Friday, March 23, 2007

How to Compost for your Home and Garden #1

It's officially Spring!!! Which starts me thinking about sunshine and no winter coat and especially gardening. Now composting is one of those things I've been thinking I should do for a long time, but never really understood it or thought I had the time/energy/tools, so it always just slips off the radar. On Wednesday, I went to a talk by Fred Horch of F.W. Horch Sustainable Goods about home composting, and now I am committed to start this Spring. I'll post a series here on my progress so you, dear reader, can hold me to it. Better yet, if you join in and try the process with me, we can trade experiences and ideas...or if you've been composting for a long time & have tips, you can help the rest of us out. Here are just a few of the reasons why it's high time:

  • Our landfill (and this is a problem everywhere) is filling up fast! That presents our town with the problem (and millions of dollars in cost) of safely closing it up and moving on.
  • Every week, my husband and I bring a carload of garbage to the dump. A small car, but a carload!
  • The average family can reduce their waste by 40% just by composting.
  • Composting not only reduces the amount of waste we produce, but turns it into something useful.
  • It's simple.
  • I'll get great, free fertilizer for my lawn & garden.

If you need further convincing about the importance of reducing the amount of waste we produce, take a look at the picture on the Rivers to Sea Project website. We produce so much garbage that finds its way out to sea, it's really mind-blowing when you think about it. If each family could reduce the amount of plastic we use, increase the amount of recycling we do, and start reducing the amount of waste we put in landfills...even a small amount per family would add up to a huge change.

So according to Fred, there are 6 simple steps to home composting. I would personally add one preparatotry step: Make it a priority. As I know quite well from experience, unless you do that, none of the other steps will work. So that's my step for this week. Next week, I'll explore Step One: Set Up a System.

One more note: composting is a great project for kids. It's like a science project in the backyard. They can see the entire process and watch how oxygen and heat change gross garbage into something useful and clean. And it teaches the important lesson that their actions have an impact on the world around them.

Missed anything in this series? It's easy to catch up:

Step 1: Make it a Priority
Step 2: Choose a System
Interlude: Nature Tried to Kill My Composter
Step 3: Collect Organic Material
Step 4: Mix the Materials
Step 5: Moisten the Mixture
Step 6: Wait
Interlude: The Lightbulb Change
Interlude: The Yogurt Change
Interlude: The Sponge Change
Interlude: The Leftover Change
Interlude: The Napkin Change
The Sort-of Sun-Mar 200 Review Part One
The Sort-of Sun-Mar 200 Review Part Two
Sun-Mar 200 Compost Update
Sun-Mar 200: Starting All Over Again

Step 7: Use Your Compost
Step 8: Sun Mar 200 Garden Composter Review


Anonymous said...

Somehow I googled Sun-mar and got your site. I am interested in purchasing the sun-mar 200 and have not found reviews. Its a continual batch system which apeals to me...but it sounds to good to be true. My second choice for compost unit is the urbangardner unit that can make tea too but its not continuous. So far what are your experiences with the sun-mar 200? I am somewhat new to this concept of composting. Susan Dean North Ridgeville, Ohio

Josephine Cameron said...

Hi Susan!
I'm a new to composting as well, and I had the exact same experience when looking for reviews on the sun-mar 200. I'm still in the collecting trash/turning/waiting stage, but I'm planning to write a full review as soon as I have actual compost and can tell you how the "continuous" system is working. Here's what I can tell you so far:

1. It is easy to turn.
2. It's on wheels, and is easy to move.
3. The opening where you put your garbage in sometimes sticks a little, but not bad.
4. There is a small "port" where your finished compost is supposed to automatically go and there is a cap that you can open to access the compost. Since I don't have any finished compost yet, I can't tell you how that will work, but I can tell you that right now, regular garbage comes into the "port". Apparently, in the beginning, you are supposed to just periodically push it back into the main drum. Which is fine as long as when there is actual compost, there isn't a bunch of garbage mixed in.

I'm hoping to see some results in the next few weeks, and as soon as I do, I will write a post here. Please do check back, or if you'd like, send your email address to and I'll drop you a line when the review is up.

Good luck. And whichever unit you choose, I'd be very interested to hear how it works out.
Take care,