have it everywhere around our home, so you shouldn't have a problem finding enough. If your newspaper is printed with Soy ink, its safe to include in your compost. Same with catalogs, junk mail and the inside of magazines.

If you're eager to have good, rich compost ASAP, run the sheets through your paper shredder. The smaller the paper, the quicker the compost. If you don't have a shredder, you should. Did you see the movie Catch Me If You Can? Leo DiCaprio played a real life character named Frank Abagnale, a con artist and identity thief. Abagnale wrote a book, THE ART OF THE STEAL, and now works for the government as a consultant. One of his recommendations is that you shred anything and everything that you discard, if it contains a bar code or account number, name and address, or other personal information. Nowadays, that's just about all of your junk mail. That's why I compost mine.

If you haven't read this book, you probably should add it to your list. Like me, you will likely learn a lot of things that you are doing, that can set you up for identity theft, like throwing out those pre-approved credit card applications. Did you know that someone else can change the address on that form and get a credit card, using your name? Then they'll have a shopping spree and screw up your credit. It's a scary world out there, but Abagnale's book goes a long way to helping you avoid scams like this. I highly recommend you read it.

Besides the book being helpful in saving your credit, it is entertaining as well. Maybe not as entertaining as the movie, but some of the things this guy got away with are truly amazing. He just figured out how to get around the things that were checked.

I guess I got a little off track there, but it was my intention to let you know about identity theft and credit card fraud. I've been hit 3 times myself, and it is a lot of trouble to straighten out the mess. Better to avoid it, if possible.

Now back to business. To enhance the nitrogen in your compost, save your coffee grounds. Starbucks gives them away in big bags for gardening. They're great for compost and are a wonderful addition at those times when you discover that your compost doesn't exactly smell like a rain forest. If you open your compost pile and get smacked with a garbage dump smell, my advice is to add coffee grounds and lots of paper products. Stir and recover.

The coffee grounds will camouflage the odor, while the paper will give the microorganisms what they need to balance the smell through their digestion. The smaller the paper the better, so make use of that shredder whenever you can.

One final thought. Lots of people who are really into composting have a ceramic or aluminum compost container for their kitchen. They use it to hold scraps of food until it is full and then dump the contents in the compost pile or bin. This is great, as long as you remember to balance it with brown matter.

If you're striving to keep the toxins out of your soil and your compost, leave out anything with preservatives or food coloring. You could even go so far as to eliminate items that are not organic. It's up to you.

One way to do this, that will save you money and reuse items you already have, is to use paper bags or paperboard boxes (cereal, gift boxes, cookie boxes, etc.). Paper bags are fine for items that aren't too wet, but if you're peeling a bag of carrots, use a box. Large brown envelopes and anything made out of "poster board" type paper is also acceptable if it isn't buried in tape or stickers, or heavily varnished (shiny coating). Watch everything you are about to discard, and you'll find yourself storing a lot for reuse as compost containers. There you go again--reusing instead of sending it to the dump. Good job!

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