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Cold Composting in a Bucket


January 13, 2022

Three months ago I started cold composting in a 5 gallon bucket  (a blue Lowe's bucket) with appropriate aeration holes. My initial fill ratio likely had more green/nitro (kitchen green waste) than brown/carbon ( autumn leaves ). Questioning that, one of your staff suggested I add shredded paper:  So I obtained some and added paper. When I mixed in the paper shreds, I also noticed that my kitchen green waste had clotted into big globs -- dark brown with toothpaste consistency.  I pulled the globs apart and mixed in the shredded paper.  Please comment on my assumptions, that --

  • big globs of brownish kitchen waste are not ideal

  • more appropriate after 3 months is having a consistency like a wet mass of assorted 'hay waste' or assorted 'yard waste'.

Thank you!


Answer by JZ: Nice to hear about you composting efforts. Other colleagues may also respond to your question. My sense from what you have described is that your green / brown blend became compacted in the bucket.  So you can improve the situation by adding coarse bulking material to the setup: for example, finger size sticks, twigs, corncobs, small pine cones, small wood chips. So when your bucket is empty, then the first thing to do is add about six inches of bulking to the bottom of bucket, then add two inches of bulking after every five inches of organic material as you continue to build in the bucket, that is bulk as you build.  This method reduces compaction of organic materials and provides for convective airflow as shown in the picture you'll find on our website under Convective Airflow under Composting Info in our main menu.

Be sure that you have patent drainage holes at the bottom of bucket as shown under Homemade Bins under Composting Info as well.

In the future you may balance your green kitchen scraps with many shredded paper products, cardboard and shredded brown leaves. What goes in the bucket first, will decompose first.  So after a few months look for finished compost at the bottom of bucket.  Fished product looks like dark chocolate cake crumbs.  When you collect your finished product, remove the coarse bulking material, then use it all over again. Sifting will provide a fine product which easily blend into in your garden soil.

You may enjoy some of our online classes.  See a link to those under Resources in our main menu. Let us know if you have questions.  Compost on !

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