Grubs from last summer!

We compost absolutely everything—food scrapes, grass clippings, leaves and yard waste, coffee grinds, dust and dirt from the vacuum, fingernail clippings, my husband’s hair from his haircuts. We shred all paper in the house and dump it in, and recently learned entire pizza boxes can be added. You don’t even need to break them down! After dinner this week, we looked at our plates and my man asked, “We can’t compost fish remains?” I jumped online and though some advised against it, others said to bury them deep within the middle of the bin. So it looks like fish heads, scales, fish skin and bones are compostable too. So far, it doesn’t smell bad. This is only recommended, however, if you have an enclosed bin because it can attract animals. If you know of anything we’re missing, by all means, comment on the post and let us know!

My husband’s all-time favorite line is, “Throw it in the compost.” His hobby and passion is making dirt. He’s had a compost pile every place he’s ever lived. 

In D.C., he created one by taking an old trashcan and cutting out four pie pieces from the bottom ( a cross remained to maintain the shape of the trashcan). Cutting out the entire bottom works too. On 4 sides, he drilled holes 3/4 of the way up, spacing the holes 2 inches apart. You either drill the holes or take a hammer and nail to poke the holes. The simplest video I’ve seen thus far is by  Danielle Lessovitz on YouTube. My mother did exactly what she said and it’s working out swimmingly.

In Connecticut, we had multiple piles in the backyard along the tree line. (Deer and raccoon often raided those.)  The more often you turn the pile, the quicker you’ll get compost dirt.

The crazy big compost pile in CT

In Virginia, we broke down and bought a container from Lowe’s. It looks nice. It’s not untidy like a pile and is easy to move because it breaks down. Because of its black color, it maintains heat, but we have no proof it breaks down the compost faster than the Rubbermaid  trashcan in D.C.

A compost pile works just fine; you DO NOT need any type of expensive container. If you want to compost fish remains, if you move constantly like we do in the military, or if you want the neat appearance of a bin in your yard, sure, buy one.  There is nothing complicated about composting. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need some expensive container from a store. If you have any questions, I’ll tell you anything we’ve learned so far. Just ask me.

Couldn't wait for it to rot so we could put it in the compost!

My former landlady used trench composting, burying food scrapes directly in the garden in between rows of vegetables in a pre-dug trench.

The rich, black soil the compost produces saves us money when it’s time to plant flowers or start the garden. We don’t have to buy any soil at all. The seeds thrive. The problem is that with the frequency of the moves, we often have to leave the soil or the compost pile behind. If the renters who move in after us put it to use– is anyone’s guess. This last time, we worked so hard making the dirt; we bagged it up, distributed it throughout the car and took it with us. I’m sure we used more gas in the process.

This week I scored! In many grocery stores, corn is shucked right there in the produce department. I asked the woman working what they did with the husks.
“Throw them out.”
“Could I have them?  I asked. “We compost everything.”
She looked around. “We’re not supposed to give food to the customers for fear they might eat it and get sick and we’d get in trouble.” She thought for a minute. “I guess you won’t be eating the husks though.”
I smiled and shook my head.
“Well, my supervisor isn’t here and the guy I work with doesn’t care. If I bag them up for you and put them in a shopping cart, you have to get them out of here.”

I pushed them out like I owned the place, like I knew exactly what I was doing. If someone had asked, I have no idea what I would have said.
I stuck them in the trunk, buzzing with excitement.

When my husband arrived home, I told him I had a surprise for him in my trunk. I always say that when I pick up beer for him. Expecting beer, he opened my trunk.

“What’s this?” he asked smiling.
“Corn husks for the compost!”
He peered in my trunk like it was Christmas.
We took them around back and completely filled the compost bin to the very top. She’d even thrown in some bruised and rotting fruit.

scraps saved from the grocery store

We stirred it later in the week and the decomposing had already begun. It had decomposed about 1/4 of the way down already! It steamed as we stirred it. And no, it didn’t smell at all. Victory!

compost bin after addition of corn husks

Stirring the corn husks.

Other posts about composting:
What are the benefits of hot composting versus cold composting? (
Composting toilets (
Composting Resources (
Composting (
How to compost with worms: vermiculture (
Things to Consider in Getting Compost Bins  (
Successful apartment composting stories wanted (
Worm castings and worm tea  (
Where to Compost (
Fall / Winter Garden Clean-Up – Don’t Forget To Compost It! (
Another military move….for the compost bin. (
Food for the compost (
Pizza boxes in the compost! (


16 responses to “Composting

  1. I live in an apartment complex, so I’m concerned about the smell and attracting animals. But, I REALLY want to compost. Any suggestions?

    • In an apartment complex, there’s really no place to put a compost pile. You’re best bet is to get one of the bins to keep it contained. We have a bin and it doesn’t smell at all. I looked on Lowe’s web site and they have a few to look through but since your family is small I think this one would work best. It’s the Suncast Tumblig Compost. I’ve heard good things about the tumbling compost. Take a look at the reviews.

      There’s also a 75-gallon one but that might be a little too big.
      Let me know if the link doesn’t work. I’ll get you hooked up. 🙂
      You can do this in an apartment complex. I think it would work fine! Check it out?

    • The link for the 75 gallon one is:

      I recommend shopping around, this is just an example. You don’t have to use these brands or this store. I just know the tumbler would fit well in an apartment complex, the one we’re using might be too invasive. It’s as big as a trashcan and there is no bottom. Yours would need to be contained for smelling/critter purposes.

    • I thought about this. Sure, a $100 tumbler is nice and neat and something you could keep on your balcony of an apartment complex, but an old trashcan would work just as well. The thing with using an old trashcan is that you need it to drain. When my man tried it in D.C., he discovered he should have completely cut out the bottom. It’s easier to get to the dirt this way. He had to turn the entire thing over and dump it out to get to the dirt in the bottom. Didn’t work very well.
      This wouldn’t work on a 2nd floor balcony but if you live on the first floor, it would. If you asked permission from the apartment complex, I don’t see why you couldn’t put one in the back. Using a type of bin like this would keep it contained and maybe others in the apartment complex might want to join in and take part?
      In the picture of the upcoming garden post I’m posting this weekend, it shows our garden in the backyard. Behind it is another type of compost bin that doesn’t have a top but only side netting. It’s cheaper than a bin, isn’t as pretty but works just as well.
      You don’t have to spend $100 to compost.
      I also saw a CRAZY video this week about vermicomposting with red worms. Apparently, you can keep one right in your kitchen! I’m looking more into that one…..not sure I’m ready for worms in my kitchen!

  2. While turning my garden over with a shovel to start planting my seeds I put all of the worms I came across in my compost and a few days later I looked in my compost and I couldn’ t find a one..they all died. Then I read somewhere they wouldn’t live in that environment. You have to get red worms… where do I get those??

    • Donna,
      This one took me a couple of days to find you an answer. Turns out you can use just about any type of worm. Many people go into baitshops and ask for fishing worms. The red ones you’re referring to are red wigglers. Breaking New Ground, a sustainable pilot program in connection with Heine Brothers Coffee, is working to help turn community waste into soil for community gardens. They sell a scoop of Red Wigglers for $5 at 22nd and Woodland in West Louisville.
      HOWEVER, unless you line the bottom of your bin or compost pile with a fine nylon mesh, the worms will escape. Vermicomposting is composting with worms. If you do this, you’ll need to do it in a the bin so your little worms don’t escape!

  3. Christy—I think I found your compost answer. It’s small enough to keep on the porch or even in the house and you don’t have to spend $100 for a tumbler. It’s for kitchen scraps!

    Mom–this video shows you exactly how to make the worm compost. See if what you did was similar. And remember, the comment above tells you where to get the worms in the Louisville area. Baitshops have them for sure!

  4. Another one for city-dwellers on how to compost. Christy, I sent you this one in your email!

  5. The other half

    Just wanted let everyone know that our compost bin is going strong here in south Georgia. We’ve fallen in love with Pizza Huts stuffed crust pizza and our compost bin loves the pizza boxes! We’ve also put in the remains of our milkfish dinner and shrimp heads and peels in the compost bin with no odor and no unwanted critters. We just dig a hole in the middle of the compost, put in the remains, and then cover them back up. We’re also continuing to put in food scraps, Q-tips (not the plastic kind!), hair from my self inflicted hair cuts, dust from the vacuum, grass clippings, leaves, and weeds from our community garden plot. The bin gets hot enough down here to kill the seeds. Let us know if you put anything different into your compost pile or if you have a question as to whether or not something can go in the compost bin.

    Happy composting!

  6. We built a 3-bin composting area in our backyard near the garden using shipping palettes. All parts were found, not a bit was bought. After the success we had with the round wire bins we decided to up our game. So far we compost any brown (untreated/unwaxed) paper in the house that is not burned for kindling as well as all kitchen vegetable & pasta scraps. Since my wife is a budding vegetarian that amount is increasing. I’ve not tried the dust hair and nails yet nor the pizza boxes but we make most of our own pizza. Right now we are having a hard time keeping the temp up in the pile though, but its coming along. Thanks for the info.

  7. Thanks for reading Ed! Your bin sounds fabulous. We’ve just started putting fish heads/skins and shrimp casks in as well. Though I’ve always heard not to put in seafood, we bury it right in the center and have had no problem with smells or critters. It disappears almost immediately.
    I think the lid helps us keep the heat in. But we only bought a bin because we move so much, or we’d do it just like you. My mom does her bin like yours and it works just fine. Keep making that dirt! You’re making me proud! And I appreciate you giving my site a look! 🙂

    • LOL! Its funny because we spent 3 years trying various compost bins because my wife was concerned with the smell and the sight. But we never had any luck with it and it stunk worse than the open piles. Then I got rid of it and went simple; wire & wood hoops. Nearly instant success the first season! Now we are upping our game and donated the hoops to her parents who are gonna start composting this year.

  8. Well, I’ll be darned. I’m glad you found something that worked for you. We got my mom composting too. It’s our generation that will change everything. I believe it. (We’re teaching our parents and our kids!)

  9. I used this blogpost to FINALLY start my compost bin today! I added 2 containers of red wigglers per the above video, so I hope to have some beautiful dirt soon! Thank you for sharing!

    • Christy! You make me so proud! I got your call today. Was getting ready to go to an auction with the military wives. Will call you tomorrow… or this week.

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