Category Archives: General

Weeds in the Compost Pile – Should You Worry? (article)

Should weeds go in the compost pile, especially those with seeds? This question is bound to arise in midsummer as a bumper crop of weeds hits most gardeners. Here are some thoughts on the matter but you have to make up your own mind.

First of all, it would appear that weeds that have not gone to seed would all be safe to use for compost. However, the gardener needs to look at the plant itself. Chances are that an annual weed that has been uprooted and the roots allowed to dry will be dead before it hit the pile. Perennial weeds are a different sort all together.

Their roots are likely to survive a long time. In appearance they will often be white and thick with moisture retentive properties, ready to wait until circumstances allow them to sprout and spread, circumstances like the edges of a compost pile with warmth, moisture and food. Actually, they may be more trouble than weeds with thousands of viable seeds.

After all we are told that every cubic foot of soil has millions of seeds. Even if there is only one million weed seeds in a cubic foot of your garden soil, and that only the ones in the top inch will sprout, that means that there are five hundred seventy-eight weeds ready to sprout in every square inch of garden soil. How much difference will a few more seeds per cubic foot make?

Balance this with the knowledge that those weeds represent a great source of nitrogen for the compost pile. Plus, their roots have gone deep and long to capture a lot of mineral content for the soil which you can now move into the bins to enrich the topsoil later. Just as carrots and corn will gather both similar and different things from the soil, so do different weeds and thus a good mix of weeds for the compost pile implies a richer pile by far. Also the quick composters must remember that a fast pile is a hot pile and this will kill a lot of the seeds and the perennial roots as well.

So the plants that we call weeds may be a nuisance in the garden but a treasure in the compost bins. As the mystery of composting happens in the back yard, the treasure of weeds becomes the black gold of compost.                                 -Darrell Feltmate

I find this to be a somewhat confusing article…or at least that it further solidifies my position that composting to most is an art.  He states that weeds are the “black gold” of compost, which is quite a bold claim.  I like that he lays out the fact about millions of seeds being in every foot of soil…but there’s also millions of types of seeds, no?

I don’t want weeds in my compost.  They suck up the moisture from the rest of the pile, especially if they’re near the top.  Even if the roots are high in mineral content, I have plenty of other sources for minerals instead of weeds.

Even after stating this, I find it funny because in the end we’ll both have awesome compost piles to play with.

You just composted WHAT?

Ever read a composting article about all these different things you didn’t know you could compost?  There’s TONS of crap you can put in your compost pile, some more relevant than others.  While I didn’t include “wine or brewery waste” in my video, I did use condoms, hair balls and that annoying Sun Chips bag.

My predictions:

I think everything will break down within 12 weeks, except for maybe the Sun Chips bag and the condoms.  Supposedly latex takes a really long time to break down, so let’s see what happens.  I think the cork will take a while too, since I didn’t chop it up into smaller pieces.  Whichever sock I threw in that has a synthetic blend, I imagine there will be a skeleton left behind there, too.

Fun fun fun!  I can’t wait to see the results.  The colder months are on their way too, so if you want to get critical and say I’m not being fair to the various items and their decomposition speed, go right ahead: I don’t care.  The point is that I’m going to show you what happens when you put less obvious stuff in your compost.

What do you think will happen to this stuff?  Leave a comment below.

Friends of the Wissahickon Install Composting Toilet Near Rex Avenue Bridge

Philadelphia—September 2010—The Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW) and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) will celebrate the opening of the second composting toilet in Fairmount Park at the WPA shelter near the Rex Avenue Bridge on Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 3:30 p.m. This composting toilet is totally self- sustaining, with no need for plumbing, and electrical power supplied by solar panels.
“We are excited to partner with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation on the installation of the Wissahickon Valley’s second bio-composting toilet,” says FOW Executive Director Maura McCarthy. “This is the first compost toilet entirely powered by alternative energy sources.”
A survey conducted by FOW in 2006 indicated that 74% of park users wanted more bathroom facilities in the Wissahickon. These toilets are helping to meet that need and are serving as prototypes for future composting toilets in the park.
FOW structures crew worked with Fairmount Park District 3 staff (part of PPR) and the Student Conservation Association to restore the WPA structure and install the composting toilet. The toilets are cost effective, environmentally safe, odorless, and require no water or chemicals and very little maintenance.
“These composting toilets are one of the many ways we are building a green infrastructure in the most important green space in our city,” says McCarthy.                       -Denise Larrabee

Yay, go Philly!  This is some some local news for me, we’re getting another composting toilet.  Have you ever looked into these?  Pretty awesome stuff.  What isn’t awesome is the price ($2,000+), but you use them in the proper application (ie in a public park), they pay themselves off pretty quickly.

So the paid way to go would be something like what Envirolet offers: http://www.envirolet.com

Or the build-it-yourself way, found at wikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Build-a-Composting-Toilet

Not surprisingly, I’m pretty curious about this.  Plus I have a broken toilet and a lot of scrap wood in my backyard…uh oh!

Ten questions with Michael Mulvaney, Ph.D.

Hey everyone, stay tuned for my upcoming interview with soil scientist Dr. Michael Mulvaney.  I will be asking him all of your burning questions about (you guessed it) dirt!

Are paper and cardboard destructive to your compost?  Is turning your compost pile really necessary?  Will food scraps high in citric acid destroy your compost pile?

All this and more coming soon.  I can’t wait to hear his replies, this guy really knows his stuff!

Envirocycle Compost Tumbler, Up Close and Personal

Envirocycle Composter Review – Part 2

I decided to make a follow up video to my Envirocycle compost turner review that addresses some of the questions I’ve received about it.  Be sure to “Like” my video and leave a comment for me!

Thanks so much, and keep it dirty!

Using a Compost Thermometer (video)

Using a Compost Thermometer to Determine How hot is your Pile?

This dude is nuts, I love him!  No one can make a compost thermometer review more exciting than he does.

I think it’s funny that he just reads everything off the package…the package certainly provides a lot of instruction to get your pile working properly.  His pile is only 60 degrees…dead as a doornail.  Pay attention to your ratio, dude!  Doesn’t look like you’re following 3:1.

I definitely want to do a collaboration with this guy, I really like his energy.  He’s reviewing a good product as well, so at least he has that right.  But the beauty of open piles is that eventually it will all break down, even if you ignore it like he does.  I’d have to say this is my favorite composting video out there.

What is this guy’s last name?  I have absolutely no idea what he’s saying in the beginning.


Envirocycle Compost Tumbler Review (video)

Yep, I finally got around to reviewing my brand spankin’ new compost tumbler. I was actually really impressed with this thing… I’ve seen a lot of lame compost tumblers. It can fit in the smallest of backyards, rotates easily, it’s made of 100% HDPE #2 plastic, and it collects compost tea.

Be sure to leave a comment on the video letting me know how dorky the video is. For some reason, I really believe in making videos in the first take and using that…I think it keeps it pure. It wasn’t rehearsed, and I didn’t touch the tumbler up until I hit record. I could go back and make it fancier and say things a bit clearer, but I’d rather not. I think it’s evident that I really dig this composter and I definitely recommend this product. Two dirty thumbs up.

Thanks for watching, and if you have any questions or comments let me know!

Millipedes As Composters?

So I went to a show earlier tonight and I ran into a friend that’s really into plants.  We started talking about composting (duh) and she mentioned having a bunch of pet millipedes.  I wasn’t aware that they also act as composters, although not on the same level as the famous red wiggler.

Another item to add to the agenda…creating a millipede bin alongside the worm bin and see just how much slower they degrade stuff.  I can’t say I’ve ever thought of having pet millipedes, but it sounds like a cool addition to the house if they like to compost.  Why not?

Later today, I will be posting my review of the Envirocycle compost tumbler, as well as another update on the kitchen compost crock.  I think it’s day 7 now.  The contents are looking really degraded and the lid’s underside is covered in maggots…it’s pretty awesome.  Stay tuned!

Are Compost Crocks Really All That? (article)

Yesterday, I wrote an article summing up my thoughts about the kitchen compost crock and its effectiveness…here we go:

I’ve been composting forever, and just recently I decided to curb my curiosity and try out a “compost crock”. Are they really necessary, or just a fun item? It’s definitely a glamour item, and since my kitchen is in really bad shape, it’s the beacon of light. It’s also become the beacon of stench.

Here’s what happened: I got the thing, filled it to the brim all at once (which I think may be why) and within two days I wouldn’t have known there was a charcoal filter in the lid. However, day three came around and now I don’t notice anything, other than that the crock is super hot…pretty cool.  I really am composting in my kitchen, which is awesome, but why not just do that in my yard and save the trouble?

I’ve always used a tight-sealing Tupperware container to hold my scraps until I made the trip outside, which does just fine. This compost crock has a shiny silver finish and has a one gallon capacity…it should take me at least a week to fill it since I happily live alone.

I think a possible solution is to cover the holes in the lid with some electrical tape (from the inside of course), since the lid isn’t a tight fit anyway. This may mitigate the temporary odor a little bit. I’ve been trying to find more commentary on these compost crocks to see if other people love or hate them.

What’s the verdict? They look great, they’re sturdy and easy to clean. I would never think of cleaning it, though. However, I’d replace the charcoal filter with an airtight, gasketed lid like you find on some cookie jars. The air exchange wouldn’t be that good, but that’s what a compost tumbler is for. I’m still happy I own this, but there’s no need to make a big deal out of it.

22 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Compost (article)

Read this short article: 22 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Compost

This is a good article to get you thinking about other stuff you may come across that needs to get in your compost. A good portion of the items are obvious, like dead flowers, hair, and cotton swabs. They even put beer and winery waste on there… yeah, I get tons of that. Not sure how applicable that one is.

Then there’s roadkill. Why would you list roadkill on there? Yes it “biodegrades”, but animal waste is not something you want in your pile, let alone the corpse along with the waste! Further still, they mention green funerals. Sounds like a good option, bury me in the woods with no embalming fluid. Pretty hip.