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Week #9: Keeping Up with the Composting

As we round into the Challenge’s home stretch, we know that many households new to composting will soon be embarking on their own for the first time. With that in mind, we recently gathered pro tips from our most experienced participants, the Compost Challenge Returning Champions. We wanted to know: What is their best advice for the months ahead?

In the kitchen

One participant emphasized the importance of placing your compost pail in a visible location. As she said, “If you can see your compost bucket, you will use it.” Another advises tossing the scraps in the freezer “so I don’t have a mess with a pail [or] unpleasant smells.” She has also observed that her compost breaks down faster after freezing, which she attributes to cells bursting and breaking down when frozen. Whatever system you choose, and it’s valuable to find the one that will help you continue composting long after the Challenge has concluded.

As the weather warms, you may have also noticed fruit flies interested in your kitchen pail. You can address this by the freezer method, increasing your trips to the composter, or by creating simple fruit fly traps on your kitchen counter: In a small cup or other container, add two tablespoons of dish soap, four tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and six tablespoons of water. Cover with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band, and then poke a few small holes in the plastic wrap. This will attract and trap the fruit flies.

In the yard

One returning champion notes that every time she adds kitchen scraps to her composter, she makes sure to cover what she added with a bucketful of leaves (or, at this time of year, dried – not green – grass). If needed, she adds a little water to the pile and aerates the compost by turning it. She also shared her method for dealing with compost-curious creatures: “I have had raccoons try to get into the composter. I've gone to my garden and found muddy raccoon prints all over the bin but so far they have not been successful. I make sure I put the lid on correctly, give it a good twist and do a double check to make sure the lid can't be lifted.” Other participants have noted the effectiveness of laying chicken wire on the ground below the compost to deter burrowing critters, along with duct-taping around the center seam of the Earth Machine to keep it from coming apart.

Capitalizing on your compost

Of course, it’s especially gratifying to see the “black gold” that your Earth Machine creates after all of your food waste has broken down. It’s also important to note that the Earth Machine is a slow composter – patience is key! You can speed up the process by turning your compost with a shovel, putting your Earth Machine in a sunny location, and being sure to continually add “browns” to your mix. 

A veteran composter shared that she uses her compost to support the growth of new trees and plants both in soil and in pots. As she describes, “The grass around the yard trees and plants are vibrantly more green, showing us that the nutrients are quite rich and helpful to both the grass and, importantly, the new plants/trees.” Another had advice specifically for households with a lower amount of food waste: “Because I don't have tons of compost, I use it in the  holes mixed with soil before I add my plants. I also use it to top dress around the plants.”

Keeping it up

As you can see from our Data Summary page, your participation is diverting a huge amount of food from the landfill! We hope that this provides motivation to keep up the great work. If you’re helped by reminders, consider adding an ongoing weekly note to your physical or digital calendar, or even continuing to weigh your food scraps so you can see the difference you’re making when you keep it up.

Thanks so much to all of our returning champions who shared their advice! We’ll be back next week to reveal and celebrate how much food waste we’ve collectively diverted during our 2024 spring season. 

Now, please click the green button below to access the simple data upload page. Thank you as always for your participation!

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