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Do you and/or your restaurant compost?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I don't know why it's taken me so long, but I finally got around to composting about 4 or 5 months ago. We've got one simple wire mesh bin and one with a wood frame around wire. After tossing so much kitchen waste, this is really gratifying. And easy. And I can ALWAYS use more compost in my yard.

So now I'm curious: how many of you guys compost? And do any of you work at restaurants who compost? I'm not talking about the city-run green waste systems; I'm thinking about the places that have small gardens next door or near by.
Emily

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"If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener." -- J. C. Raulston, American Horticulturist
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Emily

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"If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener." -- J. C. Raulston, American Horticulturist
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post #2 of 8
I compost all my vegetable scraps, as well as other organic materials.

We keep a plastic-bag-lined half-gallon crock on the work counter, and scraps get thrown into it as we work. Once a day---or more often if necessary---it gets emptied into the compost bin.

My bin is a double unit I build ten or 12 years ago. Each compartment measures 4 x 4 x 5 feet. I cold compost, so only one side is used at a time. At the end of the year we switch to the second bin, let the first one rest, then empty it the next fall to start to process over.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #3 of 8
I'm very interested in improving my composting. I also save all vegetable/fruit scraps for compost pile. What did you build your bin out of, and do you stir it every so often. Any suggestions would be helpful.
post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
Hi Colleen,

Welcome to ChefTalk!
I'm sure other people will have better suggestions since I'm pretty new to composting, but my one BIG piece of advice is this: keep it simple enough that you'll actually do it. :D My mistake was that I read too much about it on too many gardening sites. After awhile it sounded like too much work with ratios and thermometers. Then I spent a month or so just burying kitchen scraps in the garden. Finally, we just got some wire mesh and attached a piece of wood at each end and put hooks on them. It just makes a circle to contain the compost. VERY simple.
Then just toss in "greens" like vegetable and fruit scraps (though I've read that the worms you want to come and help out don't like citrus), grass, garden clippings, coffee grounds, etc. and "browns" like shredded junk mail, fallen leaves, straw, paper towels (that haven't been used around cheese or meat), etc. Water it a bit to keep some moisture in and I use a garden fork to move it around every few days to aerate it.
There are lists on-line of things you can compost depending on whether you are hot or cold composting. Personally, I'm on the edge of a forest so I stay clear of proteins so the critters won't be so tempted.
Emily

______________________

"If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener." -- J. C. Raulston, American Horticulturist
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Emily

______________________

"If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener." -- J. C. Raulston, American Horticulturist
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post #5 of 8
Colleen, as Phoebe indicates, you can make composting as simple or as complex as you want. Some people make such a science out of it you wonder when they have time to do any gardening. :lol:

Essentially, there are two major forms of composting: hot piles and cold piles.

The advantage to a hot pile is that in addition to decomposing the organic matter the heat is hot enough to destroy perrenial weed seeds and many (but not all) plant pathogens. The downside is that it's a lot of work. The pile has to be turned every three to five days. It's one thing to to that when the pile is only a few forksfull of stuff; quite another when it's several cubic yards.

A cold pile is, basically, the way God makes compost. You just toss the stuff in as it accumulates, and let it sit until it decomposes. This is a slow process (mine sits for a year after the last additions), and does not generate enough heat to kill either weed seeds or pathogens. The up side is that it's low maintainance, requiring no work until you screen the finished compost.

There is a third category generically called "sheet composting," in which you spread the layers of organic greens & browns directly in the garden. They initially serve as a mulch. And you can either turn the stuff in at the end of the year or just leave it sit and the worms will do it for you. Here, again, there is no heat generated to kill off baddies. Nowadays this method is mostly known as lasagna gardening or as the Ruth Stout method. Ruth did not, contrary to popular belief, invent it. But she promoted it heavily.

My big bin was built out of pressure-treated 2 x 4s. Basically it's a three-sided corral, divided in the middle. This gives me the two compartments I eluded to earlier. After a dozen years it's finally starting to fall apart, and I'll have to rebuild it this fall.

FWIW, a few years back I did a major story for Mother Earth News on compost tumblers. My conclusion: With the possible exception of the Compos-Twin, none of them is big enough to produce enough black gold for vegetable gardeners. And, given their costs, they only make sense if you live in an area with restrictive covenents against open compost piles.

If you should choose to look at them, ignore the manufacturer's claims as to speed. They do not work any faster than a well-maintained open pile.

One other thing that perhaps need clarification. From a composting point of view there is no reason not to include animal proteins in the pile. The reason we ignore them is because they attract nuisance animals, such as rats, raccoons, and the neighbors' dogs and cats.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #6 of 8
I don't get a chance to compost - the guinea pigs eat all the scraps. But, they process the scraps really fast :) and I get the straw & their li'l presents to toss on the garden.

Talk about fast tracking...
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #7 of 8
What about all the yard waste? Grass clippings, fallen leaves, all the garden plant matter left over in the autumn, all that sort of thing? One way or another you should be using that in the garden.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #8 of 8
Guess we do make use of most of it...not many deciduous trees in our garden, but anything that does end up on the lawn gets mowed, then clippings go straight onto the garden beds. Works well for keeping the weeds down too.

Although sometimes the piggies get pretty hungry, so they've mown the lawn for us and fertilised it as a bonus. Plus less petrol used in the mower. They live in a moveable hutch so I move that around to keep the lawn short.

Any branches big enough get cut into pieces, dried and used for kindling for the fire. I like using everything I can to either improve the soil and save money and the environment :) Tho some may argue burning a wood fire isn't good for the environment....but that's a separate issue, and I enjoy it. So do the cats, it's their favorite channel hehe
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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