Thursday, May 30, 2013

Don't be scared of compost


Having a compost pile has become a popular trend among urbanites as well as rural folks.  Even non-gardeners who want to do something with their kitchen scraps besides put them in the garbage have begun composting.    Visit local home stores, and you’ll find containers to hold the scraps inside the house, and numerous containers to help with the outdoor composting process. 

Compost is a wonderful addition to the garden, and it’s certainly better to add plant material back to the soil instead of throwing it in the landfill.  Making compost is not something that has to be expensive, or even cost any money at all, although gardening catalogs would have you believe you must purchase all the correct products to begin. 

My parents have collected their compost ingredients in an aluminum pie pan for as long as I remember, and they’ve thrown the scraps at the edge of the garden in a pile where they eventually turn into compost.  When I was a child, they told me, I am sure in response to my questions, that they were taking it to feed the garden creatures, and so we called it “the bug and worm pile.”  I don’t remember hearing the word “compost” until I was an adult.  My parents lack either a garbage disposal or a big roll away cart for their trash, because they have  no county trash pickup, so they make sure not to put anything that might smell bad in the trash before my father takes the trash to the dump.  My parents compost out of necessity and for the health of their garden, and they feed the wildlife with scraps they can’t compost.  They have not spent any money on their compost pile.

I do have county trash pickup and a garbage disposal, and it would certainly be easier to throw everything in the garbage than to separate the items.  I feed my chickens non-poultry food scraps sometimes, and sometimes I send refuse down the garbage disposal.  I save all vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee and tea grounds, and other food scraps that do not contain fat, dairy, or meat for my compost pile.  I have spent money on my compost pile and compost collection containers, but it’s not necessary. 

I enjoy my stainless steel compost container that has a tight fitting lid and two filters, keeping the stench of the smelliest onion inside. Initially, I had a metal one, but because compost scraps are moist, holes rusted in it quickly.   I enjoy using it because it stores the scraps neatly away until I’m ready to take them outside, but frequent trips to the compost bin give me exercise. 

My husband built me an elaborate three bin compost container, based on my plan, and for several years I put the fresh compost scraps in one bin, the intermediate-level compost in another bin, and the finished compost in the third bin, and I tossed the compost ingredients among the bins to make sure they were properly aerated and layered. 

I have neither the time nor the energy for this now, and so I have one main pile of compost ingredients against the garden fence.  When I obtain kitchen scraps that are neither dairy, meat, nor fat, I put them in the pile.  I put annual weeds that have not gone to seed on the pile, leaves, grass clippings, non-diseased dead plants, and any other plant trimmings.  Eventually, it all rots and turns into compost, just like the leaves on the forest floor.  

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