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Getting Started with Composting, Choosing a Method


January 19, 2014

I live in El Paso and am looking to begin composting. We generate a lot of kitchen scraps (vegetable trimmings) and would like recommendations on how to get started with composting. I am leaning toward a plastic compost tumbler. Do you have recommendations for what tumblers work best in this region?


Answer by JZ: Our website has several “handouts” on the main menu bar (under Resources) that might be helpful in making your choice and also address the particulars of composting in the desert. Plastic tumblers probably work best for a batch method (hot) of composting. A less controversial container is the manufactured plastic bin that has an opening on the top and one at the bottom to make for easy removal of finished product. This type of bin works well for dump-n-run (easy, cold) composting. Since you, too, are in the desert, in order to decrease evaporation from the bin, tape over about 50% of the holes, being sure that the bottom holes are open. A good quality bin costs about $100 new.

Since you mention kitchen scraps, another choice is the Bokashi bucket composting method, see: Another option is to compost your kitchen scraps in a bin with composting worms. The bin could be kept indoors or put in a pit outdoors. Composting worms may be purchased on-line or from a local source.

Let us know if we can be of further help to you.

Answer by JH: Alan, here is a link for the composting training module on the El Paso County Master Gardeners website: It is best that you refer to local sources due to climate differences. I am thinking El Paso is more humid and certainly hotter year round than Albuquerque which is high desert. Basically your kitchen scraps are the nitrogen source (greens) and you will need to add a carbon source (browns) such as fall leaves or wood chips along with water. Turning the tumbler as directed should keep the contents aerated and well mixed. If you find you have an odor, the mix is either too wet or is not getting enough air. If the mix is not breaking down, it is not a good ratio of nitrogen to carbon or is not heating up sufficiently. Without knowing more about your yard space and intentions I would not comment on other methods except that if you will not be able to find sufficient browns, you may want to try vermicomposting or the Bokashi method. And if you have not already purchased a tumbler, you might first want to investigate whether one of these methods will be better suited to your situation.

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