Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Clean Living: Composting

I grew up in a very agricultural area in California: Santa Cruz County. Surrounding Santa Cruz are a number of different agricultural capitols-strawberry, lettuce, artichoke. Santa Cruz County is also very environmentally aware and full of people who make every effort to live sustainably. You don't see this as much in Phoenix, though I do love that we get a huge recycling bin which gets picked up each week! I recently found out from a friend that Tempe also offers compost bins for free. All you have to do is call the city and ask for one to be delivered. They are essentially recycled garbage cans which they carve huge holes into, since you need exposure to air for composting (I think).

So yesterday morning, I went out to our car and this baby was sitting in our driveway.

I'll be honest: I am a little bit intimidated by the size of this compost bin. I haven't ever composted before, but it is something I have felt convicted about for awhile. I hate when I am cooking and I end up throwing away a bunch of stuff I know I could compost. I also know very little about composting. 

Here's what I do know: 
  • You need a mixture of wet and dry parts and this has something to do with the chemicals released which help to break down the particles.
  • You need some water to get it started. (Perhaps this is part of the "wet" ingredients?)
  • You need air exposure. 
  • It helps to stir the compost-to blend all of its parts together. 
And that's about it, folks! This will definitely be a learning process, but I would love it if you would offer any insights or learn along with me. My first step is going to be creating a compost "station" in our kitchen, where all of our compostable items will go for the day. After dinner, I will take it out to the compost bin, but that's really all I've got so far!

If you live in Tempe, call the city and get on board! We all have to do our part to live as good stewards of the gift we have been given: earth. 


  1. Hi Katie
    It is great to see you composting in Arizona! This is a nice intro to composting article. It seem like you know all the important things about it :) I can share a little bit about the science of composting.

    A mixture of 60% greens and 40% browns is ideal. The greens add organics which contain nitrogen and the browns add carbon. Microbes love consuming nitrogen compounds, but too many of these microbes means oxygen depletion which eventually kills off the fast acting microbes (aerobic)allowing slower acting, anaerobic microbes to thrive. This is why controlling the moisture is important. Too wet conditions from too many greens can facilitate these anaerobic conditions resulting in a need for more frequent turning. Ideally the compost pile can be turned every day to ensure adequate oxygen; however if it is not the decomposition will just take longer. An un-turned pile can turn into compost in 6-12 months whereas a turned pile can become compost in 3 months due to the different microbes working.

    I hope this information is useful. I am happy to see you start a wonderful family in AZ. It is amazing how little St. Francis has alumni living all over the U.S. now.

    Ashley Ciglar

    1. Thanks, Ashley! Hope you and Mike are doing well!

  2. Marc and I have been composting for about 6 months now. As I told you, composting is Marc's thing, so he is the expert when it comes to our compost. :)

    He told me uses about 1/2 dry and 1/2 wet ingredients. He turns the pile about every three days. He also waters it during this time as well (only about a minute or two with our hose). AZ is hot, hot, hot! so he finds it needs that extra water in addition to the wet ingredients.

    So far it has worked well for us, there is a good layer of fertile dirt at the bottom now. We plan to use it when we plant our garden again in the fall, so hopefully we will have a good layer of plantable dirt.

    Hope that helps you!