May 22, 2020

May is for Bay: victory garden and composting

May is for the bay! All month we have been looking into ways to be more environmentally friendly, so that our bay stays healthy and beautiful. In these interesting times, many of us have been dedicating more of our time to gardening. I personally am excited to eat my yummy tomatoes! Did you know you can make your own environmentally friendly fertilizer at home by composting kitchen scraps Something that can easily be done at homeYay!  

Protect your bay! Compost! 

How does composting help the environment? 

By composting, you can redirect up to thirty percent of your waste from the landfill, where it would either rot or mummify, back to the earth where it can nourish new life. By diverting your kitchen scraps to the compost pile, you reduce the amount of methane going into our air. This is a big win, since methane is a greenhouse gas that accelerates climate change. In fact, methane is twenty-one times worse than carbon dioxide when it comes to global warming.  Using compost on your garden provides your plants with the nutrients they need, so you can skip manufactured fertilizers, many of which include harmful chemicals. 

Beautiful compost! Photo courtesy Lindsay through Flickr via Creative Commons.

What is the difference between anaerobic and aerobic composting? Which one is better for the environment? 

There are two kinds of composting processes, one that uses oxygen and one that doesn’t. Anaerobic composting, meaning composting without oxygen, is the stinkiest option of composting and releases some methane. It requires you to dig a hole, toss in the vegetation, and cover it up with soil. Presto! In a couple months you will have stinky compost and some methane.  

Aerobic composting, meaning composting with oxygen present, is the less stinky and more environmentally friendly option. Aerobic composting methods include: worm, bucket, outdoor, and bokashi composting. These methods usually require you to either manually rotate your compost to add air or to make holes in the container to make sure there is some air flow.   

Save those kitchen scraps for your compost! Photo courtesy of Emily through Flickr via Creative Commons.

How to start your own compost pile 

There are several ways to begin your composting journey; the method that will work best for you depends on the space you have available and what you wish to do with the compost when it’s ready. You can set up an indoor compost, or do it in your yard.  

Indoor compost options 

One of the biggest issues that you can run into with indoor composts is the smell that comes with it. While aerobic composting methods are less stinky than anaerobic ones, there is still some odor involved. You can generally avoid the smell if you do a worm compost, but if worms give you a squirmy feeling, you could try bokashi composting or cardboard box composting 

Bokashi Composting 

Bokashi composting originates from Japan and, though it is an anaerobic process, it relies on fermentation, which creates a sour or yeasty smell, rather than putrefaction, which is what we normally think of as the smell of something rotting. Because of this, bokashi composting can be done indoors with-out much smell. 

Click here if you don’t see the video below


Cardboard Box Composting 

Cardboard box composting is an aerobic method that results in an earthy smelling compost that you can keep in your living room without anyone needing to plug their nose. The trade-off is that it requires a little more attention, since you need to stir it a couple times a day to make sure it has enough air. What you need:  

  1. A carboard box  
  2. Coco peat (which is made from coconut husks) 
  3. Kuntan or rice husk ash 

You can find complete instructions for cardboard box composting in this New York Times article.

DIY Compost Bucket 


Composting with worm friends 

A great way to start composting is by using our friendly earth worms to do most of the work!  

What you will need to start worm composting:  

  1. A cardboard box or a plastic bin with holes 
  2. Moist newspaper strips (or non-coated paper)  
  3. Worms (red worms or red wigglers). If you live in the Central Coast, you can buy them here  
  4. Raw food scraps 

You got all the materials, now what? 

What you can put in your worm bin: 

  • Fruits, vegetables 
  • Bread 
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags 
  • Dead plants/leaves 
  • Egg shells 
  • Uncoated paper 
  • Napkins 
  • Coffee filters 

What you can’t put into you worm bin: 

  • Citrus fruits 
  • Onions 
  • Garlic 
  • Leeks 
  • Shallots 
  • Fish or poultry 
  • Eggs  
  • Dairy  
  • Greasy food Salty food 
  • Prepackaged/processed food 
  • Glossy magazine paper or coated paper 
Worms hard at work! Photo courtesy of BrotherMagneto through Flickr via Creative Commons.

Outdoor Compost 

Items that you will need for composting outdoors: 

  1. Bare ground 
  2. Flatnosed shovel or pitchfork 
  3. Dry material leaves or paper (browns) 
  4. Greens  
  5. Twigs or straws 

Now it’s time to start your outdoor composting!  

  1. Lay straw or twigs on the bare ground. 
  2. Then, layer your dry materials and your moist green materialsYou want a 1:2 ratio of greens and browns. 
  3. Add water. 
  4. Cover your pile to keep it moist and warm. 
  5. Use your shovel or pitchfork to turn over to the pile every so often, so that it doesn’t go into an anaerobic state 
  6. Make sure to pay attention to what you can and can’t add to the pile; this will make a huge difference in your compost.  
  7. Notice the smell! The pile should smell sweet. If it smells like itrotting, something is wrong.  
  8. Your compost will be ready to use and enjoy in a month or so (how quickly it forms depends on how warm it is outside)  
Here is an example of how you can cover your outdoor compost. There are so many ways of doing this, check out sites like Pinterest for some awesome ideas. Photo courtesy of solylunafamilia through Flickr via Creative Commons.

What you can put in your compost: 

  • Fruits, vegetables 
  • Coffee grounds 
  • Tea bags 
  • Dead plants/leaves (not sick plants) 
  • Egg shells 
  • Uncoated paper 
  • Napkins 
  • Coffee filters 

What you can’t put into you worm bin: 

  • Citrus fruits 
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks 
  • Shallots
  • Fish or poultry 
  • Eggs  
  • Dairy  
  • Greasy food 
  • Salty food 
  • Prepackaged/ processed food 
  • Glossy magazine paper or coated paper 
  • Meats 
  • Pet feces (they can have diseases that can infect your compost)  
Anyone can help our planet just by tossing your greens into the green bin! Photo courtesy of brandi through Flickr via Creative Commons.

Don’t want to make your own compost at home? Just toss your greens into your green bin 

 If you live in San Luis Obispo County, you can just put all your green waste in your green bin. It’s as easy as that! Check out IWMA’s website to find out what you can and can’t put into the bin. You can put a lot more in the green bin than could in your athome compost pile. Every little bit helps the environment! 

Here is a general list of do’s and don’ts for the green bin: 


  • Yard waste 
  • Leaves 
  • Grass clippings 
  • Brush  
  • Food waste  
  • Cooked and uncooked meat 
  • Fish  
  • Fruitsvegetables, and their peels and rinds  
  • Pasta, bread  
  • Grains, like rice and oatmeal 


  • Poison oak 
  • Cactus 
  • Palm fronds 
  • Bamboo 
  • Animal waste 
  • Dirt 
  • Rocks or hazardous waste 
  • Utensils 
  • Paper 
  • Glass  
  • Metal  
  • Styrofoam 
  • Liquids 
  • Oils  
  • Grease 
  • Bags of any kind 

What can you do with all that compost? 

Put it on your plants! If you don’t have any plants, then give your healthy compost to your friends for their garden 😊You’ll be helping the planet, while giving awesome gifts! 

The kiddos had fun helping with the garden.

Want to start a victory garden? 

With everyone staying at home and avoiding the grocery store these daysmore people have been talking about starting victory gardens. Victory gardens started in the U.S. shortly after we joined World War II, when food rationing was in place. Victory gardens, also known as war gardens, came about as a morale booster for those who could not fight in the war, but felt they needed to contribute to the cause. They also eased the pressure on shortsupplied grocery stores, while also sending some food to the soldiers at war. These gardens helped unite the country 

Now in our time of need, many people have brought up victory gardens again. Even though we aren’t rationing for a war, we do need a little pickmeup and a garden is perfect for this occasion. Especially, when you have energyfilled kids. Growing your own veggies and fruits also helps our environment by reducing the amount of plastic packaging you consume, since you’ll be taking your produce right from your yard to your table. Now, get, ready, set, grow! Have fun and send us your victory garden photos!  

Check out your local farmers markets for some veggie starts! You can even make themed gardens such as a salsa garden, tomato sauce garden, or just a little herb garden. Be creative and have fun. We all know we need a little TLC in our lives.  

Look at these plants grow!

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Work Cited

“For Updates on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Please Click Here. .” Organic Waste Program | City of San Luis Obispo, CA. Accessed May 22, 2020.


Jim, Uncle. “Making Compost: Differences Between Vermicomposting, Anaerobic and Aerobic Composting.” Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, June 11, 2018.


Sundin, Sarah. “Victory Gardens in World War II.” Sarah Sundin, August 7, 2017.


Worm Composting Basics – Cornell Composting. Accessed May 22, 2020.


“Worm Farms.” SLO County IWMA. Accessed May 22, 2020.