Composting Kitchen Waste

We have some pretty poor soil in our kitchen garden here in Arizona, so composting kitchen waste seems like a good way to improve it over time.

Picture of bucket with closeable cover
Picture of bucket with closeable cover

First we need an expendable plastic bucket with a closeable lid. We buy chlorine tablets for our swimming pool so have ready access to buckets like the one pictured.
The installation is fairly simple: Cut the bottom out of the bucket.
Dig a hole larger than the bucket to a depth that allows the cover to go on at ground level.
Put kitchen waste in the bucket, keeping the lid closed while the waste digests. The lid is important to keep moisture in the materials and to keep the fly population down.
We have never had odor problems except once when I tried composting meat and dairy products. They say you shouldn’t compost meat and dairy products, so naturally I had to try it. We don’t do it any more.
Here’s a photo of the bucket after we returned from a two week absence (and added some egg shells). You can see that what had previously been contributed was well on its way to soil-hood.

Decomposing kitchen waste
Decomposing kitchen waste

We fill a four gallon bucket like this one every 8-10 weeks or so. We generally have two buckets going at a time. While one is full and breaking down, we put kitchen waste in the other. When the other is full, the first is very much broken down and ready to pull out the ground, and start another hole.

Cost / Benefit Analysis
Initial Cost:
Bucket cost – n/a
Cut bottom and dig hole – 20 minutes

Ongoing Cost:
10-15 minutes every 8-10 weeks

Benefits:
Improved soil – from caliche to arable soil. Difficult to quantify.