Friday, July 11, 2014

How to Counter Top Compost

I've been making counter top compost for years. Since I cook almost everything from scratch I tend to use more of my food stuffs than other people, but I always have things that can be used to make compost. Coffee grounds, banana peels, the occasional pile of potato skins. These are all food waste that flowers, trees, and vegetable plants love.

Materials
There are counter top compost bins you can buy in high end kitchen and garden stores, but I've found the following tools work much better.
Large Steel Bowl
Old Food Processor, or Juicer (that's lost it's basket)
Sturdy bowl scraper
Bag of peat most
Concept
The idea of counter top compost isn't to make super rich soil or basic fertilizer, like with regular compost. It's to make plant food that you can give to your plants and trees on a daily or weekly basis.
The point is to make a mild plant food that uses up at least the majority of the raw food waste that your kitchen produces in a day. There are certain things you don't want to add to counter top compost, like seeds. Things with seeds can be added to regular compost because it takes time to mature the compost, constantly turning it every day, so that the seed ends up wasting it's sprout before it takes root. The aborted sprouts then become nutrients for the soil.
With counter top compost, however, there is no daily turning to keep the seeds from successfully sprouting, so we don't add them.
Process
Keep the steel bowl in a well ventilated area that is easy to access. I keep mine on a small end table in the corner of my kitchen, and store it's food processor underneath.
As you go through your day toss in usable food waste, like used coffee grounds and tea leafs, potato skins, banana peels, wilted salad greens and other vegetables, used herb sprigs, etc. Every time you add something use the bowl scraper to mix it up.
At the end of the day, or if the bowl fills up, run the contents through the food processor, making a course mix. Toss in a handful or two of peat moss, and mix. The peat moss helps the counter top compost become adsorbent so that it doesn't dry into moisture-resistant clumps around your plants when the first hot, dry day comes up. In arid regions like here in Phoenix that is an extra special concern. Coffee grounds and tea leaves are fantastic for plants, but they can dry into lumps that shunt water away from the roots of you plants. The simple fix is to add a small amount of peat moss.
There will be things that work better when added after the grinding in the processor is done as well. Egg shells should be smashed up and added to the counter top compost post-processor. This allows the egg shells to act as organics that help funnel water through the plant food, keeping it moist as it feeds your plants. Hair should be added afterward, simply because it will clog up your processor if it's added before. Snip the hair into short lengths so that it mixes easy.
10 Great Things to Make Counter Top Compost Out Of
1. Coffee Grounds - nicely acidic, with a perfect base texture for solid plant food.
2. Tea Leafs - usually acidic, packed with antioxidants that will keep your plants healthy.
3. Banana Peels - Full of minerals and other elements that help flowers and fruits grow well.
4. Wilted Salad Greens - rich in heavy minerals that plants need lots of, but in a completely consumable form.
5. Potato Peels - one of the best, and well rounded food waste items for any form of compost.
6. Clean, Untreated Hair - human and pet hair is full of nitrogen that releases at the right speed to help plants grow strong roots.
7. Egg Shells - number one calcium supplement for plants that also acts as a great texturizer to help with water flow.
8. Used Herb Sprigs - even after they've been cooked herbs like rosemary, parsley, and sage are packed with vitamins that help plants grow strong stems.
9. Vegetable Trimmings - carrot tops, celery leafs, and other vegetable trimmings give plant food a well rounded nutrition content.
10. Flat Beer - Yes, beer that's gone flat and warm can be added to plant food for an extra punch of vitamins. The darker the beer, the better it is for plants.

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