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Kitchen Composting and Compost Teas

By Casey Jones Fraser | Last updated: May 3, 2021
Key Takeaways

Kitchen composting doesn't require much. Simply find three buckets and three lids, and then follow these simple instructions to easily turn kitchen waste into free fertilizer for your garden.

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Have you ever noticed how much food we throw away? With all of that valuable nutrition going into the trash, composting kitchen waste into free fertilizer is a great option. Here is a simple plan for kitchen composting so you can have healthier plants and a smaller carbon footprint.

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This particular method involves three 5-gal. buckets, screw-on lids and a combination of aerobic and anaerobic styles. The end result is not just compost, but also compost tea.

Try to score some free 5-gal. buckets, or get them cheap at the hardware store. Also at the hardware store you can find fancy screw-on lids. The lid’s frame snaps onto the bucket, and the lid can then be sealed and easily unscrewed for removal. If you have ever worked in a restaurant, you know the woes of opening buckets the old way. These new screw-on lids are so much easier.

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You will need a total of three buckets, each with a screw-on lid. You will also need a bag of high-quality organic potting soil. Look for any soil that mentions the following: mycorrhizae, microbes, beneficial fungi, bacteria, compost or forest humus. Such soils will contain micro-organisms that convert food waste into plant food.

With your first bucket, simply snap on the lid. Every time you have some compostable food waste such as bread or veggies (avoid meat, dairy, oils and greasy foods), add it to the bucket with a scoop of organic potting soil. Seal it up tight with the lid. You may notice a foul odor when you open the bucket. This is to be expected, so keep the lid closed unless you are adding food waste. After closing the lid, give the bucket a good shake. Now you are building muscles and making compost!

Once bucket one is filled with scraps and soil, you need the additional two buckets. Drill about a dozen 3/8 in. holes in the bottom of bucket two. The final bucket needs about four holes drilled in the lid. Stack those two buckets with the holes touching and set them in a safe place outside. Now you can empty bucket one (kitchen scraps) into bucket two (holes in the bottom). As the waste breaks down, it will release liquids into bucket three (holes in the lid). These liquids are rich with nutrients and micro-organisms that are great for your outdoor gardens.

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Since this compost tea is not actively aerated, it can contain anaerobic bacteria in large quantities. For this reason, the tea is best suited to in-ground plantings. Never use this anaerobic compost tea on your indoor plants. It might work out fine, but the worst-case scenario would be nutrient imbalance and root rot.

In an outdoor garden, these anaerobic bacteria function well with other ground organisms without harming your plants. I use this compost tea in my outdoor flower beds and the results are visible after one day. My calla lilies grow faster and produce more blooms when I soak the roots with this stinky stuff.

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If you can occasionally add water and stir up the top bucket, the compost will break down much faster. For the fastest results, chop up your kitchen waste as you scrap it. Each day, stir bucket two with a garden trowel or just give it a good shake. With daily agitation, your compost will be ready in two weeks.

Once the contents of bucket two look like dark soil, and not food scraps, the compost and tea are ready to be added to your garden. By this point, the bucket in the kitchen is probably full again, so you are ready for another cycle. Scrap, compost, repeat.

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Written by Casey Jones Fraser

Profile Picture of Casey Jones Fraser
Casey Jones Fraser owns Garden Grove Organics in northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati. He has a degree in communications and electronic media. He believes that indoor gardeners can achieve the highest-quality crops and maximum yields when proper science is applied. Since 1998, Casey has been testing various nutrients and supplements in search of outstanding harvests.

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