This isn't anything personal, but I've been peeing on that fine and august publication The Guardian.
It turns out that vegans have nitrogen-rich urine, which as a superpower is pretty lame, but for making compost it's a big thumbs up. With the sounds of Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout (who would not take the garbage out) ringing in my head, I've been relishing the
Brown bananas, rotten peas...
Prune pits, peach pits, orange peel...
Soggy beans and tangerines
and turning my trash into future fertilizer for those ever-hungry plants.
Now, if you've ever looked at a compost bin you'll know that they occupy the space of a Ford Cortina and cost just as much, which in an urban pied a terre is not terribly ideal. I knew that I didn't want to waste all those veggie bits and old newspapers, but didn't think a solution was possible in such a small space and on such a limited budget.
But thanks to a comment by the lovely rock+creek a few weeks ago, my quest began.
He operates a two tier system in his apartment kitchen with old five gallon plastic honey tubs and says:
Thanks to a little takeaway cafe in the Seven Dials area of Brighton, I managed to score two old plastic mayo tubs, and after a good scrub and rinse, they were good to go. Following rock+creek's advice, I put about three inches of potting compost at the bottom and then started to alternate layers of chopped up veggies, coffee grounds and used teabags, with shredded newspapers and cut up toilet roll innards. So far, the first bucket is about half full and already things are starting to break down and decompose with no nasty smells or gloopiness.
The alternate layers help the mix along by combining equal portions of what are called browns and greens. Greens provide nitrogen and moisture and decompose quickly; good things for the greens pile are:
- grass cuttings
- vegetable peelings, salad leaves and fruit scraps
- old flowers and nettles
- coffee grounds and filter paper
- spent bedding plants
- rhubarb leaves
- young annual weeds
Browns give your compost fibre and carbon and make the necessary air pockets for the decomposition to take place evenly; good browns are:
- egg boxes
- fallen leaves
- twigs, branches and bark
- paper (but not with coloured ink or a glossy finish)
Never put meat, dairy, poo, rotten food, perennial weeds or anything cooked in there! (Pee is a different matter as it's essentially sterile despite being a waste product, and it acts as an accelerator. You can go ahead and straddle that bucket if it floats your boat, but putting it on a handful of newspaper saves you getting twigs in your nether regions and keeps the neighbours from calling the police.)
Here's a handy list of ingredients with a downloadable pdf. Try and chop everything up to about an inch or so square; big chunks take longer to break down. It's also a nice idea to throw on some potting compost every couple of weeks and turn things over to get it all good and mixed; if it seems wet or smelly, add more dirt. The turning over part gets air into the mix which is essential for what is known as "aerobic decomposition"; basically everything heats up in there and the bacteria and fungus that occurs naturally in decomposition breaks everything down into a lovely, earthy, crumbly mixture that helps your garden grow.
It also lowers your carbon footprint, so you can be smug and earn eco brownie points. ;)