Posted in Life

Sunday Project: compost

Sunday Project: June 28, 2015

It started back in October last year when I bought a compost bin from the City of Pasadena ($56).  I dutifully filled it with the appropriate layers and then waited for compost.

In May I opened it up and found that it looked exactly the same as when I loaded it up.  So, after advice from a friend on how to actually do it, I decided to start again.

First, I procured the right tools: one visit to later and I had some compost starter and a device for mixing the bin (an aerator).  Then I allocated half a day, grabbed a facemask and got to work.

I started by emptying all the material out of the current bin.  It looked largely identical to what I put in, just a little greyer. I found a nest of ants feeding off something, and a tiny patch of compost towards the middle back of the bin. I think that is the coolest spot and probably was dampest for longest.  I found one worm. I think it was dead.

The back of the box of compost starter, and other places on the internet, say to start the bottom layer with more woody materials to provide aeration. Luckily we are not short of twigs in the garden so I managed 6 inches of this quite easily.  I repacked some of the old compost, and added some drier leaves I raked off the lawn the previous day.

Then I had to find some green material.  Because the garden is so sparse I really had to look hard for places to prune.  The first set was the gunnera leaves which were yellowing rapidly. The stalks were very ‘wet’ so they all went in too. Then I added a good handful of the compost starter. This variety is supposed to contain microbes or something.

Then it was a case of adding more brown (easy) and more green (harder). After each brown layer I added some water – not sure why, it just seemed like the thing to do.

To obtain more green, I pruned around the bottom of the termite-eaten tree by the side of the house, and I pruned the privet bushes by the fence and I pruned the Chinese Elm growing along the side of the house.  By the time I’d layered brown, green, and starter and used everything in the yard the bin was pretty respectably full. I finished with a layer of brown, and gave it a water…

…then put the lid on.

Sit back and wait for the compost!
Sit back and wait for the compost!

I spent the rest of the day with my eyes streaming and nose running… luckily there doesn’t appear to have been any long term side-effects for me…

My goal is to add food scraps daily, covering them with handfuls of the old compost as I do, and to water when I remember. In a week or two I’ll stick the aerator thing in and see what’s going on.

Stay tuned for news of lovely brown compost!


Question: have you ever successfully made compost? Tell me how!



Travel, photography, blogging, being an expat. And that's just in my spare time.

5 thoughts on “Sunday Project: compost

  1. Coming from a guy who is studying decomposition for a PhD – the key is making sure there is a good balance between your luscious, fresh stuff (with lots of nutrients for your microbes), and the more recalcitrant woody, or old leafy stuff (which takes longer to break down). If you get it right, there’s often a ‘priming effect’ which means your more recalcitrant stuff breaks down quicker than usual.

    Looks like you’ve got it under control, though ;).


  2. Enjoyed the composting blog!
    We simply throw in whatever comes up in the kitchen. Then add some greens and some browns – just as we go along, take a big composting fork every once in a while and do end up with fabulous compost once a year. Regular watering helps. As we are in a drought, we tend to use dish water…

    Good luck!


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