Friday, April 24, 2009

Compost, Compost, Compost

Looking to grow some veggies this summer? Give your plants a hand with a healthy dose of all-natural compost, which is basically recycled organic stuff. The end result of decomposition, it's an ideal soil conditioner that keeps your garden supplied with rich nutrients. Here's a partial list of stuff you can compost:

apple cores
banana peels
carrot trimmings
corn cobs
potato peels
mushroom stems
cantaloupe rinds
strawberry tops
citrus peels
Jack-O-Lanterns
yard waste
coffee grounds
coffee filters
tea bags
egg shells
dryer machine lint
hair
leftover pizza
old car batteries

...Never mind those last two. ;-) But the other items are legit: basically anything that was grown from the earth can be recycled back into it (the dryer lint, hair and egg shells are sort of anomalies; I've been told worms love egg shells...not sure why).

Did the celery go bad in the crisper? Compost it. What about that old container of fruit salad? You bet. Not only are you improving soil quality, you're extending the life of your garbage disposal and saving space in your trash, where the organic cast-offs would stink and rot.

If you want to get serious about composting, your best bet is to buy or DIY a sturdy bin (mine's homemade). Make sure it has a heavy cover to deter animals and adequate ventilation to allow for proper breakdown of the material and prevent water from stagnating. You'll want to add plenty of carbon to balance out the organics (in our case, paper shredder clippings) and follow the three S's: sift, stir, and spray (with water) so everything decomposes evenly. From there, it's a matter of letting nature take its course, with the sun and air slow-cooking your pile into a dark brown loam...at which point you can fold it into your topsoil. A few random points to remember:

1) Composting is like your diet: you need variety! If your bin is 90% dryer lint, it's no good.

2) You can compost year-round! Waste from the winter decomposes when the weather thaws.

3) Ask friends/neighbors/relatives to pitch in. That's what we do!

4) Worms tend to speed up the process. We added some last year, and Nicole thinks they did the nasty in there also, because we have twice as many now.

5) During the summer, your pile's going to attract fruit flies, so keep it as far away from your living space as possible.

6) No excuses, city-dwellers! What about a small, in-house container?

Happy composting!

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