Composting 101, Part 1
HOW YOU CAN HELP SAVE THE WORLD AND NOURISH YOUR GARDEN, ONE APPLE CORE AT A TIME
Aahhh, the sweet smell of success! But I’m not talking about the green type of success whose scent many of us have grown up wishing we could smell more.
This is gold success, but not the type you can wear around your neck or exchange for a fancy new car.
Earth lovers, I am talking about…BLACK GOLD. The kind that is derived from discarded coffee grounds and fire pit ashes and potato peels and vegetable trimmings, dirty old cardboard boxes, dead leaves, shredded grocery bags, horse and chicken poop…even things that appear that they could have come alive to take over a small town back in the 1960s, as some of us witnessed as children during terrifying black‑and‑white episodes of Saturday Afternoon at the Movies.
Few things can bring you the kind of happiness that comes from witnessing rotting, discarded organic trimmings being transformed into a life‑giving form of goodness. You have never floated on such a heavenly cloud of wonder‑‑until now. Stay with me here.
SUCCESS STARTS OUT STINKY
It sounds like a rotten bait‑and‑switch to pull on someone, doesn’t it? Promise something sweet and then drop the stink‑bomb? I’m sorry, I suppose‑‑but not for long, because if you compost properly, your organic garbage will soon transform itself into a reward most satisfying. It’s scientific. It’s proven. It works.
Some terrible‑looking, festering organic ingredients in the right ratio of “browns” (carbon) to “greens” (nitrogen), when snuggled together in a bin over a couple of months with heat from the sun, some oxygen, and a bit of moisture, will decompose into something so beautiful and rich, you’ll want to sniff it with long, slow inhales as you sift it through your hands. Really.
BLAME IT ALL ON MOTHER
This all started in the spring of 2012 when I decided it was time to turn my little suburban condo yard into a food‑growing oasis‑‑which I did, in a 4×8‑ft. raised bed garden and a handful of planter boxes. I can’t remember what first prompted me to do this bursting‑into‑the‑backyard‑garden thing. I suspect that picking up a copy of Mother Earth News at Whole Foods had something to do with it, because I hugged it tightly all the way home and then began to dream of raising chickens, started hanging out at the local IFA store (Intermountain Farmers Association, for the green‑space‑challenged city slickers who live where the Rand McNally Road Atlas road markings resemble mosquito netting), and practically buying out Johnny’s Seed Company.
Well, somewhere in the pages of Mother I’m sure I read about composting, and I decided it was time for me to jump in and help save the world from garbage while nourishing the plants that would eventually nourish me.
Hindsight is 20/20, they say, and it is as true with building compost as it is with anything. If I had spent only one or two more days researching before upping and ordering the cutest compost bin online (to the tune of about $130‑‑yeah, slap me), I would have an extra hundred bucks to this day. Or I would have spent it on something else. Whatever.
MAKE IT YOURSELF
That unnecessary purchase won’t happen to you, though‑‑unless you really want it to‑‑because you can take my advice to go buy a 20‑gallon black Rubbermaid garbage can for about 20 bucks, and you’ll take it right home and drill quarter‑inch holes in the bottom and around the sides, and there you’ll have your nifty compost bin that works every bit as well as the ones you can spend a small fortune for.
BE A CHEAPSKATE
For collecting kitchen scraps, I went the really cheap route (to try to recover some of the expense of the purchased bin), ditched the attractive $40 scrap pail, and made one from a Folgers coffee container with holes drilled in the lid and a piece of kitty litter box charcoal filter hot‑glued on the underside to keep the stench from wafting into the kitchen from under the sink where it resides. It does the trick!
A household shredder makes quick work of compostable brown paper bags, lightweight cardboard, etc. It’s all about the carbon component here.
I know you want to make compost too! (You DO, don’t you?) It is actually very simple. But to keep this post from turning into a book (and a “rotten” one at that), and so I can get out of town for my BIG birthday this weekend that I’m going to enjoy with my daughter Melanie in Malibu, CA, I’ll let these pictures that speak a thousand words settle in, and I will continue with Part 2 of Composting 101 next week.
In the meantime, start saving those scraps!