Making compost is one of the best ways to utilize your garden’s resources to improve the health of your soil, which in turn improves plant health.
Garden clippings and food waste are usually trucked across the county where they are then composted. So making your own compost, at home, reduces your carbon footprint! Here are several ways to compost, whether you live in a house or apartment, in an urban, suburban, or rural setting.
Yard Waste Composting
- The Recycler Composter: A low-cost, simple bin that can be used to hold compost materials for passive decomposition, or can be turned to produce compost more quickly. Also great for piling full of fall leaves to make leaf mold, one of the best soil amendments on earth. This bin is made by Beaver State Plastics and available through the Seattle Conservation Corps.
- Three-Bin System: For those who want to produce several batches of hot compost concurrently and quickly, building this system makes it easy and neat to turn the batches. Plans are available online through Tilth Alliance for a 3 bin system and a 2 bin system.
- Wire fencing or other containment: As the saying goes, “compost happens.” You can create a simple holding bin from welded wire fencing, chicken wire, or old pallet boards and your compost will turn out just as great.
Food Waste Composting
- Green Cones: The cones do not require turning or the addition of worms, so it’s an easy system. Just dump food scraps into the cone until it is about 3/4 full. Then let it sit for about 9-12 months to decompose while you start filling a second green cone. Green cones are also available through the Seattle Conservation Corps.
- Food Digester: These are simple and easy, used much like a green cone, but a do-it-yourself project made from a small galvanized steel trash can. A plan is available through the Tilth Alliance website.
- Worm Bin: These produce compost much more quickly than green cones or food digesters, but require a little maintenance to retain your worm populations while you harvest the “black gold” that they’ll make for you. You can build your own indoor or outdoor bin, or purchase one. Several worm bin plans are available through the Tilth Alliance website – both wood and plastic.
As you probably noticed, none of these methods recommend combining food waste with yard waste. Food waste has to be composted in a closed system in order to prevent problems with rodent populations. It is much easier to prevent problems than to remedy them!
Check out this handy guide to help you determine which system is best for your needs from King County.
Interested in learning more about composting and soil building and willing to share that knowledge with others? If you are a City of Seattle resident you might consider the Master Composter Sustainability Steward training program.
8 responses to “Composting Advice”
i live in upstate ny and the winter are very long,i have been saving my kitchen scrape all winter and the scrapes now have a spoiled smell to them can i still use them in my composter
Vince, It is wonderful that you are composting your kitchen scraps. I’m sorry you had a problem with your food scraps becoming smelly. This will happen if you simply collect them in a container and do not provide a proper composting system for them. Check out the “Composting at Home” brochure on our brochure page to see various ways to compost food scraps. A worm bin might be the answer for you if you can provide a sheltered place away from freezing temperatures for the worms. Laura
Is there other links and resources that you could give
to discover more details in regards to this post? Cheers!
Hi! There are links to great composting information on this site and all you have to do is look on our home page for the composting info. If you follow the link to the page from Seattle Public Utilities you will find a whole lot more information. Hope that helps! You are also welcome to contact us directly through the online form.
I have a 55 gallons compost barrel . I have a good mix of materials: sticks, leaves, food scraps, grass, shredded paper/ cardboard and soil . I turn the barrel every 2 to 3 days. It feels like a damp sponge. But it has not moved up 1° in temperature. I live in Alaska and the outside temperature has been 50s down to high 30s at night. I am about at my wits end. I don’t know what else to do. Any suggestions ?
Usually the process you describe does the trick however I would avoid adding soil and too many sticks to the mix. This will slow the process down. A good mix is a fifty – fifty ratio by volume of grass clippings, green leaves, food waste for nitrogen (coffee grounds included in this) and dry leaves, newspaper, and cardboard (shredded) for your carbon source. How is it going now that the weather is colder?
Laura @ the Garden Hotline
I am trying to hot compost a pile of soil to kill bindweed. I layered the soil with fresh cut grass between 2 sheets of black 8 mil plastic after watering it. My Reotemp thermometer hasn’t gotten above 65 F – the weather has been cool this week. I expected much higher temps. Should I ventilate and/or fertilize? Should I add something else?
Greetings from Seattle – sorry we took so long to reply. We were not monitoring comments for a bit on the website. Anything that creates a very hot compost pile that liquifies the bindweed rhizomes will work to kill it. WE have used black plastic bags and just let them sit in the sun all summer. I would not ventilate but let it compost anaerobically. Nitrogen fertilizer could help – blood meal or chicken manure even.