My harvest this morning was this 12 gallons or so of compost. I mostly use my compost by spreading a 1/2″ to 1″ layer around  my flowers & veggies this time of year to mulch & fertilize them while they’re in their big growth spurt.

Everybody has to work out their own composting system. I’ve tried those nice little tidy cans you put on the countertop to collect peelings and such, but they don’t hold enough for my needs. I just hang a plastic grocery bag on a cabinet door knob because that’s big enough for what I tend to put in there daily, including virtually all the paper towels & napkins, paper plates (without wax coating) plus the common fruit & veggie scraps, egg shells and the like.

** I hate to admit how much paper I use when I know it’s better to use dish cloths and cloth napkins. But I’m making progress in improving my habits by using dish towels instead of paper towels as often as is reasonable **

I have 2 compost bins; the first is where I put my “every day” discards from the kitchen and garden and the second is a long term bin where I put sticks that are too small for the firewood pile, large weeds and the like that may take 2-3 years to compost.

I find composting to be more effective when you add dry or “brown” matter (paper towels and the like) in with the wet or “green” items such as peelings, seeds and such. Here’s a list of things you can compost that you might not have considered:

  • Paper products such as napkins, paper towels, towel rolls, unwaxed paper plates, paper bags
  • Coffee grounds and coffee filters
  • Cardboard egg cartons & other plain cardboard
  • Paper muffin cups
  • Tea bags
  • Crumbs you sweep off the floor
  • Debris from your vacuum cleaner
  • Stale bread, crackers, cereal, pretzels
  • Shrimp & lobster shells
  • Hair – yours or your pet’s (empty your hair & pet brushes for the compost pile)
  • Dryer lint
  • Nut shells (except walnuts)
  • Bills, newspapers & the like (shred them first)
  • Dead house plants & spent flowers from floral arrangements
  • Fireplace ashes (so long as you ONLY burn natural fire wood)
  • Droppings & bedding from your rabbit, parrot, hamster cages

I didn’t mention the obvious: grass clippings, leaves, spent flower & veggie plants (so long as they’re not diseased), any part of a fruit or vegetable that you’re not going to eat.

DO NOT COMPOST these items:

  • Chemically treated wood
  • Human waste
  • Meat, bones, fat
  • Manure from meat eating animals
  • Diseased plants
  • Heavily coated paper such as magazines, milk cartons, juice boxes
  • Milk & milk products (which attract pests)
  • Diapers or other used personal hygiene products

Some people sift their compost but I rarely do; when I spread the compost I put any lumpy stuff, such as a partially decomposed pine cone or a twig, down first and cover it with the fluffy pretty stuff.

I admit that I’m a better composter in the warm weather when I’m going outside more often. Last week I went to put something in the supercan the evening before the trash guys came for weekly pickup and chuckled when I saw one lone garbage bag in that can. I was so proud!

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