Day 14 – DIY Composter

I got to use power tools for my 14th sustainable action. I made a very simple composter using objects I already had lying around the house.  It was pretty easy too.  All I had to do was drill holes around the top of a plastic bin. Apparently, the size of the holes doesn’t matter as long as there is enough air getting in for the organisms doing all of the work to be productive (small holes = more holes, bigger holes = less holes).  This was more fun than I had anticipated.  I chose a medium-sized bin.  I wanted something small enough that I could pick up and shake to mix rather than a bigger container that I might have to roll around the yard or mix with a pitchfork.

The tools:

  • a sturdy plastic bin or pail with a tight fitting lid
  • a drill with drill bits
  • a bungee cord to keep animals out
The tools

The tools.

the holes

The holes.

Add some brown matter and spray with water. There were still tonnes of dried leaves in the front yard from the fall (we have a giant maple that kept dumping leaves for what seemed like an eternity).

Brown matter - check!

Brown matter – check!

Next I added some green matter – most sources I checked recommended about 2/3 brown matter to 1/3 green matter, but it will need to be adjusted depending on moisture and odor. The right combo of green and brown should result in an earthy smell rather than a putrid-rotting-garbage aroma.

Green Matter vs Brown Matter

Green matter is the basically the wet material in the compost. This is the nitrogen source for the organisms that break down your scraps to create rich, fertile compost. Green matter includes:

  • fruit and vegetable scraps
  • grass clippings
  • flowers and garden trimmings

**Don’t try to compost animal products like meat, seafood, dairy products, or any processed foods. Eggshells are okay, but you have to rinse them really well. Luckily we have a green bin programme in Ottawa, so anything I can’t compost on my own can keep going to the city’s facility.

Brown matter is the dry material in the compost, the carbon source. The brown matter provides the bulk of your compost and controls the amount of moisture (i.e., if your composter is getting rank it’s probably too wet – add some brown matter). Brown matter includes:

  • dried leaves
  • wood chips
  • saw dust
  • newspaper (without coloured dye)

Get Cooking:

Now I’ve got a container, air, green matter and brown matter. The final thing these organisms need to get composting is heat. It will heat up on its own as the organisms do their thing, but I live in a cold climate with a short growing season. If I want to benefit from composting this year, I’m going to have to keep my compost nice and warm. So I’ve placed my compost bin in the sun, in a convenient location. The convenience of the location is key to setting myself up for success.  If it’s a hassle, we’re less likely to put scraps in the compost bin.

All that’s left is to keep putting my kitchen scraps in the bin. If it gets too wet or smelly, I’ll add some more brown matter.  If we hit a heat wave and it gets too dry, I can add some water. I’ll need to shake it up every few days.  Hopefully, I’ll have some nutrient rich compost for my garden before too long!

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