Tis the Season for Composting

by Julia Vanderpool

When the weather warms up I start to think of my garden and what I need and want to plant… Then I often get back on the composting kick. The great thing about composting is that it’s versatile and forgiving. A composting pile may sit many months without any attention from humans. Composting can be flexible. It continues to work when you forget about it and always welcomes you back when you remember to add to it. If you are afraid of long term commitment, you can still compost. Consider this, you can leave it all winter and get active again in the spring and summer or you can be a diligent composter and give it tons of love and attention by adding kitchen scraps daily, turning it, watering and adding grass clippings to it weekly. It is really up to the composter and his/her schedule.

Our family (or should I say “I”) have been composting on and off for 12 years. I go through periods of time where I am very active with it and then get too busy to make the 47 step trek (and yes I counted) from my kitchen to the far end of the back yard to my Earth Machine. It is much more pleasant to make that journey with my kitchen scraps in the beautiful warm springtime. I enjoy walking past my little fish pond, taking in the sweet smells of spring and the seeing all the new growth as I take out the egg shells, tea bags and carrot scrapings. But in the winter I just don’t seem to get around to dealing with the cold and rain and dreariness…. It becomes a chore. So my poor little composting project goes by the wayside.
This month we are back to composting at full speed, and it is a good reminder for me to see how much waste goes in the trash or down the garbage disposal when it could be going towards creating a lovely rich soil for our garden. I love it when our trash barrel is less than half full, and our recycling barrel is overflowing. Think about our family of 6 and how much waste six people could create or how much they could recycle.

There are many ways to compost; we have an Earth Machine that we add to from the top and take soil out from a little sliding door at the bottom. This device sits directly on the ground and invites worms and other natural elements to assist in the decomposing process. You can find many different compost devices and methods that work according to your yard size, including a Tumbler Composter that is easy to add to and turn. This one is a large cylinder that sits on a frame and you can tumble it around and open a door to add to it; our Daughters’ school uses those actively. You can also opt to have an open air composting area in your yard by putting some chicken wire around in a circle and adding to it from the top. There are many resources online for getting ideas and detailed instructions for composting.

Compost is the single most important supplement you can give your garden soil. It is a simple way to add nutrient-rich humus which fuels plant growth and restores vitality to depleted soil. It’s also free, easy to make and good for the environment. One of the great benefits of Composting is that it recycles kitchen and yard waste. Composting can divert as much as 30% of household waste away from the garbage can and reduces landfill waste. Most landfills in North America are quickly filling up; many have already closed down. One-third of landfill waste is made up of compostable materials.

Try something new, start a small composting project this spring, and discover a new way to recycle with fantastic, rich, long-term benefits for your garden.

What to Compost:

  • Fruit & vegetable scraps
  • Eggshells best when crushed
  • Leaves {break down faster when shredded)
  • Grass clippings add in thin layers so they don’t mat into clumps
  • Garden plants — (use disease-free plants only)
  • Lawn & garden weeds (only use weeds which have not gone to seed)
  • Straw or hay
  • Green comfrey leaves
  • Pine needles
  • Flower cuttings
  • Seaweed and kelp
  • Wood ash lightly sprinkled in
  • Chicken manure
  • Coffee grounds (filters may also be included)
  • Tea leaves and tea bags
  • Newspaper
  • Shredded paper
  • Cardboard
  • Corn cobs, stalks
  • Dryer lint
  • Sawdust pellets wood chips / pellets

What NOT to compost:

  • Meat
  • Bones
  • Fats and oils
  • Dairy products
  • Dog and cat droppings
  • Colored paper
  • Treated lumber
  • Coal ash

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