Fight global warming with some heavy composting!
- Environmentalists:You and your kid. This activity is best for kids over the age of 3, when they've moved past putting everything in their mouth. Don't think we need to say any more ...
- Compost site:An outdoor spot in the yard. The average compost site is about 2 to 5 feet wide, 5 to 10 feet long, and 2 to 4 feet high. You can also use an indoor compost bin to create a compost site in your kitchen if your yard is the size of a postage stamp.
- Outdoor Compost bin:Build it or buy it. See details below.
- Kitchen compost bin:Buy an ultra chic one to match your stainless steel appliances from The Gardener's Supply Company. Environmentalists can be fashionable, too!
- Gardener's fork:Trust us, you don't want to be sticking your hands in this stuff!
- Gardening gloves:You don't want to smell like cow poop, do you?
- Fertilizer or cow manure:No, poopy diapers don't count as "manure."
- Water and watering can or hose
- Soil:Pick some up from your local nursery.
- Compost materials:Like peels, egg shells, leaves, grass, cardboard tubes, egg cartons, paper towels. Basically, if it can rot, it can be compost. That goes for everything but your kid's teeth!
- Metal garbage can:Optional, if you and your kid want to build your own bin.
- Screwdriver and hammer:Ditto
- Bricks or 2X4 pieces of lumber:Ditto, ditto
- To begin, help your kid find a nice, shady, well-drained spot in the yard to build your compost pile.
- If you don't have the yard space, you can make your compost indoors. Just buy a bin specially formulated to keep the stink contained, like this one from Composters.com.
- Before you start composting outside, you must build or buy a compost bin. You'll want something to contain the compost pile so you don't have a pile of rotting peels and manure splayed out in your backyard. You can buy one, build one or recycle an old tire, playpen, barrel or sandbox as a compost bin.
- Here's how to make a simple bin out of a garbage can:
Buy a big metal garbage can.
Help your kid punch holes all over the can to let the rotting materials inside breathe. The microbes that break down the peels and egg shells, etc., need air. You can make the holes by hammering a screwdriver through the sides of the garbage can.
Raise the can up off of the ground by placing it on several bricks or 2x4 pieces of lumber.
Have your kid put the lid on the can. It's that easy!
If you and your kid are handy, you may be up for building a more serious bin. For instruction on how to make über compost bins, check out: GardenOrganic.com or The Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center. Don't let the name of the latter place scare you off, they've got great plans for all kinds of bins.
If building a bin sounds like a big pain in the butt, consider buying one. Store-bought bins generally run between 100 and 400 dollars. To browse a selection of readymade bins, check out The Gardener's Supply Company, Planet Natural or Composters.com.
- Now that you have a bin, you and your kid can begin composting! Collect egg shells, peels, paper napkins, cardboard tubes, etc., to put into your compost pile. You can use any old plastic container to collect the materials, or buy a special bin designed to keep the stench at bay. (It's kinda of worth the money!)
- Have him moisten the layer with a sprinkling of water.
- Next, coax him to toss a little manure (a.k.a., cow poop) or fertilizer onto the pile. Don't live near a farm? Buy some Moo Doo from Dirtworks.net.
- Have your kid place 2 inches of soil on top of the cow dung.
- Then have him add the kitchen scraps on top of everything.
- Repeat steps 5 through 9 again and again to build the compost pile. As a general rule, you want to put more yard clippings than kitchen scraps on your pile.
- Keep the pile moist!
- Have your child turn the stinky mess, um, we mean compost, every seven to 10 days with a gardening fork. Garden gloves may be useful for this step! Your compost will be ready in four to 10 months, depending on the climate and what you put into it. When it's done, it will be a rich, dark-colored soil and smell like a forest. Patience is a virtue! Can't expect to heal the planet overnight now, can we?
- Sprinkle the finished compost onto your garden as a natural fertilizer. Don't have a garden? Toss the compost into a flowerbed, mix it into houseplant dirt or dump it over the roots of a tree. The earth will eat up all the organic compost matter you give it!
- Don't compost meat, fish, newspaper, cooked food, diapers, magazines, cat litter or any other poop (literally) that comes out of your house! Start your compost pile by inviting your kid to lay down a 6-inch thick bed of yard debris, like leaves, grass and plant clippings.