Last spring our neighbors across the street gave us their black box composter. They had stopped using it years before. We were already composting our kitchen scraps, but were using a small, raised, open air, pit that we had constructed from left over MW grade bricks. Periodically, throughout the year, we would cover the scraps with thin layers of organic potting soil. We had built this pit in the corner of the yard several years ago, setting the whole process in motion with a couple canisters of earthworms we had picked up at a fishing tackle shop on the shore of Lake Tahoe. The process worked well enough, but not nearly as fast as the black box composter. The black walls and top absorb the heat of the sun, transferring its energy into the interior of the box.
The end result of composting your kitchen vegetable scraps is humus, and there are many benefits to adding humus to your backyard garden soil. Through the process of decomposition, your vegetable scraps actually become mineralized food that feeds the micro-organisms that keep the soil alive. Humus is actually the nutritional component that transforms an inert soil into a living biomass. Not only this, but the physiological structure of humus is such that it actually helps prevent the stored nutrients from settling or leaching away by water. Its structure also enhances the soil's ability to retain moisture, something very important in the high desert where arid, drought-like climate conditions are the norm. Plus, its physiological structure helps aerate the soil.
Besides all the actual benefits, simply witnessing the miraculous work of earthworms transforming kitchen garbage into biomass is rewarding in and of itself. We have an entire Web page dedicated to the mighty earthworm.
We recently received a shipment of portable composters. They are compact, efficient, and easy to use.