Thursday, March 10, 2011

What Do I Put In My Compost

TS at Casa Mariposa recently wrote a post called Tums in the Tomatoes.  She discussed the many little tricks that we use in our gardens that might not be known to others and encouraged fellow bloggers to share our own homegrown tips.

At first I didn't really think I had any ideas to share.  There is no magic up my sleeve, no miracle concoction that saves my plants from disease.  But then I realized that perhaps the way I do things is particular to me.  For instance, many of us compost but what items you put in your compost might be different than what I would put in.  And how you use your finished compost might be different as well.

I use an old milk crate to sift my compost and remove any large chunks
One example I thought of has to do with soggy vegetables.  Really truly disgusting.  eww.  Some people boil their vegetables (ahem, mom) so there's barely anything left of the vegetable and all the goodness is left in the water.  Personally I steam everything but even steaming leaves behind water rich with the drippings of vegetable juices.  Rather than throw this water down the sink I let it cool and then add it to my kitchen bucket.  This small bucket is dumped once a week into my large compost bin.  A little water with the vegetable clippings helps rinse out the bucket and adds much needed moisture to my compost pile to help it break down.  This water has the added benefit of being rich in plant juice which my compost bacteria just love.

Another thing that happens to me is the trimming of house plants.  While I have managed to grow most anything I've put my mind to out of doors, inside is another story.  Deaths occur, leaves go brown.  Haircuts ensue.  When this happens I get out my pruners and drop all those dead trimmings into my compost bucket.

Even dried leaves are beneficial to your compost pile.

A big source of compost in our house is the wood boiler.  Ashes from previous fires are cooled in a metal garbage can and then added to the compost.  Wood ashes are great for combatting acidic soil due to their high lime content.  Our apple trees are suffering from pitting due to acidic soil and I intend to spread wood ashes around the orchard in spring to combat this condition.

Using firewood means there's a lot of mess in our house.  I'm constantly sweeping the basement floor and that material is also added to the compost bin.  Wood chips, dirt, moss and lichen are all organic matter that contributes to a thriving compost pile.

One thing I never put in my compost is meat.  But that doesn't mean it's wasted.  Trimmed fat gets fried up and chopped into small pieces for our feral cats.  It's a welcome treat for them when they need to pack on some winter fat.

If you have any tips you would like to share or if you would like to hear others tips, please join TS at Casa Mariposa.


  1. I am really pleased you posted about this...never thought of saving the water from cooking vegetables; our compost containers would really appreciate that moisture.

    Wood ash is great also, when we can get enough. Found out, my currants which I felt about ready to remove, should smarten up with a good dressing of wood ash this spring. Fingers crossed!

  2. Bren, do currants prefer a more alkaline soil? I planted some currant seeds this winter (out of doors) and am hoping to grow them on in the next month. I have no idea where I'll plant them if they sprout but I couldn't resist trying.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I know ash is good but didn't realize they are alkali. As you know, I have applied a lot of coffee grounds and found my mango tree not too happy about it. Coincidentally I applied ash to it last week. We don't have ash here. For the first time in my life, I burn some twigs and branches as they did not decompose after many months. A little girl rushed towards me as told me I was polluting the world.

  4. I especially like your ideas for vegetable water and am definitely going to give it a try.

  5. Gee, I would have to give up drinking that left over veggie water to put it in the compost. A good tip though. I too use lots of wood ash around my apples and lilacs. Heating with wood sure is messy as you say! I look forward to spreading some compost when all our snow is gone! What a nice bucket you have there!

  6. One - That's good news, the ash should help balance out the acidity of the coffee grounds. I've heard a bit about that lately, people believe the wood smoke pollutes the air and in some places they are working to ban wood burning. I understand burning wood isn't clean but neither is burning any type of fuel such as gas or oil. Those are just less noticable to the naked eye.

    Jennifer - I got really excited about water conservation at one point and realized how much water goes down the drain. cooking water really bothered me because it's not dirty and doesn't have any soaps or chemicals in it so why was I wasting it?

    Carol - that sounds like hubby, whenever I buy cut fruit he drinks the water/juice left in the bottom of the container. I love that metal bucket. We used to use an old plastic coffee container but plastic always ends up cracking and the metal bucket is easier to keep clean and doesn't absorb the smell so much.

  7. It is good that you save everything possible for compost. With the new garden here, I settle with grass pullouts (all sorts) which is kept in large sack to dry naturally. Once dry, I put them down as mulch, which is so useful when days are heaty!

  8. This is a helpful post. I will tuck this information away.

  9. You are amazing girl ! That is fantastci that you add so many different things to the compost and the plants will appreciate every bit of it too : )
    I have to turn in some of that "gold" oonce the ground thaws out and before my new garden babies arrive ! LOL
    Great post on what even small bits and pieces can do for the garden !
    Joy : )

  10. I have kept one of my open fires for wood burning when I have off cuts from things and odd bits from the garden, I saved the ash as I know it is Potash which is said to be good for fruit and flowering, I didn't know it was alkline as like you I have an acidic soil,
    in answer to your question about currants growing in acidic soil yes they do, I have blackcurrant bushes that were planted by the previous owners, they must be very old but still give me a few blackcurrant crumbles and the birds a good feed, they can be propagated by cuttings too,
    I use the water from cooking veg as a base for my soups, I use the hot water from things where I don't want to keep it like cooking rice, while it's still hot I pour on weeds growing in the paths, it kills them,
    great post, Frances

  11. Ok Marguerite - here's a peculiar question for you. I cut my own hair every 3 weeks - can those clippings be added to compost?

  12. Great tip about the veg water, I am definitely going to employ it. I'm also going to sieve my compost, and have just the thing. Thank you!

  13. I love the idea of adding veg water to the compost pile. I've added it to my rain barrels or straight into the watering can. I have worm bins in the basement but will finally be getting an outside composter this summer. I will definitely add veg water instead of any city water to the composter to keep everything moist. Great tip! :o) So glad you posted this!

  14. Bangchik - I only wish I had more stuff to compost. It seems I can never get enough, especially when creating new beds that need a boost of good soil.

    Thanks Jess, hope you visited TS' post as well as she had some really interesting information.

    Garden Joy - I had a fantastic book at one point 'The Rodale Book of Composting' and it really inspired me to use items in compost that normally I wouldn't have thought of. There's so much we throw out that could be reused.

    Frances - oh, that's something I hadn't thought to add! Boiling water is great for killing weeds in a garden friendly way. It's also a good way to get rid of ant hills without using pesticides.

    Jane - Great Question! and the answer is Absolutely. Hair is completely organic so no reason why it shouldn't be added. My only concern would be if you dyed or permed your hair. There may be some residual chemicals left behind in that case.

    Plantaliscious - Great to hear this came in useful!

  15. TS - Thanks for the inspiration. I was amazed at the amount of tips you were able to come up with. You have some really fantastic ideas.