New to Composting in the Desert
September 17, 2020
We live in Old Town and we built a backyard composting bin this spring and it is not working. We are piling vegetable scraps, leaves, and shredded paper into a pile confined by 3 wooden pallets. The pile doesn't seem to be doing anything but drying out. Can you give us some tips? I moved here from Hawaii last year and composting in the desert is much different. Thanks for your help
Answer by JZ: Welcome to desert composting. Your question will be received by other colleagues who may also respond. Here are my thoughts. Moisture conservation in a compost bin is a challenge in the high desert, which is workable. A bin made from pallets which is unlined is too porous for desert composting, allowing for too much evaporation. A simple remedy is to line the inside of the bin with cardboard or an appropriately sized tarp. Then also cover the top of the pile with similar materials when you are finished making additions. If possible place your bin in the shade. If you have no shade then cover / drape the whole setup with 2 layers of shade fabric or cardboard. Sprinkle with water, as needed, to maintain moisture at about 50%, which is similar to the residual moisture in brewed coffee grounds. There will be less evaporation in general as we move into fall and temps. drop., but moisture should be maintained in all seasons.
You may find it helpful to read our desert composting brochure. See Desert Composting under Composting Info in our website menu. For how to line any inner bin with tarp see Homemade Bins under Composting Info.
Hope this is helpful. Compost on. Let us know if you need help.