GARDEN Compostess with the Mostess

garden-mashupThe City of Los Angeles has this charming program wherein they’ll sell you an actually really nice composter for a crazy price ($20! $5 more for worms!) and, if you catch them at the right time, they’ll also sit you down and show you how to use it. Lucky for you (and lucky for me!) you/I have me to tell you about cooking up the best pile of rot possible. Here’s how this whole thing works:

(A note: I’m one for a “slow”/cold composting method because it’s easier and more convenient to add material as it becomes available rather than hoarding it and then creating a brand new pile. What do people do with all that extra garbage between piles, I wonder?)

Hands Holding a Seedling and Soil

1. Pick a location: Somewhere with a decent amount of sunlight, but which also gets some shade time during the day.

2. Pick a vessel. You can buy a compost bin or fence off a small area (like one square yard-ish) with chicken wire.

3. Layer equal parts of “browns” and “greens”, which are sort of gross categories I think but it roughly breaks down like this:


    • Dead + dried leaves and branches (breaks these into smaller pieces0
    • Paper (nothing toxic or bleached though — now those brown paper towels make some sense, eh?)
    • Cardboard
    • Woodchips


    • Vegetable trimmings
    • Fruit peels and trimmings
    • Egg shells
    • Coffee grounds
    • Cut grass and other “fresh” yard trimmings

4. Add some water. It shouldn’t be soaked; moist is what we’re going for here.

5. Once a week, add some water (unless it’s already looking pretty steamy and wet [Ed. note: sorry, I wish there were other words; gross!]) and turn the pile with a pitchfork.

6. Continue to add and in 4-6 weeks, you should have a some super rich soil down at the bottom that’s ready for your garden.

But, just a couple more things:

    • Don’t be gross and put things like meat, dog/cat waste, or diseased plants in there. Things will get weird.
    • If the pile doesn’t seem to be breaking down, it’s probably too dry. Remember to add water and make sure you have an even amount of those greens and browns.
    • Conversely, if it smells like death (um, rot) it’s way too wet. Make sure you’re turning it every week and try adding some more brown—there’s probably not enough.

Photos courtesy Edible Gardens LA, Miss Moss, Denver Urban Garden

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