Composting & My Organic Home Garden

May 19, 2015

Lifestyle

By: Jasmine Briones 

12SSV GardenToday I am sharing with you a highly requested post on composting & my organic home garden. I hope that you find this useful and that it helps you start or improve your own garden!

What is compost?

Compost is defined as organic material that can be added to soil to help your plants grow. The material is decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment and is a key ingredient in organic farming. The resulting fertile soil also has far greater moisture retention, allowing you to use less water in your garden.

What are the benefits compost?

  • Reduces the amount of waste that we dispose of >> especially if you eat a high raw or even just vegan diet. I have A LOT, and I mean A LOT, of scraps daily from my fruit meals, and practically fill up my CompoKeeper (info and discount below) every other day, and sometimes everyday.
  • Enriches the soil and therefore reduces the need for chemical fertilizers (no thanks, miracle grow). helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests.
  • Encourages the production and growth of beneficial bacteria and fungi
    • These break down organic matter to create humus {the organic component of soil, formed by the decomposition of leaves and other plant material by soil microorganisms. It significantly influences the bulk density of soil and contributes to moisture and nutrient retention}.
  • Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint (as does veganism 😉 Please check out Cowspiracy!).
  • Surprise plants in your garden! >> From compost, my mother has grown a mango tree, avocado tree, papaya tree, fig trees (yes, two of them!), pumpkin, acorn squash, tomatoes, herbs, and peppers. What I mean from surprise is that from simply composting the scraps of herbs, fruits and vegetables, new plants have emerged without us intending to do so. The trees are still very small, but we plan on planting them in our backyard and that of friends and family to hopefully have large fruitful trees in the future 🙂
1SSV Garden

Butternut squash that grew from compost!

Carrots grown from compost.

Carrots grown from compost.

What can you compost?

My family has not had experience with all  of what is on this list, but I referred to the EPA list to share. I usually only have fruit, veg, trea bags, nuts/seeds, grass clippings and leaves in my compost because that is all we really have to compost.

[one_half]

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Nut shells
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Yard trimmings
  • Grass clippings

[/one_half]

[one_half]

  • Houseplants
  • Hay and straw
  • Leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Cotton
  • Hair and fur
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Never compost meats, dairy products, or dog and cat feces.

[/one_half]

Chioggia Beets from my garden!

Chioggia Beets from my garden!

Chioggia Beets

Chioggia Beets

How do you compost?

There are several methods of composting in your garden.

Direct Composting/Trench Composting

This is the type of composting we use in our garden as we do not have the equipment for bin composting (see below), and also because this is what we have always done and we have had much success with it overall. This way, you don’t have to buy a bin or barrel. Not that they are expensive, but just so you know you can do without them.

It is called direct because you bury the compost directly into your garden soil where they will decompose. It can give your soil a very quick source of nutrients either before you plant OR throughout the growing season (as we do).

  1. In the area where you plan to plant your crop, dig a hold about 12-14″ deep.
  2. Add in about 6″ composting material.
  3. Pack the compost down with either your foot or a gardening shovel.
  4. Cover with dirt, then gently pack it down again.
  5. Wait 10-14 days, mix up and aerate the soil a bit, and plant your crops!

>>If you are not planting new crops, you can also use this method in between crops to nourish the soil around it. This will still benefit what you grow as they will be able to obtain the nutrients that are nearby. This is the method we use most of the year since we always have something growing in our garden. Once something dies, we plant in the area we had composted in and start composting in the area where the crop died, then switch off.

Backyard Bin Composting

  1. Get a bin for your compost. You can either construct your own, or purchase one, up to you. You can even also compost with a pile on the ground, but those are prone to animals getting into your compost! Make sure your bin is in an area close to your home, can easily be turned and near a water source.
  2. Fill your bin with layers, then mix it around. Make sure to add some water for moisture, and you can even add in “starter compost” if you would like. I have read that it is not necessary.
    1. Green layers: Nitrogen rich, includes fruits, vegetables, tea bags, coffee grounds, etc.
    2. Brown layers: Carbon rich, includes leaves, plants, hay, weeds, sawdust and flowers.
    3. Needs to be aerated.
    4. Pile should remain damp.
    5. Should be warm/hot to ensure decomposition (130-140F)
  3. Turn your compost one to two times a week with a pitchfork or shovel, breaking up clumps, and being sure moisture is in check. It should be as moist as a wrung out sponge.
  4. You will eventually have compost that can be used in your garden, starting at the bottom of the bin. You will notice it does not have any large chunks in it. If it does, simply place those back in the bin to continue decomposing. Harvest from the bottom later and place into your garden, mixing it into soil around crops or using it for new crops.
  5. *For quicker decomposition, make sure your scraps placed into your bin are small.

Check out John Kohler and his video on composting 🙂

Garden Fresh Lettuce

Garden Fresh Lettuce

What if you don’t have a garden?

  1. Give your compost to a family, friend, neighbor, coworker, etc who has a garden!
  2. If not, simply dispose of your compost in your green trash bin. If you do not have a green bin or do not want to purchase one from the city, simply ask a neighbor, friend or family member if you can place your compost into theirs, explaining to them that all you wish to do is make a positive environmental difference 🙂 This is how it’s done in the states (or at least in California), so I apologize if this is not the case where you live!
  3. Drop off your compost to a designated donation location. You can find one by doing a simple google search. I know that these are not widespread, but they do exist! When I was in New York and visited the Union Square Farmer’s Market, they had a compost stand where anyone could donate too, it was great!
  4. Check Craiglist to see if anyone is requesting compost.
  5. Donate to a community garden.
SSV Garden

Homegrown pumpkin, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, grapefruit, green onions, herbs, tomatoes and lemongrass.

What do I use to collect my compost in my home?

Initially, my family and I simply had bowls on the counter to chuck out compost in. For a while, we even used an old coffee grounds container (and it worked just fine). Once I started eating a diet higher in raw foods, and my parents began consuming more fruits and vegetables, AND I started to buy bulk produce, the amount of compost we had in our home increased substantially, and we eventually turned to having 2-4 compost containers (bowls) on our counters at once. This is a very inexpensive way to hold your compost, but if you are not going out to the garden everyday as my mom does, things will get out of control (lol!) in that it will start to smell and you will definitely get fruit flies (a great way to rid of fruit flies is mentioned below).

I decided I needed to find a new way to do all of this because it was getting tedious and messy in our kitchen. I wish I had taken a photo, but there is definitely a reason why I didn’t.

>>This is where my CompoKeeper came in.

This is a clean and easy to use indoor composting bin. I found that this was the perfect size for my family (17” x 11” x 15”), as it is the size of a small trashcan and fits in our slide out trash drawer. Watch a video on how it works here!

It is hands free (has foot pedals), locks the smells in and keeps bugs out which is AWESOME. It has two interlocking clamps PLUS an activated carbon filter as part of the quadruple odor control system. I promise you this works! We have compost in here for days (we get lazy, too!), and it doesn’t smell, unless we open it of course.

With the composter, you receive 12 free compostable bags for it. They also have a subscription service you can opt into for regular bag deliveries. I also found compostable bags on amazon that are currently on sale (60 for $9.93). I am going to try them out for my composter and see how it turns out, and I will report back here after <3

AND I’m excited to share with you all that CompoKeeper is offering you all 15% off + FREE Shipping if you use “SweetSimpleVegan” at checkout until June 1, 2015 🙂

Lettuce, herbs, lemons, zucchini and kale.

Lettuce, herbs, lemons, zucchini and kale.

How I Get Rid of Fruit Flies

Using a plastic container (such as an old disposable salad container), place a banana peel inside of it along with a drizzle of apple cider vinegar and seal the container with the lid. Using a knife, carefully cut 2 holes into the container, the size of a dime, on two ends of the lid. Set on your counter and let it work its magic. After a day this usually gets rid of all my flies. Dump out the contents and reuse this trap when necessary.

Garden Grown Tomatoes

Garden Grown Tomatoes

Homegrown oranges and lemons.

Homegrown oranges and lemons.

Sources:

Disclaimer: I was provided with a CompoKeeper for testing and review. As always, I would only share a product with you that I was truly satisfied with, and that I use myself. This page may contain affiliate links, which simply means that I earn a commission if you purchase through those links, but your price remains the same. Thank you for supporting Sweet Simple Vegan!

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  1. Protein Blog says:

    Compokeeper Kitchen Compost Bin

    […] r to chuck out compost in. For a while, we even used an old coffee grounds conta […]

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