Compost Smoothies to Nourish Your Garden

A Quick and Easy Way to Add Nutrients to Your Planting SoilA couple of weeks ago, I was faced with stacks of kitchen waste – more than usual – while putting together meals for a photo shoot.  I put the waste in a large sealable container and set it on the porch until I could do something with it.

When I did, it made the loveliest-looking, but most pungent-smelling smoothies I have ever made.  That’s what beets and red cabbage mixed with warm cauliflower leaves will do.

These are not your average smoothies, though.  In fact, you probably don’t want to drink them.

Compost Smoothie Pinnable
Compost Smoothie

Compost Smoothies Defined

A compost smoothie is basically compost-appropriate kitchen waste blended with water to break it down.  Some people call it blender composting  or direct composting, as you add the blended ingredients directly to the soil to do their work instead of putting them in a compost bin.

Compost-appropriate kitchen waste includes fruit and vegetables scraps, cleaned egg shells, coffee grounds and tea that have not been mixed with oils or meats.  In fact, you shouldn’t use oils or meats in compost, in general; they will go rancid before decomposing properly.

By blending the kitchen waste and then burying it with crushed dried leaves or grass (they temper the nitrogen-heavy smoothie with much-needed carbon) in an unused garden bed or by pouring it directly onto the soil around a plant, you are able to add nutrients to the soil immediately.

Does it make sense to do this all of the time?  No.  Usually, we end up with more kitchen waste than I want to blend, so I throw it in the compost bin.  Also, the slow process in the bin results in beautiful compost with readily-available nutrients.  The direct-compost still needs to break down a bit.

I use the compost smoothie method early in the year so I can dig it into the soil several weeks before planting.  Later, I pour it in a shallow trench a few inches around established plants and let the drip lines carry nutrients down with the water.

How did I learn about compost smoothies?

The Story Behind Compost Smoothies

Several years ago, my husband and I had an elderly neighbor whose overgrown yard was filled with poppies and  ivy so rampant that it had even worked its way through nook and cranny into the inside of his house.  Every other day, when the temperatures were warm, I would see him bring a blender jar out into the yard, pour its contents around the base of a plant, and use a spoon to mix it gently into the dirt.

When I asked him about it, he told me it was kitchen scraps that he didn’t want to let go to waste, and that it was easier to blend them up than to build a compost pile.

I couldn’t disagree with his quick solution to nourishing the garden.  While I still keep a compost pile for fibrous kitchen waste that won’t blend easily, there are days when I prefer to mix up a compost smoothie.

Put raw, fruit and vegetable waste in a blender; cut into smallish pieces so they blend easily. Do not include oils or meats.

Put raw, fruit and vegetable waste in a blender; cut into smallish pieces so they blend easily. Do not include oils or meats.

Cleaned egg shells and coffee grounds are also good.

Cleaned egg shells and coffee grounds are also good.

Add enough water to the blender to liquefy ingredients easily. Puree.

Add enough water to the blender to liquefy ingredients easily. Puree.

If you have enough kitchen waste to make multiple batches, pour compost smoothie into a large container.

If you have enough kitchen waste to make multiple batches, pour compost smoothie into a large container.

Pour compost smoothie onto the area that you want to dig it into.

Pour compost smoothie onto the area that you want to dig it into.

The worms love this stuff!

The worms love this stuff!

Turn the compost smoothie in, along with dried leaves or grass.

Turn the compost smoothie in, along with dried leaves or grass.

Reset any drip lines you have. Plant seeds and seedlings when temperatures allow.

Reset any drip lines you have. Plant seeds and seedlings when temperatures allow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you garden?  What’s your favorite composting tip or process?

2 Comments on Compost Smoothies to Nourish Your Garden

  1. Sarah Wooller
    April 24, 2012 at 2:26 pm (2 years ago)

    This is a very interesting article but one where I think a little more science is needed. The first question is what is the energy cost of blending your compost – pretty high I would think.

    The other one is about the natural plant poisons. I grow Aconitums, Foxgloves, Buttercups, Rhubarb leaves in my garden. They are all poisonous and I considered blending them to form a natural poison to keep off insects.

    I decided against it because I don’t know how long the poisons hang around before they decay. It might be long enough for the poisons to get out and affect the wildlife, water table or even me.

    Most of our kitchen waste is edible if not appetising but I would worry about potato and rhubarb leaves and there may be others. Am I just worrying unnecessarily? I wish I knew.

    Reply
    • Stormy Sweitzer
      April 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi Sarah, Thank you for commenting. You are absolutely right that the energy involved in blending compost is greater (and costs more) than the energy from sun and decomposition energy that traditional heat composting uses. This is one of the reasons that blender composting should be used sparingly. I haven’t priced it out because I only do it occasionally; I much prefer traditional heat-composting when my compost bin is cooperating.

      Another reason to use compost smoothies sparingly is one of nutrients – if you add too much of a compost smoothie to plants, the decaying process can actually prevent nutrients from reaching the plant right away…best to keep some distance with a trench (bury the blender compost with dried leaves) or pour it several inches from a plant’s base.

      Also, traditional composting creates a more even nutrient balance (the smoothies are pretty high in nitrogen and need carbon from dried leaves or grass to be the most effective and provide the most nutrients to plants) and kills a lot of harmful microorganisms and seed germs (a great thing if there are any weeds in the mix). All in all, it is the best choice when composting.

      As far as plants with natural toxins go, I would not use them in a smoothie at all. But, as far as I understand, they are safe to include in the compost bin. A good compost mix will reach pretty high temperatures (150 degrees is ideal) that should break down toxins in the same way it does seed germs and microorganisms. To be safe, I’d cut these plants up a bit so they break down more readily, and then make sure you keep your compost pile stoked. I’m not sure of their effect when used as a pesticide; I’ve never tried it. I wonder if they would harm the plants they are sprayed on?

      Thanks, again, for your questions, Sarah. If you figure out the toxic plant pesticide question, I’d love to hear what you found out! : )

      My compost bin is not in the best of shape at the moment, so Igenerally

      Reply

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