Examining your options
If your yard has any use for soil, composting is a huge win for you. You can save money by reducing the amount of kitchen waste you send to the curb and getting a high quality soil at no cost. Very little time and effort is needed to set up a composting system. Find the one that works best for your household below.
Can be done indoors and in small spaces, like underneath the kitchen sink. Having it close to hand is convenient, and the worms speed up the composting process.
Requires a worm bin, which is a closed box with small holes and a removable lid for adding scraps. Bins can be purchased but they are easy and inexpensive to make yourself. The advantage to making one is that you can make it the perfect size for a certain space. Make sure you make it big enough to keep up with the amount of waste you produce.
For best results: Get enough worms and be sure to mix the contents as they start to break down. Keeping a layer of soil on top reduces the smell.
Piles are easy and can be large in size, up to 5x5x5. There’s no cost for materials and no time needed to construct anything.
Requires an open space to dump your yard waste and kitchen scraps, a shovel to periodically turn the contents of the pile, and 30 seconds of effort to turn the pile as needed. Further from the house is better, as your compost will produce a mild rotting smell.
For best results: keep the width, height and weight roughly even. Try to layer wet and dry materials, and keep the ratio roughly 1:1 when you can. Mist the pile down if it dries out, and turn it as needed to keep the pile moist but not wet.
Bins look neater and smell less than heaps, and animals won’t be able to dig into the pile.
Requires an outdoor space to put your bin in. A lid will help keep the smell of the contents down, so you can keep it close to your house for the sake of convenience.
For best results: Buy or make a bin with an open bottom so you can simply lift it off the pile when its time to use your compost. A wider opening makes it easier to turn the contents if needed.
Looks neat and contains the smell, like a bin, but is designed to be rotated like a cement mixer. Makes turning the contents very easy. The drawback is that its limited in size.
The merits of this system are questionable. You have to pay for the system initially, and then you have to pay for a steady supply of a proprietary mix to mix in with your “compost.” What you get for your troubles is not humus, but fermented food scraps that still need to be composted. They might then break down faster, but you’ve already spent two weeks fermenting. Why pay to add an extra step to the process, when there’s low maintenance and zero cost methods available? It won’t add extra nutrients to the soil. They do advertise that you can compost meat and dairy this way, so you’ll have to ask yourself if having overhead is worth that potential upside.
You can do the composting process right in the garden bed. This works great for those who have limited space and would rather use it for another garden bed than a bin or a pile. Though it takes one to two seasons for the compost materials to break down, the bed can be used immediately if you add a layer of soil on top.There’s no materials or costs for this method, but it does require the time to build the bed up in the proper layers.
For best results: add the compost matter selectively. Alternate layers of brown (carbon-rich) and green (nitrogen-rich) materials.
If your compost system produces less compost than you need, you’ll find plenty of organic compost and three-way topsoil at the Waeco yard. Available in bulk for all your lawn and garden projects, in Monroe next the Evergreen State Fairgrounds. See your choices for soil, bark mulch, sand, washed rock, and gravel.