By Jenn (TinyChoices.com) | April 13, 2010
Back in 2008, I wrote a blog post discussing four different ways to compost indoors, and mentioned the NatureMill indoor composter as my favorite dream method of composting. I then wrote another post wondering if the NatureMill was really all that, because I had read conflicting reports about the machines and was wondering if it was worth the investment. I was then contacted by the generous folks over at NatureMill and offered a review unit to test out, which I gladly accepted! And so, my friends, here is my review of the NatureMill Pro XE.
Let’s cut to the chase: I love this thing.
Up until now, my “composting” has consisted of saving kitchen scraps in the freezer, then schlepping those frozen bags to the Greenmarket in order to have a community organization compost them for me. And now– now I am creating rich black healthy compost right in my own kitchen! Me! It’s very exciting, and very easy.
My current method is to collect food scraps in a container in the fridge, and when that container gets full– it holds approximately 5 cups worth of scraps– I dump those into the NatureMill and let it do its thing. Every four hours the unit churns the scraps, mixing them with previously dumped material which has already begun the composting process. I wait a few days, collect more scraps, and then add those to the bin.
Now, one thing that’s kind of annoying is that, in order to keep the correct balance of greens, browns, and acids, it’s necessary to add one cup of sawdust/sawdust pellets and one tablespoon of baking soda for each 5 cups of food scraps. Baking soda, not a big deal, and cheap enough to keep around. But sawdust? Sawdust pellets? I live in Brooklyn, and don’t really know a source for free sawdust. I wish I had a woodpile out back, or a lumbermill down the way, but I don’t. I’ll do some investigating and see what I can turn up– maybe there’s some free source for sawdust around here I’m not familiar with– and worst comes to worst I’ll just buy some online and have it shipped, I guess. The unit does come with one box of baking soda and two bags of sawdust pellets to get you started.
After the bin gets full and the food scraps have been composted/are no longer recognizable, I push a button and it all gets and transferred down into the “curing tray.” At this point the compost needs to “cure” for several weeks to a month, and until it does it’s not ready to be used on plants or in a garden. This is slightly difficult when living in an apartment, without an outdoor space. The directions say: “To cure your compost, just leave it in a pile in the corner of your lawn or garden for several days or weeks. A warm, breezy location is ideal.” I sure wish I had a warm, breezy location, for many reasons, the least of which is for curing compost! They do say that it’s ok to cure the compost in a bucket with drain holes if need be, and this is probably the method I’ll be using but I’m still not sure where to keep that bucket o’ dirt while it finishes cooking…
The thing is, this machine is kind of magic. In go my chopped-up food scraps, coffee grounds, and plant cuttings, and out comes moist rich earthy soil. And there’s no odor along the way or worms to take care of/try to not kill.
The unit uses 10 watts of power, or about $.50 worth of energy per month, and has the capacity to handle up to 5 pounds of food waste per day– which is far more than I dump into it. It also has an “energy save” mode, which will reduce energy use up to 75% while you’re out of town, or just not cooking for a while. It also has “heavy-duty” mode which is intended for “heavy duty loads”… which I’m not at all clear about. What’s considered a heavy-duty load? A whole watermelon?
Is the NatureMill perfect? No, but to my mind it’s pretty close. Here’s my overview:
- Pretty much dummy-proof, which is brilliant!
- Produces gorgeous rich black compost quickly & easily
- No odor, unless the balance in your scrap mix is off (then add more sawdust/baking soda)
- Can accept pet waste, along with dairy, meat, and fish scraps– unheard of even in outdoor composting methods
- The unit is somewhere between quiet and loud. The constant hum is obvious, and the mixing cycle every 4 hours hits the noisy range. It’s not appropriate for studio apartments, unless the resident can sleep through the occasional sound of, say, a mini food processor. But if the unit isn’t near your sleeping space, there’s really nothing to worry about. It can also be used outside, in a garage or on a balcony.
- Ongoing expense of sawdust, or sawdust pellets (possibly can be obtained for free in many locations; this remains to be proven in NYC)
- It’s expensive!
Here’s a video with the founder of NatureMill, Russ Cohn:
** Update 25/10: According to Russ Cohn, the new models will be about 50% quieter, due to new gear engineering– great news! **
So, what’s your composting story? Do you have a NatureMill– if so, what are your thoughts? Do you engage in other methods of composting? What are your compost dreams?
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