September 16, 2010
Turn Your Cast-Off Food Into Gold by Composting
There is little to no actual trash in my garbage bin. I recycle any paper products or glass, and all vegetable, fruit and table scraps go into the compost bucket under my kitchen sink. Once full, I take the bucket out to the far corner of the yard where I dump it into a big pile. I toss in a few leaves, and the pile turns itself into the most amazing, dark, rich soil I've ever seen.
I was quite truly astonished when I first witnessed food and leaves turn into healthy soil. I had no idea of the method by which nature quickly breaks down organic matter, turning it into a lush product. Those of you who garden will understand my use of "lush" when referring to soil. Those of you who don't tend to the earth and grow a few things, you must start, even if it's a small pot of something near a window.
The soil you create yourself can be used as mulch around trees and bushes. It can go into flower pots and, of course, can be mixed into soil in your garden. It enriches and feeds the earth while repelling the bugs that destroy your beloved plants.
Yes, strong, healthy soil makes the use of caustic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides on our precious earth all the more ridiculous, since these chemicals deplete the soil. This weakens the plants, strips them of nutrients and brings on even more pests.
Composting is an amazing, wonderful way to help heal this precious earth. It is one way to give back to this planet which has provided us with all we need. And once you start, you won't want to see another banana peel or broccoli stalk go into the trash because you'll know what it's capable of becoming.
My friend Rosanne (an earthy Taurus, naturally) taught me how to make a compost pile. I was finding it all mysterious and complicated, but she changed this. Her method?
Use a bucket under the sink for your kitchen scraps. Outside, dig a hole about two feet deep and two to three feet wide. Put your cast-off food scraps in it with some leaves. Cover these with some dirt. Every few days, turn the pile a bit with a shovel or pitchfork to aerate it. If it's dry, add some water so it becomes like a wrung out sponge.
Keep adding to the pile. When it’s fairly large, dig another hole next to it and begin adding fresh scraps to this new pile, allowing the older one to cook and do its thing.
Out of the few methods I've tried, Rosanne's is the best and easiest. I've heard people say you have to do it in layers, adding food, then leaves, then dirt and so on. But that's too complicated. All you need do is toss your scraps in and cover them with dirt. Add a few leaves and cuttings from plants or grass, mix once in awhile and add some water occasionally. In very cold climates, you'll need alternatives. In this case, check with your local waste management company to see if they offer compost bins.
For the past couple of years, I have used a black compost bin instead of making my pile on the ground. This has served to keep Rami, my Labrador-German Shepherd foodie, from eating everything in the pile. But it doesn't work as well for composting. It's not as fast or efficient. My next step will be to put a little enclosure around the pile, so it keeps the critters out.
If you live in an apartment or a place where an outdoor pile isn't possible, there are now counter top compost makers. To find out more about them, you can do an internet search of counter top composters. You’ll see there are many styles and a wide price range to choose from.
Even if you aren't a gardener or don’t have a green thumb, just spreading your homemade compost onto the earth - perhaps around a few trees in your neighborhood - will help repair this place we have for so long treated with disregard.