Sunday, January 11, 2009

Taking all the fun out of composting

Have you seen/heard of this Electronic composter?

Now I haven't used it, so I'm just judging it on being a successful outdoor composter for the last three years. In my honest opinion, here are the issues I see:

1. $400 -- It's 12" x 20" x 20" high and costs $400. My outdoor composter (which stands at least 4' tall) was $35.

2. The claim: "produce organic compost – indoors and in weeks, not the months that outdoor composting requires" -- At this small size, you'll be turning around compost every couple of weeks. In my opinion that's not enough compost in too quick a time. I would rather take: every 3 months a wheelbarrow of compost, than every 2 weeks 5 cups. I normally use compost heavily in the Spring and Fall, so this wouldn't work with that schedule. Also, every two weeks emptying this out? Sounds like a lot of work.
My inconspicuous composter

2a. "...indoors and in weeks..." I just think composts should be outside. Plus, what helps break down the organic matter is bugs (microbes). Bugs come up from the ground and into the compost (why you don't see outdoor composts with bottoms.) So it's not really breaking down naturally because there are no bugs. (Note: I just read an article where it says you have to add soil to it to give it those microbes.)

3. the claim: The unit accepts most food scraps (including dairy, meat and fish..." -- As far as I understood, NO DAIRY & NO MEAT in composts. Maybe this is because they are usually outdoors, but I also thought the reason was that they carry bacteria when let out to rot and that's something you don't want in your garden.

4. Electricity -- if you compost, you're probably someone who also watches all their carbon emissions. So why plug something in, when it can sit outside for free? I'm not trying to use more energy.

I don't really find that my outdoor compost is that much work. I keep a small pail in my kitchen for the scraps and when it fills up (usually 1/week), one of us walks it out to the compost (all of about 20 steps from the house). The compost doesn't stink, doesn't attract wild animals, and we've never had complaints from the neighbors. We fill the compost all year round with food scraps (vegetables, washed eggs, coffee grounds), leaves, plants, and some soil. We water the compost whenever I remember. And we stir the compost with a pitchfork, again, when I remember.

Open up and say "Ahhhh"

In the springtime, I have enough compost for most of my yard (it's heavily planted). We use it to raise garden beds, plant the vegetables, spread across the lawn and over established garden beds. Every time I plant a new plant, I grab some to mix in with the existing soil. I've never been without compost.

I suppose if you has a small urban garden with no outside space for a compost, and you had a lot of money, this could probably suit your needs. But in my opinion, if you really care about being eco-friendly, you'd carve a niche out in your garden for a small compost with a lid. This one just sounds like more work than it needs to be.