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I am now also using another homemade kind of garbage-disposal system, which slowly adds kitchen garbage into the ground, like the Solarcone, but it would work better in sun. I got the idea from a woman whom I interviewed about 30 years ago. This woman was a creative gardener who had an organic vegetable garden in a suburban neighborhood. She said an uncovered compost pile was not practical for all the reasons I have outlined here, and this was long before drum composters arrived on the market. This gal’s creative solution to her compost problem was to cut the bottoms off six plastic trash cans and bury them almost up to the top in a row in full sun next to her extensive vegetable garden. She kept the covers on them and did all her composting inside, just letting the stuff rot slowly. When the last trash can filled up, she dug out the first and started over. She had successfully used these bins to digest all her garden and kitchen trimmings for many years.

Taking a leaf from the book of this smart gardener, with a sharp knife I cut the bottom off a large plastic trash can and asked my gardener to dig a hole in the ground of the same circumference. I then sunk the bottomless trash can into the ground with only about a foot on top exposed. I now throw all my kitchen waste into this and keep it tightly closed with a bungee cord over the top. It does not attract rats, raccoons, or any other kind of animal. Though my homemade anaerobic composter is filling up quicker than the Solarcone did — the Solarcone accepted everything for three years and cooked it down to almost nothing — the trash-can system also works. It gradually liquefies kitchen waste, just as the Solarcone did. We had much cool weather last winter, but on one hot and sunny day, the materials inside the trash container dropped a foot and a half. So, then I knew it was going to work. My homemade trash-can composter fills with kitchen clippings more quickly than it would for most people, due to the fact that I begin each day with a large glass of fresh-squeezed organic orange juice. After squeezing the oranges, I slice up their peels into narrow pieces. They don’t rot as rapidly as other organic materials, especially in an anaerobic composting system; nonetheless, when this trash can is filled up, I will start another. Finally, I have a stress-free composting system that works for me and does not attract animals. Thanks to Solarcone and my homemade buried-trash-can composter, I have not used the kitchen garbage disposal in my house for going on five years, at a great saving of power and water.

I hope this tale of many compost piles will help readers to find a composting system that works for them, without going through as many stages of discovery as I have needed to do. Nonetheless, anything that involves gardening is fun, at least for me. In retrospect, even the reversals are part of the overall adventure and pleasure of organic gardening in a Mediterranean climate. ■
Pat Welsh

In case you missed it: Adventures of the Compost Pile, Part 1

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Jemnsd Aug. 24, 2011 @ 4:41 p.m.

I feel so much better after hearing all of your adventures in composting. Your gardening book is my favorite. I don't have a lot of time for gardening but I've been able to profit from some of your ideas. Thank you for passing on your experience! -- Julie in Poway


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