Composting Q + A's


QuestionI have two composters out back. After living here for 30 years, I had a rat in my house, found out one was living in my nice warm compostsr. There were other rats in the house and it cost me a bundle to get rid of them. Now I put my compost out in the green bin. How could I make compost that doesn't attract rats?

Queens Answer: We also had rats once upon a time (ugh, big ones! long tails! greasy marks all along the baseboards!) on Brockville Ave, in the basement. Fiona D is right: they live in cities no matter what. And, when there is construction along (especially) river edges, where the animals normally can live and eat, they decamp to, well, composters and basements. I would too, if there was a backhoe up my ass. But seriously. Here's what I do, and advise: FIRST: Never ever ever under any circumstances add anything PROCESSED or COOKED to a backyard composter. And, relatedly, no CONTAINERS that have enjoyed cooked food or drinks being in them (see the one above? That's a compost bin at the University of Guelph. Unbelievable, right? But even in your own routines, if you have an empty "compostable take-out container" (even a coffee cup that has had cream and sugar in it, you cannot put it in your backyard composter. Nope.) So, Cynthia... if you have a dried-up tablespoon of cooked rice on your plate, a crust of bread from a kid's sandwich, and two little blips of fried onions, those go into the MUNICIPAL GREEN BIN. Same with crackers, granola bar bits, cheese crumbs, chocolate chips, plantain chips, noodles, dried or cooked, canned pumpkin, anything that was processed and-or cooked. There are oils and fats and smells in all those items that attract animals. (Worm bins are slightly different matters, but for a BACKYARD COMPOSTER, this is the hard rule.) SECOND: Cover whatever you throw into the composter, even if it is inside a black bin and has a lid. Most of what comes out of a home that can be composted in the backyard is high in NITROGEN. So, there is a need for carbon to be added, in layers. What we do is this: When they are available, cover with fresh fallen leaves (see below. Doesn't that look lovely!!??). If not leafy, then woody will do! Go find some sawdust (we grab those GIANT bags that Ule W. puts out for free behind Old World Woodworking. You can also get free sawdust from Angelo's on Morris. There are a zillion places. Keep that bag RIGHT beside your compost system. Every single time you toss your house bin of kitchen scraps into your backyard composter, cover it entirely with a thin layer of sawdust (you can also use shredded non-glossy paper; again, ask around: places are dying to get rid of it). That's pretty much it: you'll get fewer smells lifting up off the pile as it works; so fewer olfactory invitations sent out to the Rat Kingdom. (Ditto raccoons and possums, squirrels. Same applies).

Comments? Further related concerns? 



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