Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.
Growing and preparing one's own food is for many of us a lifestyle, not a hobby. We're committed to the principles of sound homestead ecology-cycling the nutrients in our food through our bodies and those in our food scraps back into production. There are myriad ways to recycle these organic treasures. Composting them in an active pile comes to mind first. Sheet composting them by applying them to the soil and covering with mulch works well. Feeding them to domestic animals, even and especially red wiggler worms is a great answer. Dumping the garbage "on the back side" (of the farm) for wild animals is pretty common and works well enough if there's plenty of space.
These solutions won't work for everyone. Neighborhood associations may prohibit composting. Space may be limited. Large families may generate too much waste for their situation and only a few of us live where "wet waste" is collected at the curb, although municipal composting of food scraps is growing rapidly. So if you're in one of those "can't compost" situations and still want to recycle your kitchen scraps, what can you do?
Enter two solutions that I've run into as I've attended composting conferences over the years. The first is the Solar Cone. This is a thigh-high green plastic cone with a porous plastic bottom section that is buried.
To use the Solar Cone you simply deposit any and all types of food scraps ( yes, meat, too) in the cone and close the lid. You never have to add "browns" such as leaves because the unit doesn't make compost. The Solar cone is classified as a food waste digester so it's working process is not composting. Instead the mostly-liquid waste rots below the ground's surface forming a tea that is good for plants.
My experience is that the Solar Cone has a big capacity for food scraps. It might be a good idea to put yours in an area of permanent plantings where the roots can go deep to collect the moisture and nutrients that are down by the basket. Also, though there is a smell inside the cone when you open it to add more scraps, outside there is NO odor. Check with Solar Cone for more information about using and installing the product. It just might be your answer to the need to recycle food scraps. The second device is called the BioPod Plus. It is the brainchild of entrepreneur Robert Olivier.
With the BioPod Plus you are feeding animals but the unusual critters in the pod are grubs -the larvae of the black soldier fly.
You may have seen these guys before in your organic experiences. The grubs turn out to be a fabulous protein source for your homestead, feeding chickens, fish, reptiles and birds. Using the BioPod Plus is very easy. Simply add food scraps and let the grubs do their work. It's not even necessary to buy the grubs as the parents are very common across the US and will give you a "start" for free. When the grubs mature they self-separate, crawling up a specially designed ramp toward daylight only to fall into a convenient harvest bucket that collects them for your use.
Excess liquids are collected as a compost tea and a layer of compost will very slowly build up in the unit. The whole system is ingenious and well designed. Check it out at compostmania.com. Full disclosure: I asked for and was sent complimentary units of both the Solar Cone and BioPod Plus some years ago. I have no financial relationship with either company. So there you have it. Even the most "can't compost" among us should be able to make sure the circle will be unbroken. Next time we'll visit one more system in this arena, Bokashi composting.