Composting In The City - Knowledgebase Question

New York, NY
Question by lyoshida
March 21, 2001
I live in New York and am trying to start a compost using a compost bin from Burpee's and kitchen scraps. I don't know anything about composting and am wondering -- can I just through veggie scraps into the bin? Are there scraps I shouldn't put in because they will harm the tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and zucchini I am trying to grow? Do I have to find wood chips or earthworms?

Answer from NGA
March 21, 2001


You would simply add what ever organic matter you have, including vegetable or fruit peelings, trimmings from the garden, grass clippings, fallen leaves, and so on. Some people also add coffee grinds and filters and egg shells, and cleanings from the cages of pet bunnies or chickens, but avoid grease, meat, milk, and pet wastes. Over time the materials will compost.

In general, composting requires some brown material rich in carbon such as old leaves or even torn up shreds of newspaper, and some green material rich in nitrogen such as fresh veggie scraps or fresh lawn clippings. The material should be slightly damp like a wrung out sponge. The process is faster with additional green material, but may become smelly without enough brown material. The process is fastest in hot weather. Adding as you go to the bin should be sufficient to produce compost eventually without adding wood chips or worms. Wood chips would be overly heavy in carbon and would take a long time to break down. (Smaller particles compost fastest.) The worms would likely cook to death in the compost when it "heats up" in the decomposition process.

The red worms for composting are usually kept indoors in a controlled environment and temperature (special worm bin) and do a good job on reducing kitchen scraps. These make a great indoor project because they will continue working all year -- including winter -- whereas the composting process stops in cold winter temperatures.

With a little experimentation you will see what works best for you.

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