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30 May 2012 @ 07:31 pm
food waste composter  
I would like to get a composter.

I know know nothing about composters other than they seem to be very expensive, so I need to know enough to get what I want. Any advice?
Derekderekbbell on May 31st, 2012 02:35 am (UTC)
We have a Earth Machine because of a class that cyano attended. I think it was underwritten by the city.
blk: houseblk on May 31st, 2012 03:12 am (UTC)
What is your goal in composting? Is it primarily to get rich gardening base out of it as fast as possible, or primarily to have a place to throw kitchen scraps so you have less trash (or more equal parts of both)?

If the former, then go with other people's suggestions, as I know nothing. If the latter, then a fenced in area enclosed by sturdy chicken wire, touching the ground, will work just fine, and is cheap and easy.
Someone I am is waiting for my courageforgotten_aria on May 31st, 2012 03:14 am (UTC)
The latter mostly, but I'd also like 1) to look reasonable 2) not to smell or great large numbers of flies.
Jeredjered on May 31st, 2012 04:00 am (UTC)
I have one of the ones like the city of Somerville subsidises. It's a big black box. It doesn't smell or have lots of flies -- don't put non-vegetable matter in and that won't be a problem.

I haven't taken any compost out yet, because I haven't needed it, it doesn't fill quickly (scraps shrink quite a lot), and you do have to aerate and water it for fast results. But, it was super cheap ($30?). If you want fast compost you can get one of those tumbling ones, but when I looked at them they were like $120-$150, which is just ridiculous.
blkblk on June 1st, 2012 03:31 am (UTC)
Regarding smell and flies...
A healthy compost doesn't actually smell bad. Generally the only time I notice a smell from mine is when I have recently dumped in a lot of moldy stuff (old science experiments from the fridge, as opposed to regular kitchen waste) or overloaded it with too thick of grass clippings (and it molds). As long as you don't put in dairy, meat, or mammal waste, it shouldn't really smell much or attract many flies.

Flies will be primarily be attracted to food waste that is just starting to decompose, and which is left as the top layer. I do get flies when I toss out an extra large chunk of food waste (like two dozen lemon skins after making lemonade). But it can be taken care of earily by regular tossing, or by just making sure to intersperse a layer of yard waste with your food waste.

That said, both of these issues will be reduced even further by getting a composter that is enclosed and can be turned easily, as others have mentioned before.

chenoamegchenoameg on May 31st, 2012 03:24 am (UTC)
The best way to get a composter to not smell is to regularly cover the kitchen waste with leaves/shredded paper.

I think you want a tumbling composter.

My assumptions:
(1) You don't want to turn it with a pitchfork/aerator
(2) You don't want to spend a lot of time thinking about the perfect mix of yardwaste and kitchen scraps
(3) You don't want to worry about mammals or insects getting into it

Because the tumbling composters are off the ground you don't have to worry about stuff digging into it. Because they aerate by turning they will have less issue with smell/bugs

The cheapest way is to throw something together with chicken wire/pallets. If you're mostly dealing with leaves/brush with a small amount of kitchen waste then you shouldn't have a pest problem this way. But if you're going to have more than the occasional kitchen scraps then you don't want an open system

(I really like my composter because it is square and heavy and this makes it easy for me to mix it with a pitchfork. It has an open bottom, but I have it on asphalt so that's not a problem. I find the earth machine hard to turn compost in, and the ones I interact with are always falling apart. Maybe I'm just rough on compost bins.
mathhobbitmathhobbit on May 31st, 2012 12:04 pm (UTC)
I have an Earth Machine, subsidized by the city. I think the city model also has an added screen on the bottom so rats can't tunnel in.

Smell hasn't been much of a problem but I do get flies. Stirring the compost regularly with a broken piece of pipe seems to fix the fly problem.

In Seattle we had a mostly-yard-waste compost bin (delivered free by the city, presumably because of the vast quantities of yard waste we'd put out) which was essentially two plastic lids with a stiff plastic mesh tube between them. This dried out too fast until we wrapped it in plastic, so is probably not exactly right for your climate.
eub on June 1st, 2012 04:15 am (UTC)
My experience with a compost tumbler is that I have to be quite picky with the input mix to prevent it from matting up into compost pellets that tumble around and around without breaking up at all. More to the point, I don't know how to get a working input mix reliably. I'd send you my compost tumbler, except it's heavy and big.

For me the determining question about food-waste composters is whether anyone (you or neighbors) is going to be close enough to be picky about smell, raccoons and rats picking through it it, and other minor annoyances. If not, a fenced heap works fine for me. If so... a ratproofed Green Cone apparently works well, but in Seattle it's easier to let the city compost my food waste and I do the yard waste.