Bad Advice

1,  27 cubic feet – That is just way too big.  Smaller piles will “heat up” but who cares if the pile heats up?

2.  shipping pallets – Each pallet weighs about 35 pounds and is chock full of splinters and rusty nails.  OK, sure, I am into re-using things and if nothing else were available and you want to process a large volume of material then fine.  But to advise the average homeowner that pallets are a good material for a compost bin is bad advice, in my opinion.

3.  including paper and cardboad – OK, in theory these are compostable, but are they really “good brown” materials?  As stable as they are they will require more time than leaves.  I think conventional recycling of paper and cardboard makes a lot more sense.  If you want to compost cardboard, I recommend soaking it first, and then separating the layers, putting other materials between each layer.

4.  the three bin turning system – I see a lot of cartoon sketches of this contraption.  Exactly what is the difference between this colossus and three simple bins side by side?

5.  turn the pile every week or more frequently – If you want the exercise, sure.  Otherwise in the composting world, haste is waste.  Forget about the compost pile and attend to other matters.  Turn it as little as possible.  I advise letting it sit for six months, then turn and harvest at the same time.

6.  compost is free – Sure it it, as long as your time is free.  Please!

7.  compost used as a noun – We’re told:  Add compost…make compost…worm compost…that makes no sense at all.  How can one word describe the end product of an infinite number of combinations of materials?  The more correct term would be “composted _____ “, fill in the blank.

8.  turmbers – I guess these things are sellable.  If they are so great, then why don’t industrial composting operations employ gargantuan-sized models?  I think they are gimmicks and their advertising is deceptive.  I attended one composting seminar where the speaker actually said they do not work.  Like “countertop compost bins” they do a dis-service to the composting world.

9.  plastic bins with small doors at the bottom – These show a perfect finished product coming out and give one the impression that all you need to do is come up to the thing with your scoop and get a batch of finished product.  I think these photographs are staged and that they constitute deceptive advertising.

10. countertop composting bins – As with tumblers and trap door bins, more deceptive advertising.  How can composting be done on a countertop?  Food scraps need to be soaked before being added to a pile…there is the potential for odors…thus a sealed container is called for.  Why pay for a stainless steel or porcelain container when a better-performing container is free (plastic coffee container).

11.  composting is easy – Really.  Making a 27 cubic foot pile is easy.  Sure it is.  More deceptive advertising.  Composting is a four letter verb:  W O R K.  But it is good, healthy, and worthwhile.  The concept sure is easy.  The actual process is a workout.  Do not believe the lie.

12.  compost is good for lawns – I am sure it is.  Sift it down to 1/4″ and figure out how to evenly broadcast it across your entire property.  For free, of course.  I want to see the video that shows someone applying compost to their entire lawn.

13.  composting classes without demonstration sites – I am a big fan of good intentions, but without a physical demonstration of the process, coupled with hands-on work by the students, the education is not nearly as effective.

14.  static demonstration sites – A dozen different bins, just look at them all and figure out which one you like.  Isn’t there a best bin and method?  Yes there is, the PilePro System.  More composted stuff with the least work possible.  The proof is in the piles.

15.  nitrogen is necessary – Oh really.  So that means the bags of leaves need to go to the landfill because I cannot find enough nitrogen to make a pile the right way?  Nonsense, bad advice, and a dis-service to the end of keeping organics out of the landfill.  I have composted hundreds of bags of leaves (browns) with no added nitrogen.

16.  piles must heat in order to kill weed seeds – Really?  I mean, humans and other animals often eat seeds as they are energy and nutritionally dense.  So with all the bacteria and insects crawling around in the pile, you mean of them will successfully eat or otherwise damage a seed enough so that it won’t germinate when applied to soil?  I just cannot except that.  Something in the pile will eat the weed seeds.  For sure, some of them will germinate inside the pile and perish once removed from that environment and applied to topsoil.

17.  do not compost meat, fish, dairy, or oils – Really?  And exactly what will go so wrong if one pours a cup of spoiled milk on a compost pile, or buries a well-stripped chicken carcass or steak fat trimmings in a pile?  I can see where adding a block of cheese, or a stick of butter, or a cup full of bacon fat might not turn out well, but to advise never to add any of these materials to a pile is simply bad advice.  OK, if you want to advise that such materials can potentially cause problems and are better left to either experienced composters or confident and attentive beginners, fine.  If you need more convincing, please Google “compost animal carcass”.  Meats, fish, dairy, and oils can and should be composted – you just need to know what you are doing.  Do not exceed TBD ratio of browns to meats.

18.  wait two years – That is just way too long.  Let’s say one year is long enough to wait before a harvest.  After about six months of being compacted, organic materials begin to form into a single mass.  So that means extra work at harvest time.  And we don’t need any more work than is absolutely necessary.  If we have the time and energy, it is better spent tending to another pile.

19.  toss it onto the pile – To the storage pile, yes, the active pile, no.  Composting should be done in batches so that the end product is as uniform as possible.  Cooking analogy – “toss it onto the pile” = “put it in the cupboard (or pantry?)”.

20.  compost loosens compacted soil – OK, not bad advice but rather bad information.  Exactly how does compost loosen compacted soil?  I can loosen compacted soil with a garden fork…are you telling me that spreading compost has the same effect?  Exactly how?