Compost Snacks!

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Season 3 – Autumn/Winter 2019/20

Doin The Dirt Directory

“Composting is as much fun as gardening if NOT more!”

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Compost Snacks! #1

I received an email over the weekend from a friend who asked what they could actually compost ‘kitchen waste wise’ as they were a bit confused with certain food types?’ Wow! That’s an easy question to answer and more so if you have a good idea already about it. Furthermore they asked if they had to just dump the waste into the heap or did they need to do anything with it first?

Two answers really quickly – 1] The list of foods that can be composted is huge and l will show a detailed list tomorrow but it will not be a complete definitive list and 2] You don’t have to do anything special with the wastes, but there are a few tweaks that will make things easier for you and the compost.

Our household produces roughly 45 litres of kitchen waste per month, sometimes slightly more and sometimes less, but on average it is about 40 litres. We have a kitchen waste tub that holds 5 litres by itself naturally as in just throwing waste in and 7 litres if you jam pack it in. I have a shredded waste bin that holds 7 litres. We produce a 5 litre tub of waste via the kitchen bin once every 4-5 days. Once and sometimes twice a week l empty the 7 litre tub of shredded wastes into the compost bin and then rake it over and award a couple of fork turns to ensure the food is dsitributed nicely on the top layers of the heap itself.

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7 litres of shredded slurry Sunday 15th December 2019

On the weekend just gone, l emptied another 7 litres of waste into the compost heap [image above] – it’s the fifth this month.

Before l got my kitchen chopper/shredder l was always just taking the kitchen bin out and dumping the waste products into the heap and what l noticed over the various turnings and forkings was that some of the foods whilst assuredly breaking down, were doing so at a much slower rate than other food stuffs. In the episode  No Rules Composting!   l had a great comment from These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things – Be Welderberry  which is below and so too is her post “My version of Composting” where the reference is made to a head of lettuce taking 25 years to decompose in a landfill!!

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things — BeWelderberry

October 30, 2019 at 12:07 am

We don’t follow the composting rules over here either! Just wrote a post about what we do as well. It’s very different and honestly not a compost but more just a way that we keep food waste out of the dump. ;-). Thanks for sharing your experiences!

I know this to be true myself, l have seen it first hand – certain food types will ‘eventually break down…. eventually. So it doesn’t do any harm to assist the breaking down process as it will serve both you and your microbes the world of good to help out a bit more by hand balling some of the tougher food types. You can opt for the same practice l follow or just cut them up with a pair of sharp kitchen scissors or a sharp knife. Breaking waste down further awards an overall fine balance to your heap, your compost pile and your end product – quality humus for your soils and vegetable/flowering gardening.

I performed a kitchen waste breakdown just before writing this post and took some photos to show to you the process.

Some food types in waste form can take a very long time to decompose and if not helped along their way can remain relatively intact in your heaps for a very long time indeed. 25 years for a lettuce head to break down is that right?

The Decomposition of Waste in Landfills – A Story of Time and Materials

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Image by Colleen Tighe © The Balance 2019

You should read this article l have linked, it’s astonishing reading!

So a head of lettuce can take 25 years to breakdown, an apple core or a banana is a month and orange peel is six months. Stalks of the brassica family such as broccoli, brussel sprouts in example are quite solid, so stomping on them and doing your best to shred them down would help the heap out enormously. Egg shell takes a very long time to break down until it is minute dust fragments and l think that is about three years, avocado husks again will eventually break down, but from experience l have seen them during the turns a year after addition still somewhat intact. I don’t add the actual pit stone, as l have seen them sprout in the heap.

So by investing in my waste chopper it saves me time in the long run as well as helping the environment.

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Everything l needed today for the waste breakdown is above – including the end product itself – but l have my blender/shredder which is a 2 litre capacity, l have the shredded waste tub which holds 7 litres, a chopping board, a pair of sharp kitchen scissors and 2 very sharp kitchen knives. Last night a casserole was prepared which you can just see on the far right and so a lot of vegetable scraps were produced and added to an already filled waste bin.

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A good selection of content here – eggshell, orange peel, tea bag, greens [rocket and basil],swede and turnip peel, brussel sprout and leek.

One of the first tasks l had which proved awkward even armed with my array of deadly kitchen utensils was the stalk of a stem of brussel sprouts – a tricky devil to deal with admittedly and in the end l left three pieces of the stem which originally measure 15″ length, so that over the course of the composting series, you will see thiese stalk pieces and where they are in the process of breakdown. An interesting side project to the ‘Composting Project 2019/2020 –  20 Turns from shit to gold!’ Which started last week .. In Search of Black Gold!

So you can see as the example that even with slicing up and shredding down, it doesn’t break up to a fine paste – but it is now broken and from experience l know that had it gone in complete as a full stalk in September 2017 it would still be floating around the heap today virtually unbroken.

The casserole preparation last night used turnip, swede and carrot peelings, but the bin had tea bags, avocado, cucumber, radish, lemons, chicory, radicchio, herbs, eggshell, gone off bean sprouts, banana peels, leek, orange peels, apple cores and the list goes on. All can be blended, all can be shredded and all can be added.

One of the biggest problems we have today is so many of the supermarkets and greengrocers store foods for way too long in cold storage, or they are in transport for too long or again they are picked too early. This shortens their shelf lives horribly – l am sure you have all bought fruits and vegetables that have gone off too quickly and way quicker than you would have expected?

Suze and l are very conscious of keeping our food stuffs fresh for as long as possible and yet we are not in control of the conditions which much of the food we buy is kept, picked, packed, storing and handling by staff and transported. We cannot control the bacterias and the chemicals added which again shorten the life of the food we buy and eat. What we can control is ensuring that where possible we grow as much as we can and only buy seasonal foods.

Banana peelings are cut up into smaller pieces.

It can be very disappointing especially given the price of food today when you buy something and it is NOT as 100% fresh as it should be and many a time goes off before use. It isn’t practical to keep on visiting the stores to buy food stuffs with a car journey every time, and this is adding even more pollution into the atmosphere because management  in stores, storage facilities and transport facilities are not finely tuning commercial products or stock control. It’s a double edged sword, huge consumerism demands upon retailers and stockists require to be met and of course aged and old is the greed for more sales so many a time corners are cut and the end product is there is more loss than just soiled and spoiled produce.

So now where possible l am very quick to act and ensure that my waste products are dealt with appropriately and accordingly and added to my compost heap. I will slice and dice and tear and shred the wasted products and look forwards to the end result which for us is to produce a remarkable growing medium that means we do not have to keep buying fruit and vegetables already out of date when we purchase them.

We use biodegradable kitchen towel here, which will explain the presence of the dabs of blue you see. They can be added to the heap and will break down within 2 weeks if not sooner.

Eventually after 45 minutes from starting to completion, the 7 litre tub slowly fills up. After each shredding has gone through l swill the basin with cold water and add this so the mix is always watered down and this makes for a huge tub of slurry for the compost heap which pleases the worms immensely  and l have noticed since shredding my wastes up … l actually have a healthier worm culture in the bins which ensures the whole process breaks down quicker.

I have made mention to quite a few food types here today, but in part 2 l will display a much fuller list of foods that can be added to your compost heap.

Anyway l’ll take my leave of you now

Thanks for reading everyone, till the next time …

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