Zero Waste

How to Rot (Composting at Home) | Complete 7 R’s Series

October 28, 2020
Holding soil in my hands: how to rot at home
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How to Rot in your Backyard! The First Installment of the 7 R’s Guide

Welcome to the first part of our series on the 7 Rs (Refuse, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose/Repair, Reduce, Rot, Rethink). To kick off this series of posts, we’ll discuss the “R” that sounds the least appealing to most folks: Rot! So let’s learn how to rot! Truthfully, this is just a cute way to fit in the activity of composting our organic waste.

Composting is one of those old stereotypes people like to use to make fun of hippies and the like. Despite this, more and more people are learning how to rot and sharing how easy it is. People would be shocked at how much benefit it provides us and our environment. You can click here for some zero waste swaps you can make in your kitchen.

Composting in the dirt

How does it happen?

Whether we like to admit it or not, the microorganisms that cause rot are everywhere. Composting relies on using two types: the mesophilic, which thrives in temperatures between 68-113 degrees Fahrenheit (20-45 Celsius), and the thermophilic, which take the stage when temperatures exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius). Careful management of your compost heap’s temperature will keep these helpful critters from dying off, so be sure to aerate and turn the pile over every week. As long as the temperature stays below 149 degrees Fahrenheit (65 Celsius), and you continue to add oxygen and new materials for the thermophilic to use up, the pile will eventually cool down enough for the mesophilic to return and finish breaking everything down into humus.

What should I use?

  • Fruit/vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells (can take a while)
  • Yard trimmings and leaves
  • Shredded tree branches
  • Wood/bark chips
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Straw
  • Sawdust (from untreated wood)
  • Manure (i.e. farm animal waste)

What should I not use?

As this site recommends:

  • “Anything containing meat, oil, fat, or grease”
  • Diseased plant detritus
  • Sawdust/chips from pressure-treated wood
  • Pet feces
  • “Weeds that go to seed”
  • Dairy products

How to rot and make it happen!

Better Homes & Gardens suggests you wait until you have enough material to create a pile that’s at least three feet deep. 

  1. Three parts brown material (dried plant matter) and one part green material (everything else listed) should be used starting out. If it looks too wet or smells (yes, “smells”!) add more brown materials and/or aerate more often.
  2. Water the pile regularly so that it “has the consistency of a wet sponge,” but not more than that. Check the temperature of your pile regularly with a thermometer or…your hand! It should be nice and worm…I mean, warm.
  3. (Keep in mind that this part should be done during the growing season) Turn your pile with a garden fork at least once a week. The ideal time to do this would be when your pile is between 130-150 degrees Fahrenheit (~54-65 Celsius). The process will go faster if you chop or shred the raw stuff. Soon enough, you’ll have fertilizer.

Composting bin in a backyard

What do I do with the rot?

Grow something, or treat your garden! Better Homes & Gardens suggests adding 4 to 6 inches of your new fertilizer to your flower beds or pots at the beginning of a planting season.
If you’ve managed to create your fertilizer, you can be satisfied knowing that you’ve redirected a significant portion of your garbage away from a landfill! The process can seem daunting, but learning how to rot is an excellent way to do your small part in helping the environment.


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[…] to the second part of our series on the 7 Rs (​Refuse, ​Reuse, ​Recycle, ​Repurpose/​Repair, ​Reduce, ​Rot, ​Rethink). The […]

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