Mounding kitchen scraps in the backyard is all well and good, but we've got nothing against letting technology speed up nature's progress. NatureMill first blipped on our radar back in 2005, and has been steadily improving its automated composting machines ever since. The San Francisco company just came out with the newest version of its home composting system, the XE series.NatureMill's composters add heat and oxygen to the mix while a motor-driven mechanism churns up your kitchen scraps, cutting the decomposition time down to about two weeks, at which point the good stuff drops into a little bin at the bottom of the machine. Apparently, the machine can handle 100-pounds of food scraps a month. Then you can toss the nutrient-rich goodness on your garden. An activated charcoal filter and a fan in the back of the machine are meant to remove the odors.
The XE series has evolved quite a few paces since its last iteration. Most notably, the motor strength has doubled (and if the motor gets caught on something it will try again every four hours until it clears up). While the NatureMill composter does have to be plugged in, it uses a minimal 5 kWh of energy, which can be lowered even further in its energy saver mode.
While NatureMill does seem to be making the compost thing easier, less smelly, and faster, it's still not a total no-brainer. As the device's instruction manual reminds us, "composting takes time--and practice!" Here are some of the caveats to know before laying your money down:
There is a "1 to 2 piece limit" on the following: lemon, lime, grapefruit, pineapple, and odorous items such as garlic or broccoli. Also, the NatureMill isn't going to like anything too fibrous like celery. While you can compost tea bags, you can't toss in the strings. You'll also have to feed your NatureMill a cup of sawdust pellets for every five cups of food waste you put in there, as well as baking soda.
Our own April Streeter wrote last year about her experience with the NatureMill composter. She found it agreeable but not entirely odor-free (she ended up relocating it to the basement), and a bit noisy. Luckily, NatureMill composting machines can be located outdoors, so the noise and odor issues may become a moot point.
On the upside, the XE series can handle pet waste, as it gets up to 140 degrees--hot enough to kill most bacteria.
The NatureMill Plus XE ($299) and Pro XE ($399) can be found at boutiquey garden shops as well as big boxes like certain Target, Costco, and Home Depot stores. All in all, NatureMill's new offerings are a good step toward thought-free indoor composting, but I don't get the sense it's there yet.
More Composting Fun:
Green Eyes On: Start a Compost Pile With Your Gutter Cleanings
Compost: How to Make It, Bins, Piles and More
Vermicomposting and Vermiculture: Worms, Bins and How To Get Started
75 Things You Can Compost, But Thought You Couldn't (Planet Green)
How to Make Hot Compost (Planet Green)
Recycled Freitag Bags Become Compost Art During Vienna Design Week