General Question

Cupcake's avatar

Can you help me figure out how to compost in my urban yard?

Asked by Cupcake (15502points) May 7th, 2013
22 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

I went to the farmer’s market on Saturday and bought a lot of veggies. I prepped salads for the week (mason jar salads… have you tried them??) and dinners. I have lots of veggie scraps left over that I just couldn’t bring myself to throw away, so they are all in jars in the kitchen until I figure out what to do with them.

I’m looking into composting drums that you can turn daily… but it looks like you can’t add food daily, so that doesn’t completely solve my problem (and I don’t have extra money right now anyway).

Can you please advise me about what to do with my veggie scraps that will ultimately lead to nutrient rich soil for a future garden? I have a small urban yard and don’t want to attract rats or other critters to my yard, and am not mentally prepared to get a bunch of worms to keep in a bin.

Should I just rope off a corner of the yard? What then?

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gailcalled's avatar

If you use no animal matter or debris, you can simply toss the stuff in a heap in an unobtrusive corner or behind a bush and let it age. Occasionally turn with a pitch fork if you want to expend some extra calories.

You can add stuff daily or hourly, if you want. Here we just heave.

If you want to be more elegant, you can have three piles; new, aging and ready to go.

The earth worms will find the compost, never fear.

And with only vegetative matter, the critters will not bother. (Although I did have a raccoon try to break into a galvanized pail in my garage where I store cat food; but it is mainly animal protein.)

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Good for you! Here is a link that explains a variety of ways to set up composting. It’s just a matter of choosing the one that will best suit your lifestyle and yard. We have an enclosed (except for the bottom), plastic compost bin in the garden. Having the bin helps not attract the critters. And, of course, no meat products should be added. In the kitchen, we have a decorative compost pot.

As long as there isn’t too much waste going in it at one time, and it gets aerated weekly, it’s low maintenance. Good luck with the project, and please keep us posted on how it’s working for you.

CWOTUS's avatar

I think something is eating the apple cores that I throw on my pile daily; something must come by in the evenings and take them, because they’re never there in the morning, and I leave one nearly every night.

Aside from that, my compost pile isn’t even “unobtrusive”; it’s next to my driveway along my property line (but towards the front of the house) and it contains everything from broken up dead wood that falls from the trees from time to time, leaves and lawn clippings when I can be bothered to collect them, and all of the vegetable scraps from my own salads and vegetable prep. It even contains the few (non-meat-based) things that I allow to go bad in the fridge from time to time.

It melts as it ages. After our big October storm of a couple years ago I had a pile as high as my waist, and a lot of that was wood and branches that I didn’t have enough energy or ambition to break down. Even I was a bit put off by the height of that thing in my front yard. As I’ve continued to load the pile, it’s down to knee-height now. (Heavy winter snows and as much as I can load from my driveway help to mash it down, too.)

Tea bags and other compost containing “some” paper and long-lived stuff like peanut and nut shells goes into a closed trash bucket at my back door. That takes a long time to fill, and then it sits for a year or so and gets dumped into a corner of my back yard to continue decomposition.

PS: No meat, no fats and no dairy will limit the critters. Except whoever likes old apple cores.

Cupcake's avatar

@cwotus Do you have a fence around it? If it’s waist high, how does it not blow over? Do you have a cover?

I have a fenced-in back yard and a garage in the corner, so I could put a pile in that corner… but do I need another side to better define the area?

gailcalled's avatar

I use peanut shells as mulch around my tomato plants in big pots.

gailcalled's avatar

When you start a compost heap, it is not a vertical stack like a skyscraper, but a heap, gently sloping at the sides and somewhat untide.

@CWOTUS: Use loose tea or tea bags without the staples. The local deer and wild horses may be eating the apple cores

gailcalled's avatar

edit; untidy.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

This website will help to decide what to compost by food type. Pasta and bread are no, vegetable peels and vegetables are a yes.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Cupcake I have a big lot, so I just throw all the veggie stuff in a pile. No turning or other work. In a year or two I’ll make another pile next to the first one and use the first one for the garden.

CWOTUS's avatar

I suspect squirrels, @gailcalled. Wild horses we have none – and not even stabled ones in this neighborhood – and the deer don’t come around here so much any more. And probably not for singleton apple cores, night after night. (When there have been deer around, I’ve noticed them.)

I had to laugh at the thought of a compost heap “tipping over”, @Cupcake. You really are new to composting, aren’t you? A compost heap is essentially a pile of pre-dirt, organic material that just has to have more of the air removed. Now imagine tipping over a pile of dirt.

As for cover, I did wonder about that when I started to pile old leaves to a good height. Fortunately a little bit of rain and snow helps them lock together pretty well. Once they’re in the pile, few blow off.

Cupcake's avatar

I think you all don’t understand how small an urban yard is. I don’t have room for a big pile.

I have 1/10 acre, minus front yard, minus house, minus driveway and garage, minus deck/patio. It’s a little square. And I don’t want the toddler playing in the pile. Plus, I’m big into boundaries and squares. I’m an analyst.

But you’re right – I am very inexperienced. Hence the question.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Cupcake Okay. Sounds like a two bin composter would be best for you. Three sides, open in front so you can turn it.

CWOTUS's avatar

Assuming it’s only going to be vegetable food scraps and whatever minimal lawn waste you generate, a pile won’t get very big in any case. You could use an old covered trash bin and punch holes in it for drainage and some aeration. When it gets full, which may take a year if you’re a prolific cook and gardener, then switch it with another while the full one does its work. After the next year, you can dump it out and use that compost (or most of it; some might need to be recycled with the current bin). And so on.

jaytkay's avatar

If you just have a small amount, you can simply put the scraps in a blender with water and pour the slurry around your yard and garden.

Cupcake's avatar

How hard (and how much money) do you think this would be to build?

Like I said, we’re not in the market for spending too much money (although those 2 bin composters look pretty awesome, @Adirondackwannabe)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Cupcake That looks pretty good and if you got the barrel cheap I would think you could do it for $25 or $30 bucks. You could also go to some place that has wood pallets to get rid of. They might let you have them for free. Two for the sides and one for the back and you’re all set. They’ll rot over time but you can’t get a bin cheaper.

gailcalled's avatar

I had a large rotating plastic bin I used for a while but the raccoons essentially dismembered it.

Just throw the stuff behind a bush; nature will do the heavy lifting even down to providing the earth worms.

Cupcake's avatar

Would it be better than this?

I don’t have bushes in the back yard. Just grass… until I put in a garden (and eat up half of my tiny yard).

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Cupcake I think the barrel would be better because it’s easier to mix the compost. Plus it’s more attractive than the garbage can or the pallets. Do you have a shed or a garage to hide the pile?

Cupcake's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I think we would put it in the corner of the yard next to the garage. It’s a dark corner, so I think either would look fine.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Cupcake I don’t do anything special with my compost at all. I just toss it out. If it’s autumn, I toss some leaves on top. If not, I occasionally turn over the ground with my shovel, metal rake or pitch fork (depending on what I’m gardening with).

I also toss out cardboard in my garden by covering weeds with the cardboard, then topping the cardboard with mulch.

One set of my grandparents had an 1/8th of an acre in the city. My grandmother kept her compost pile closest to the garage. At the pile site she had ferns and daisies grow wild. She’d just pile her peelings there. She also did nothing special.

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