The Real Green: Composting

My first batch of perfect compost - and grass cuttings ready to make the next one!

My first batch of perfect compost - and grass cuttings ready to make the next one!

I started composting in 2006 or so – I love gardening, so it was one of my first green projects. My parents had a huge, plastic compost bin and I took it over, making sure it was filled with food scraps, leaves and other yard debris. It was love at first try – I got a huge batch of perfect compost out of it a year later.

When Former Boyfriend and I moved into our first home together in 2009, I spent a lot of time debating how I wanted to compost. In the end, I decided to try a worm bin. I wanted fast results and something that didn’t take up a lot of room.

I kept it in the kitchen, which disgusted most of my friends and family – especially when summer came around and tiny fruit flies would breed in the box, then hover in clouds by the windows. Admittedly, that grossed me out, too.

When it came time to harvest the compost, that’s when the worm bin began losing its charm. Yes, the compost developed pretty quickly – much quicker than when I used the plastic bin. But I’d have to sort through the compost in order to get all the worms out (they never fully migrated up the trays, as promised), which took hours and was extraordinarily messy. Further, the compost always dried in big clods and it was very difficult to spread it evenly and get any good use out of it.

My poor dead worms.

My poor dead worms.

The last straw came just a year later, when I failed to maintain the moisture level of the bin by adding more shredded paper. I woke up one morning to find little “sticks” all over the kitchen floor and the living room carpet. I was so perplexed, wondering if Former Boyfriend had dropped something and hadn’t yet cleaned up…when I realized it was dozens of dead worms! They had crawled out of the too-wet bin and had dried out and died.

Half of them were left and I frantically tried to re-balance the bin by harvesting more compost and adding more paper. Even when I had fixed everything, the remaining worms got bloated and all died in a big, stinky pile. I buried them in the backyard, wracked with guilt for my laziness.

And then I sold the worm bin and called the county to add a yard debris bin to our waste disposal services. Now all my food waste goes in there and they get to make compost. At least I’m not throwing the food scraps away, but I don’t get any compost out of the deal.

I haven't done much gardening in the past two years, but when I do, I'll be researching other compost options.

What do you use?