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What can I compost or not

 
Doris Daniels
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Looking for new ideas for composting and less for trash or even recycling. My compost is small scale; I have two city bins so hard-core stuff won't work. Also disabled and old (me).
 
David Good
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Hi Doris,

I've done a lot of thinking on small-scale simple composting. I actually just posted at Mother Earth News this last week about reducing trash by 50% via some simple composting methods:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/reduce-your-trash-by-50-percent-zbcz1509.aspx

Some of those ideas may not work for you; however, there are other options. Worm bin composting is really simple and easy (in my book I talk about super simple ways to do that) and lots of the other folks here on Permies have methods for vermicomposting as well.

Another thing you can do with some of the harder-to-compost items that might be a problem, such as meat and sloppy kitchen scraps, is to save them for a friend with chickens or pigs.

Good for you to think things through - you're never too old to attack something new.
 
Debbie Ang
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Hello, David,

Is burial the best method of keeping rodents out of meat and dairy waste? Any other methods?

Does a compost pile result in more snails and slugs in the garden? Does it help keep them away from the vegetables by offering an alternate food source?

Thanks.
 
Giselle Burningham
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Location: Australia, Now zone 10a, costal, sandy, windy and temperate.
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I am wondering how to dispose of Guts from chickens after a kill.. I will have a lot.. Any suggestions? Giselle in OZ.
 
David Good
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@Debbie

Burial has been the best method I've used. One of the best ways to compost that kind of scavenger-attracting waste is to bury it deep, then plant on top of the pit. I like to plant melons or pumpkins, borrowing the Native American method. Once the roots reach the good stuff, the plant growth takes off - and they'll feed themselves all season long. I've gotten some great watermelons by planting on top of dead chickens.

@Giselle

Same method. Dig a deep pit (about 3' or so), then bury the guts. You can also throw in chunks of wood (hugelkultur lite!) and whatever other organic matter you have laying around, then plant on top. I've done this with everything from melons to sunflowers to chestnut trees. They really appreciate the highly nutritious animal waste. Nature knows what to do.
 
Rose Pinder
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Location: Otago, New Zealand
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If scavengers aren't an issue are there any problems with composting meat? I've done it in haphazard ways, but would like to refine my techniques. Mostly I've focussed on putting it in the middle of the pile and not overloading the pile with too much.
 
Giselle Burningham
Posts: 92
Location: Australia, Now zone 10a, costal, sandy, windy and temperate.
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Thank you soo much, based on the decomposition of compost piles I will dig a hole, then do what you say, then plant a tree next to it. I didn't think of the benefits of meat to a plant, I thought it would be negative due to possible maggots etc. Thanks Giselle
 
Shaun Heath
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Location: Florida, zone 9b
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David, Any thoughts on the location of the hole? Does it need to be away from ponds or other bodies of water?
 
Bonnie Kuhlman
Posts: 19
Location: Zone 7a, Paulden, AZ
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@ David, so does animal waste (meat, guts) need to be buried alone rather than put in a compost pile? And can the bones be buried/composted as well?

Bonnie
 
David Good
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@Rose Pinder

When I lived in a more urban area without many scavenger/predator issues, I regularly composted meat by simply putting it into the middle of the pile, just as you're doing. It works wonderfully.

If you think of the sheer nutritional density of say, a steak, compared to green beans - it makes sense that meat would be a good choice to feed to our plants. Remember: protein = lots of nitrogen.
 
David Good
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@Giselle

The maggots actually help the process along. They're designed as a clean-up crew. Their manure will actually help make the decaying meat more available to plants.

It's terrifyingly weird to those of us raised in a sterile world... but nature is an incredible recycling machine. Flies, ants, roaches, termites, mice - all of these are very useful to the process of feeding the ecosystem by disposing of the dead and feeding the living soil.
 
David Good
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@ Shaun Heath

I've thought on that quite a bit. My gut feeling is to say "don't put carcasses etc. near the water!" There have been disease outbreaks in the third world due to that sort of thing; however, that said, how many animals might die and rot in or near a big pond during the course of the year? There are dead insects, drowned earthworms, birds, mice, fish, and more that are being reabsorbed back into the ecosystem either via rotting on top of the ground (and usually rapidly being consumed by beetles/maggots/scavengers) or in the water itself.

I wouldn't make pits too close, but I also wouldn't worry too much unless I was going to be drinking directly from the pond without filtration... which is a bad idea anyhow. Nature is a huge filter in its own right and can handle quite a bit provided we don't do crazy things like run the manure from a dairy right into the retention pond.
 
David Good
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@ Bonnie

You can compost meat directly in a compost pile provided you don't have a problem with predators pulling it out.

I composted multiple chickens after a predator killed some of my flock without problems. The size of the pile makes a difference, though. If you only had a few gallons of leaves, a couple of coffee filters and a dead rooster... I'd say no. If you have a large pile, just bury the carcass in the middle and let nature do the rest.

My favored method is burying, though, since I find stacking up big piles to be more work due to the large amounts of biomass that must be gathered.
 
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