Trash Can Composting

We used to donate our kitchen scraps to a local farm, then later to a botanical garden. At some point I decided I wanted to use them to make my OWN compost, but I wasn’t eager to invest in a pricey 2 bin system. Somewhere way back, I read that you could compost in a trash can. That intrigued me, so I improvised this system and did some additional tweaking along the way to make it even better.

My husband and I opted for an in-ground system since pests were a concern for us. In ground has worked well for us here in Miami, but there are some climates where this may not be as viable year round. We started with just one in-ground bin, but quickly discovered that an ideal system has at least 2 bins, one that is curing and one to which you’re actively adding material. That said, I will show you a tweak I added later that could work for those of you with space for only one.

Supplies for each bin:

Behrens 31 gal Galvanized Steel Round Trash Can with Lid from Home Depot (or similar can from elsewhere)
Optional Tiered system using Behrens Steel Bushel Basket
Optional organic Coconut Coir as easy carbon rich BROWN material
Power drill or even an awl

Original system:
I had my husband drill holes in the bottom and about 1/2 of the way up the sides of the trash can for drainage. We did not place holes in the part of the can that would be above ground to avoid flies and other airborne pests from entering. I wish I could recall exactly what the spacing was…about every 6 to 8 inches and was NOT precise. My husband thinks he used a 3/8 drill bit but the holes just need to be large enough to allow drainage. Next he dug a hole deep enough so the bin was buried 3/4 of the way below the surface. |

This was our initial system and it worked well. We added our kitchen scraps and used leaves gathered from the neighborhood as our browns, along with some shredded paper. At some point my husband pointed out that I had NO IDEA what the neighbors might be spraying on their lawns! Ack! That is when I switched to organic coconut coir as our brown carbon rich material. I keep a bushel bin of it next to the compost bins so it is easy to cover food scraps every time we empty our kitchen collection bin. We are restaurant supply crazy over here, so we use this 4 quart graduated food container and it’s matching lid for collecting our food scraps. We used to keep this in the sink, but ants were a problem so now we keep it in the fridge. It is big enough to let us go a few days before emptying it.

Tweak 1:
The next tweak was adding worms to the bin. They are not necessary, but they really speed up the composting process and with worms you need less additional brown material. The worms were thriving and reproducing until they hit the sweltering Miami summer heat. I put shade cloth over my bins, but it was still too hot for them and my population dwindled over the summer months. They seem to be rebounding now in cooler fall weather. When you have worms, harvesting compost is trickier since you have to pick out or sift out the worms…not much fun. So, the NEXT tweak was engineered.

Tweak 2:


Some commercial worm bin systems have a multi-tiered structure. You fill a bottom tier completely, then start feeding on a higher tier so the worms migrate up to where food is being added. To create that additional layer, I bought a stainless bushel basket from Amazon and we drilled holes in the bottom and sides. Once the trash can was half full of composting material I put the bushel basket on top. Then I added a layer of the compost or coconut coir in the bottom of the bushel bin and started adding my food scraps in the bushel basket. Voila. The worms migrated up into the bushel basket. This allowed the lower layer to cure a bit and reduced the number of worms I needed to traumatize and relocate while harvesting. That was a WIN for me and the worms! This tweak could work with or without worms for those of you that have room for only one bin. Another note about the worms. I was hugely ghouled out about worms to begin with, but they are not nearly as icky as you may be imaging, and in fact you start to think of them fondly as your little workers who are turning trash into compost. Really!

Harvesting:

Once the bottom layer is done curing it is easy to lift out the bushel basket to harvest the finished compost from underneath. To harvest the compost I use this 1/4 inch sifting pan which fits right on top of a food grade bucket, available for about $4 at Home Depot. I dump a shovel full of compost at a time into the sifter and rock and shake the bucket until all that remains are the larger clumps. Those larger bits of remaining organic matter and any straggler worms get dumped back into the main bin and become the “new” bottom tier for some additional curing. Once I have emptied the bin, I leave the bushel basket out until the bin is half full again. I can use the food grade bucket to carry my harvested compost right to the garden for spreading. I also like this lid seat so I can use my bucket as seating while I’m lanting or pulling weeds…bonus!

Tweak 3:
My very latest (today) tweak is adding some rope to the handles of the bushel basket to make it easier to hoist out of the can since the fit is fairly snug. Will see how that works.

Amendments:
I have played around with several compost amendments.

1. If you have worms they need grit added periodically. I use oyster shell powder by Down to Earth.

2. Coffee Grounds are a great source of nitrogen. You can ask your local coffee shop to save them for you. (Green)

3. Alfalfa meal is a great activator of compost due to it’s beneficial nitrogen to carbon ratio. (Green)

4. Seaweed is another nice nitrogen source if you have access to it. (Green)

5. I had been told that horse bedding was a great addition to compost so I found a farm and carted some home. But I just listened to an excellent composting podcast by Joe the Gardener that warned that horse manure can be a source of persistent herbicides that can damage the garden, so take caution there. I did inquire about whether the horses received antibiotics, which they did not, but that is another question worth asking.

There are lots of great lists out there for what to compost. The above linked podcast has a nice one. Here is another I received from my local farmer as part of a soil and composting workshop.

Watercress Soup

Lately I have been making a new version of soup based on my Creamy Cauliflower Leek Soup base. It is delicious and I love the addition of watercress, which is a nutrient powerhouse, and is naturally anti-histamine. This version is made in my Instant Pot, but can also be done stovetop if you don’t have one. I use water as the liquid, but you can certainly opt for broth. Meat broth or juices are often problematic for me due to their high histamine content, but they do make an even tastier soup, so if you tolerate them, GO for it!

2 1 lb bags of frozen cauliflower, I use the organic 365 brand from Whole Foods
2 large leeks, white part only, trimmed and washed thoroughly. Slice them in half lengthwise so you can really rinse out the dirt between the layers
2 or 3 big handfuls of watercress
2 shallots, peeled
2 celery stalks
2 1/2 cups of water or chicken broth

Add the ingredients to your Instant Pot and hit the SOUP function.
When the cooking is complete you can either use quick release, or let the pressure release naturally.

If you are blending in a plastic blender jar, let the soup cool. I use my beloved Blendtec blender and ingredients need to be 115 or less for blending, so I cover the soup with this silicone lid and refrigerate for a few hours.
If you are using an immersion blender or glass jar blender, you can let it cool slightly for safety and then blend. You may need to blend in batches depending on the capacity of your jar.
If you are using water as the liquid, then drizzle in about 2 T of olive oil as you blend to aid in emulsification of the soup. This creates a creamier soup texture. The soup should be really creamy and fairly thick.
Season to taste. I like smoked sea salt.

Like my other soups I jar these up in 10 oz servings using pint size wide mouth mason jars for my #freezerstash. Due to my Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and its associate histamine issues I freeze all of my batch prepped foods right away to reduce the opportunity for histamine build up which occurs in leftover foods.

FYI this soup is even better the next day, once the flavors have had a chance to blend.

Pictured with the soup are my yummy home grown micros. You can grow them too. Read all about them in my prior post here.

Affiliate links:
I appreciate when you use affiliate links, which help support this blog. Most things I share about here I purchase myself, but I do occasionally receive sample items from vendors to be able to test out new things. However I never share about anything I don’t use myself and totally love!

Fall 2018 South Florida Garden Update…Year 4 of My Raised Bed Garden

It’s the start of our Florida garden season and I am so excited to be out in the garden again!
This is the start of year 4 of my gardening journey and I am trying a few new things that may or may not work, but the beauty of gardening is that some things fail and that is ok! If some of the crops that are new to me don’t work out, I will just pull them and put something else in their place. No biggie. I am known to some on instagram as the radish lady, because there are radishes on so many of my plates! I just LOVE them, but have had little success growing them in the past. They grew nice greens, which I ate all last season, but they would just not bulb! This year I am trying them again with fingers crossed and at a minimum I will enjoy their greens. I am also trying carrots, but I added some sand and coconut coir to the soil in their squares to loosen it up a bit…another experiment. We shall see about that!
Of course the BULK of my beds will be my beloved greens. I love kale and bok choy so they are taking up a big chunk of my garden plan. I also adore ball turnips since they are a 2 for 1 crop…you get the turnip and its greens…winning! I love using the seed tape by Park Seed Company as it makes planting so easy! Unroll and cover with dirt…done. I know that Territorial Seed also sells seed tapes and I want to try them next, after I use up what I already own. I think they have a slightly larger variety of seed tapes, and also offer seed mats and disks designed for containers. Cool!
I love the square foot garden planner on the Gardeners.com website as you can map out a garden plan. In prior years I would just head to the plant sale without a plan and end up with too much of some things and too little of others. The planner will even tell you how many plants per square with planting tips which are handy. Once I have my plan all mapped out and I head out to the raised beds, I like using the Seeding Square to make planting from seed easy. You can use a tape measure, but I just find the Seeding Square really helps make planting quicker and neater, and I do love a good organization hack.
This year I am leaving space in my plan for some succession planting a few weeks in to the season, so that I can stagger some of my harvesting. I do a lot of “cut and come again” with my greens, but may pull and replace plants sooner this year if they show any hints of struggle. I am also doing a combo of planting “starts” I purchase from an upcoming plant sale at my awesome local farm, Little River Cooperative, as well as planting some seeds which will take longer to mature. That will serve as another form of succession planting, giving me plants of different ages. I have learned a ton from my friendly local farmers Tiffany Noe and Chris French through workshops and consults and chatting at their amazing sales. Just love learning from and supporting young energetic and inspiring local farmers! If you are in South Florida be sure to catch their upcoming plant sale on Oct 20 and 21 from 10 am to 2 pm at 771 NW 24th Street, Miami FL 33137. Their plant sales are EPIC! They do them RIGHT!

You can look back at my older posts from 2016 here and here which document the start of my garden journey after my husband built me my first bed as a birthday gift in the fall of 2015. The gift that keeps on giving! If you are contemplating starting a garden, JUST DO IT! It has changed my life!

Pyrex Glass and Silicone Lids

I like storing leftovers in glass or stainless steel to avoid plastic chemical nasties. I have a large collection of Pyrex storage containers and they honestly get used every day! I prep my workday salads in the 6 cup and my on the go hot meals in the 3 cup rectangular storage dishes. I had a combination of their basic blue simply store lids and the solid grey or clear and red plastic “no leak” lids from purchases over the years. The plastic lids degrade over time, cracking and peeling at the edges and sometimes warping making them ill fitting, but the bases…well I may be handing those down to my future grandchildren some day, since pyrex glass lasts for YEARS! So when I discovered that their new Ultimate lid system made of glass and silicone is now sold separately as a replacement lid, well I counted up every one of my bases and ordered new lids for them all. And let me tell you, these new lids deliver.
There is much to love about these lids. First of all, lids made of only Pyrex glass and silicone…..YES please! I really try to reduce my plastic usage for health reasons, not to mention environmental stewardship. Goodbye warping chipping plastic lids!

Furthermore since they are Pyrex glass on top you can see what’s in them, bonus. Hoping that will reduce the number of lid lifting nightmares at the fridge door discovering forgotten leftovers left to rot. I also like that the silicone frame of the lid is easy to lift open, and yet has been staying closed nicely in transit to and from work. There is a triangle of just silicone at the edge. After initially seating the lid into the container, you lift that corner to allow air out and then press that down to complete the seal. Have not yet attempted to transport anything really soupy or liquid in them, so cannot speak to a perfect on the go leakproof seal, but we did run this highly scientific test for you….

I bought the white lids, as I have an all white kitchen and I love the clean simple look of white. Crossing my fingers that they will stay nice and white over time. So far they have come out of the dishwasher (top rack safe) sparkling clean. It’s good to keep in mind that silicone is a porous material which can take on the color or odor of foods it comes in contact with.

Of course they sell the base and lid combo as well, so you can always choose that option if you don’t own already own the bases or you just need a few more. These are a workhorse in our kitchen!

So start counting up your lids and place that order! Here is a link right to the page.

Affiliate links:
I appreciate when you use affiliate links, which help support this blog. Most things I share about here I purchase myself, but I do occasionally receive sample items from vendors to be able to test out new things. However I never share about anything I don’t use myself and totally love!

I bought these lids on my own.

Clean and Green Household: Spray Cleaner

In my quest to reduce exposure to toxins anywhere I can, I had been struggling to find a household cleaner. Not only am I sensitive to lots of chemicals, but I am really triggered by many scents and fragrances…are any of you with me? I know anyone with mast cell or histamine issues like me will totally get that!

I had been seeing Force of Nature Clean all over instagram in accounts of many people I follow and respect and finally decided to give it a try.
About a week after I started using it I had an AHA moment. I had been reaching for this spray bottle left and right, and I usually avoid ALL spray cleaners like the plague! I have even been known to run in the other room if my husband breaks out the one he likes (I really have!). I casually said to him “Do you know why I really like this new cleaner?”, and he replied “Yes. Because it has no smell.” BOOM. He nailed it. It in fact does have a very mild smell, some have likened to very mild pool water, but it just smells fresh and clean and there are no added nasties to trigger me. I am using this now everywhere and I have to say, it works really well. Don’t just take my word on it, go to their website and read all about it. They have the science there to back it up for those of you that are science-y like me and need a little proof.

I also love that it is a greener option since you don’t have bottles to toss and there are no nasty chemicals to harm your home, or our environment for that matter. You receive capsules in the mail that you mix with water and activate in the device (left in the picture) to create the cleaner. It’s fun to watch as it bubbles like mad. The capsules contain only salt and vinegar in just the right ratio and you add the water to create electrolyzed water. Yeah, go read about it. They have a nice video that will take you back to high school chemistry, well maybe more like middle school chemistry. It’s cute and easy to follow and will give you everything you need to know about it.

My only hesitation so far was the plastic spray bottle, although I know glass might not be appealing to everyone. I did contact the company and they told me the liquid can certainly be transferred to a glass spray bottle. I have and like this one, so I may give that a go, although I don’t plan to toss this bottle, as that would defeat the purpose. Maybe in the future they might offer a glass bottle upgrade to the kit? (Hint hint…hope you are you listening Force of Nature?)

From now until October 31 you can use the code Paleogirl50 to get a whopping 50% off of starter kits, PLUS free shipping!! And who doesn’t like to save?!!!

Affiliate links:
I appreciate when you use affiliate links, which help support this blog. Most things I share about here I purchase myself, but I do occasionally receive sample items from vendors to be able to test out new things. However I never share about anything I don’t use myself and totally love!

Clean and Green Beauty: Blowout Styling Products

Back in the fall of 2017 when I was making the switch to cleaner and greener body and haircare products I discovered the line by FlourishBeautyLab and can’t believe I am just getting around to sharing about it! It’s been a busy year! I just LOVE their lavender mint scent! My 2 FAVORITE smells blended together are ON POINT!

I use Continue reading

Easiest Ever Microgreens

Recently I have been trying to perfect growing microgreens ahead of our summer fallow season in Miami….too hot to grow much outside, but I still want something fresh and homegrown! I tried growing micros in soil…and it was, well, messy. I tried growing them on hemp mats and got all sorts of mold overgrowth…couldn’t get the amount of watering just right…overwatered some batches and some dried up. And THEN….I discovered Hamama micros on Instagram. This is an INGENIOUS and crazy simple system. It comes with Continue reading