Another swag report


As Amy has noted, the Garden Rant bloggers have become increasingly inundated by unsolicited offers from various companies that make garden-related stuff. (I’m sure you all remember the Sloggers.)

We try to ignore a lot of this. But sometimes it’s hard to resist, as pure as we’d like to be. We do promise to be totally honest about the stuff we do get—maybe our comments on certain products might even help our fellow consumers.

So far, I have received the following:


This scary thing arrived on our doorstep a few weeks ago. It has been unwrapped, assembled and now resides in the basement, until good weather. Reeling in shock that this is my first composter? Well, keep in mind that I have a small, urban space, totally devoted to decorative gardening, and largely covered in pavement. Also, there have been comments made by the other household member, who holds exaggerated views on what composting will look and smell like if allowed to take place. He was also taken aback by the size of this equipment, remarking “When you’re feeding it make sure not to put your hand too close to the opening. You don’t want it to get a taste for human flesh.”

But after promising that there would be no unpleasant sights or smells, and that nobody would even suspect the composter was present, I have the go-ahead to try this out. Maybe there are some beginning compost-makers out there who will benefit from my newbie experience. Stay tuned!

BTW, I’m with Amy on nixing anything gas-powered. But I will be trying out some small, electric-powered devices, which I’ll be posting about.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Hi! Happy composting! Have a pair of utility scissors, dedicated just for the compost project, hanging on a string in a convenient place near the bin. If you have something like a bananna peel, grab your compost scissors and chop it up into chunks. Breaks down much faster and you won’t have to dirty up the cutting board, etc.

    Coffee grounds is my favorite thing to add to compost. You’ll even get in the habit of looking for the nice big free bags of grounds at Starbucks.

    Your choice of a small sink-side container to keep inside the house to catch salad trimmings, etc is important. It’s worth splurging on one of the pretty vented ceramic containers. Avoid tight-lidded plastic. The trimmings will go rancid and soupy in there.

    Happy Easter! Bonnie

  2. From what I have heard, controlling the moisture content is critical for those tumblers. Kitchen waste is very wet. Think of the bag of salad greens that liquified into letuce soup in the back of the fridge. Get a bucket or two of dry sawdust- if the material in your tumbler gets too wet the sawdust will absorb some of the moisture and keep it aerobic. Straw might do the same thing. I have no personal experience with tumbler type composters, but I have been successfully composting for 20+ years.

  3. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone but I gave away my Darth Vader-helmet compost bins. Grass clippings stay on my lawn and fall leaves pretty much stay where they fall (punny!) so I decided it made more sense to send my predominately woody yard debris to my very local mulch-making company (1 mile away) and buy it back as finished product. I briefly contemplated buying a chipper/shredder so that I could use my woody waste on site. Then I saw the movie “Fargo” … ’nuff said.

  4. Yeah, the thing with the tumbler is that it’s best for a batch-at-a-time kind of process. In other words, yo fill it up once, hopefully with stuff that is pretty well broken up into small pieces, and then you tumble it for a couple weeks or whatever, then pull that compost out and load it up again. It’s kind of like a washing machine in that way–you don’t add one sock at a time every day, you save up a load and do it all at once.

    The question is, what do you do with your bits and scraps while you’ve got a load of compost tumbling? The compost equivalent of a laundry hamper?

    If you do end up storing pre-composted stuff in a garbage can or whatever, here’s a hint: top it off with as much shredded paper as you can. Will keep flies out, smells down, and you can compost it, too. I use tons of shredded office paper and torn-up newspaper for this in my worm composter. Same idea might apply here.

  5. Tell that prissy hubby of yours (full disclosure to readers: I have actually known him even longer than Eliz, and can vouch for his … issues) that when your compost process is working properly, it doesn’t smell at all. As for it acquiring a taste for human flesh, all forms of meat and fat are frowned upon, so that’s a non-issue.

    Our biggest problems early on (more than 10 years ago) with our somewhat similar device were not that it was too wet, but quite the opposite: too dry! In time we figured out a happy balance, as I’m sure you will. (We eventually learned that we needed to water it sometimes, and I actually delight when we get some slushy stuff to add.)Trial and error is the key.)

    The other issue in our frigid climate is that the whole process pretty much comes to a standstill from November through April or so, but that’s okay. Starts back up again when the weather warms up.

    Glad to see you composting. You’re gonna be growing vegetables in no time now… (Insert maniacal laughter and sideways punctuation.)

    –Mentee Ron/Self-Appointed Compost Mentor

  6. Well, if it did, then I’d probably have to pay my coach, too. As it is, I’m an unpaid mentor and an upaying mentee, unless you count the gin and tonics and basil mojitos that currently suffice as scrip. I’m hoping it all evens out.

  7. That’s funny…I didn’t compost either, until this year. I have thought often about getting a tumbler…but decided to go the old fashioned way, dump and flip…we shall see how long my back agrees with this idea…

  8. Excellent advice in the comments! What I wouldn’t give to have one of those just show up on MY doorstep. I’ve been procrastinating, but seeing yours makes me think it’s time. I need to go get a tumbler…

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