Is your trash can overflowing with food waste every day? Even if you have a garbage disposal, some of it can’t be put in it. How can you turn your kitchen scraps into black gold for your garden?
Whether you live on a large farm or in a small city apartment, you can successfully compost your kitchen waste. For a larger area, consider a simple wooden compost bin or metal barrel. If you have limited space, try one of the many small composting buckets that go under your sink.
Composting Made Simple
The basic process of composting is when microorganisms break down organic matter into nutrient-rich soil. It works with the natural heat of decay and moisture. The time it takes for your kitchen waste to decompose into healthy compost depends on how much is there and what you’ve added.
An article published by the National Resources Defense Council explains that your compost bin needs air, water, carbon, and nitrogen. To get a well-balanced product, you may modify your compost as needed. It would help if you had a balance of green and brown, as stated in the article.
Your organic kitchen waste provides the “green” nitrogen component. Paper and cardboard scraps and dead twigs and leaves are the “brown” carbon part. If your compost is too wet, add some more brown. Add some green if it’s too dry and it’s decomposing too slowly.
Lastly, your compost bin needs moisture and air. Watering your outside bin or adding water to your smaller kitchen bucket keeps the compost moist. Aerate the mixture by turning with a pitchfork or shaking a portable model occasionally.
If you can’t spend much time tending to a compost pile, you prefer the cold method. It just allows the organic matter to break down naturally with time and little attention. However, if you don’t want to wait a year or so for compost, you can monitor the moisture, air, and minerals, known as the hot method.
Another popular method of composting is vermicomposting, which uses the help of earthworms. As gratitude for providing a healthy food source and warm living environment, these helpful critters will aerate and amend your compost.
An article published by the US Food and Drug Administration estimates that Americans waste at least 133 billion pounds of food each year. While much of it is only scraps, the majority of waste that goes into municipal landfills each year is food, according to the article. It’s a severe criticism against this nation while so many poorer countries are experiencing food shortages.
It’s easy for your trash can to fill up quickly with kitchen waste left from cooking. You also probably purge your refrigerator and pantry once a week and toss expired food. Be kind to your garden and the environment, and you should consider composting these eleven ordinary scraps.
1. Raw Fruit and Vegetables
Think of all the peelings, seeds, and cores that go into your trash each day. Not to mention the fruits and veggies that are past their prime. Although there are a few fruits and veggies that won’t work, most can be composted successfully.
2. Biodegradable Tea Bags and Loose Tea
A tea for two and then what? Instead of disposing of your used tea bags and loose-leaf tea, turn them into rich compost. As they decompose, they will add valuable tannic acid and other nutrients to your backyard or garden.
3. Expired Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices boost the flavor of almost any dish. The fresher they are, the more aromatic and flavorful. Unfortunately, even dried herbs and spices lose their savor after a while and need to be replaced.
They are an excellent source of vitamins and fiber for your compost bin. Dump your expired herbs and spices in and give them a good stir. Avoid composting salt or salt combinations since they can be toxic to your soil.
4. Yard and Garden Waste
Each time you cut the lawn, weed the garden and prune your plants, you have piles of green waste. Although these aren’t kitchen scraps, they often get tossed away in trash bags with food waste. Consider composting yard and garden waste, being careful not to add weeds or diseased plants.
5. Egg Shells
Have you ever watched experienced gardeners add crushed eggshells to their house plants? Like humans, plants need calcium to grow healthy and strong. Eggshells that are cleaned and crushed are an ideal source of calcium for your compost bin.
6. Spent Flowers
That stunning bouquet on your table soon wilts. Rather than pitch wilted flowers in with your kitchen scraps, why not compost them instead? They boost nutrients and can be either the green or brown component of your compost.
7. Pulp from Your Juicer
If you enjoy juicing, you might keep the pulp for some added vitamins. However, many people prefer pulp-free juices, so they discard the leftover pulp as kitchen scraps. You can compost pulp easily to create balanced and healthy compost for your garden.
8. Paper Scraps
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, paper waste is the most significant component of American landfills, about 290 tons annually. Consider all the paper packaging that people toss with their kitchen scraps. Did you know that you can compost used paper goods like paper towels, napkins, and clean cardboard packaging?
Houseplants add interest and beauty to your home, as well as beneficial oxygen to the air. If you have a green thumb, you know that houseplants need occasional trimming and grooming to stay healthy. Why throw away those pruned leaves, branches, and tired flowers when you can compost them?
10. Wine Corks
Nothing makes a dinner more special than a fresh bottle of wine or the occasional bubbles of champagne. There are only so many corks you can keep or repurpose into cute crafts. Cork is a natural material that is 100% biodegradable, and it’s perfect for your compost bin. However, the plastic composite “new” corks are NOT compostable, so be sure only to toss natural cork into your compost bin.
11. Wood Ashes
Some people enjoy the primitive joys of cooking over a wood stove. You may also use hardwood in your grill or smoker.
The leftover ashes can be composted with your kitchen scraps to balance the alkalinity versus acidity of the mix. Just be sure not to compost charcoal ash, as it receives chemical treatments by the manufacturer–and that’s bad for the health of your compost pile.
You Cannot Compost These Six Kitchen Scraps
Once you get into the habit of composting these ordinary kitchen scraps, you may wonder what other things in your kitchen you can add. These are some items that should never go into your compost bin:
1. Meat or Bones
While meat is organic and biodegradable, it’s not suitable for making compost. Most compost bins don’t generate enough heat to destroy any possible pathogens in the rotting meat. Plus, the scent of beef is bound to attract unwanted vermin to your yard.
2. Dairy Products
If your kitchen scraps include expired milk, cheese, or other dairy products, don’t compost them. Since these are also animal products, avoid mixing them into your compost bin. They could add a stray bacteria or pathogen that could be harmful to your developing fertilizer and draw pests.
3. Fruits and Veggie Exceptions
Live earthworms work magic in a compost bin by breaking down the waste and providing nutrient-rich castings. Citrus fruit, onions, and garlic are acidic and can raise the balance of the compost. Acidic soil is detrimental to the earthworms, so toss these fruits and veggies.
4. Cooking Oils
There’s a good reason why restaurants send used cooking oil to be recycled rather than composted. Your compost pile requires water to mature correctly, and the oil ruins the moisture balance. The same goes for oily foods like condiments, salad dressings, and even peanut butter.
5. Grains and Baked Goods
Whole grains may be delicious and nutritious for you, but they aren’t good for your compost pile. When mixed with your composting kitchen scraps, they may produce bacteria that are harmful to the process. Another reason to pitch them is that grains and baked goods tempt rodents and other pests.
6. Plastic Wrap and Packaging
Many food manufacturers have developed “biodegradable” packaging and cellophane for their products. What they fail to mention is that most of these are only biodegradable on an industrial level. Unless the packaging is specifically labeled as “home biodegradable,” consider the possibility of recycling instead.
The process of decomposing and renewal is perpetual. Your garden and yard can reap the benefits of simple composting. You’ll have nutrient-rich compost for almost nothing, and you’ll be a good steward of the environment.