A guide to composting in the Hawaiian Islands, including an article
from Your Recycling Guide published by the Maui Recycling Group, Maui, Hawaii. These are
good composting tips for any tropical composting projects, whether you're composting in
Hawaii or composting in tropical environments elsewhere.
Home Composting: Making Gold from Kitchen Scraps
Where are you going with that bag of
potato peels and egg shells? You're putting it in the garbage? What a waste of
Did you know that with a little
planning and effort you can turn your organic ''garbage'' into black gold and do your part
to help Maui's environment?
Composting is the best way to handle
our organic waste, and anyone can do it, from the condo resident who produces one small
bag of the stuff each week to the farmer who needs a tractor to pile it up. Home
composting - designed for our island residents - takes into account space limitations,
pest problems, good-neighbor responsibilities, cost, and personal time and energy
Selection of a compost bin is the
first step. Numerous designs are available, most through mail-order and a few at
local hardware stores. Your choice will depend a lot on where the bin will be
located: outside or inside; on a lanai or in the dirt; near the kitchen or "way back
in the garden." The best bin for you may be one that is set right into the
ground; one that could be rolled around on a flat area; or one built off the ground with a
handle for easy rotating. If you don't want to invest a lot of money but you have a
little time, you may want to build your own out of pallets, cinder blocks, or chicken
wire. A heavy-duty garbage bag will work in pinch.
Gathering the organic materials is
the next step. If you want to build a large, active pile that heats up, works
quickly, and turns in to brown gold in a month, you're going to need a lot of material -
at least enough to build a pile or fill a bin with minimum dimensions of 3'x3'x3'.
If you're doing a lot of pruning and cutting, pile it all up until you have enough, then
make your compost pile at one time using a "recipe" described below.
If you're more interested in a
passive pile, one that works slower but eventually creates usable compost, you can start
now and add organics as you get them.
Either way, the smaller the pieces that go into the pile, the faster
they'll compost. If you have a chipper/shredder use it on the twigs and branches.
THE COMPOST RECIPE:
1. Use lots of different materials; don't use a lot of one thing.
2. Use 30 parts of carbon (crunchy, dry) material to one part of
nitrogen (green, wet) stuff. That's a hard one in Hawaii; there aren't a lot of
sources of dry organics unless you get creative: mixed paper (shredded), cardboard egg
cartons, saw dust (spread it throughout the pile, otherwise it will clump), mac nut
shells, straw, and hay.
3. Water the pile as you build it and keep an eye on it. If
it's too wet, you'll know real fast - an ammonia smell, flies, and a gooey mess will
appear. Add more carbon (crunchy, dry) stuff. If it's too dry, nothing will
happen. The organic material you've carefully shredded, piled, and mixed will just
sit there. A compost pile needs water to get the nitrogen working. If
you live on a rainy side of an island, the rain should be plenty.
4. Air is essential in a healthy compost pile. Leave air
holes from the sides and bottom. Leave the top open to the elements unless you
expect a raging rain storm which will wash away nutrients from the bottom of the
pile. Some of the things you don't need in a compost pile are fertilizer, manure,
lime, and commercial activator.
What about turning the pile?
If you're determined to have usable compost in a month, you'll have to turn the pile once
a week, moving the cool material to the interior of the pile and allowing it to heat up to
140°. If you're doing this to reduce the amount of organic material going into your
garbage and into the landfill, just keep adding to the pile and leave it alone.
Water it once in a while during the summer. Sooner or later you'll be rewarded when
you discover that all those potato peels and egg shells have turned into black gold.
For more information and instruction
on building a compost pile to suit your needs, attend a Home Composting Workshop.
Phone 572-6668 to enroll.
reprinted by permission