Composting is a great way to teach your kids about reducing waste, recycling materials and reusing resources when we can. Although they may not completely understand why it’s so important at first, it will help them better understand the challenges we face as an Earth community to build a sustainable way of life that everyone can enjoy and benefit from.
What you’ll need first is a compost container of some sort. Most people start off with a basic compost bin that stays put once you begin to fill it. These will do the job, but they do create some odour as food is placed in the compost faster then it can be broken down and keeps the materials too wet. Also, the lack of oxygen to the bottom layers of the compost can make for a sour smelling heap. If you are trying to get kids involved, this could be something easily enough to turn them off. However there is an alternative to a standard compost bin.
A compost tumbler is a bin that can be turned and should be turned every couple days to keep the oxygen flowing . Compost tumblers come equipped with drainage holes as well and the spinning will help keep the materials dry and much less stinky. It’s also very low maintenance and easy enough for a child to do.
Kids will have a great time filling the compost tumbler with food waste of all varieties, kitchen waste, paper, grass clippings, weeds, newspaper, coffee grounds. ect. Some children might even want to compost their pet’s waste. It is safe and effective to compost manure and pet waste, however it is wise to use a separate compost if you are going to use pet waste because it takes longer to decompose and contains more bacteria that are not as easy to kill compared to food waste. Also, if using pet waste compost, the soil that you mix it with should not be used for any type of food crop, just with decorative plants only.
Make sure you remember to tell your kids what NOT to put in the compost! A compost can be ruined if you add any meat waste to the bin. This includes bones, fat, skin or gristle. Even fish waste should not be added. Also included are dairy products like cheese, butter cottage cheese, yogurt cream, sour cream… anything creamy is a no-no. Leftover cooking grease or any oils are to be left out of the compost as well. These types of foods can create an imbalance the nutrient-rich qualities of the fruit and veggie waste and they also break down much too slowly. They can attract all sorts of creatures to your backyard and will make a compost more appealing to maggots. Under no circumstances should any of these items be put in the compost tumbler.
When all is said and done, having the kids use the soil that they’ve created to sow their own garden will give them a sense of accomplishment and joy. They will have learned a sustainable technique that is surely to become the norm as more and more people begin to supply their own great tasting food in their back yard. -KATIE FLYNN