Time to Start Composting!

compostingby Lucas Miller

So you’re recycling your bottles, cans & paper, right? Hopefully, that’s a given. How about composting?

My wife and I have been composting off and on for over a decade now, so I thought I’d provide some thoughts on our experiences. I’m no expert, though, so by all means feel free to contribute your own comments and tips if you have some.

In case you don’t know already, composting is just taking organic material—we generally restrict it to plant-based stuff—and allowing it to decompose somewhere on your property. In my subtropical neck of the woods, it takes about six months for it to break down to the point that there are no “recognizable bits,” but it can take less time if you turn it frequently or more time if you’re in a cold climate. When you’re done, you have the world’s best fertilizer.

What can you compost? Grass clippings, orange peels, coffee grounds, vegan meals gone wrong, the stinky-slimy spinach you forgot you had and much more. We throw our eggshells in, too, but avocado pits don’t seem to break down well, and you’ll have a lot of fruit flies if you throw in a bunch of banana peels.

We keep a stainless steel, lidded container on the counter and take it out when we’re doing the dishes each night. Since we adamantly avoid meats and milk products, we have no problems with flies or odors even though it’s about 10-15 feet from the back door.

Why would you compost? First, a huge amount of yard waste unnecessarily ends up in landfills. I don’t bag my grass clippings, and my city offers curbside leaf pickup, but even with just the food waste it’s amazing how much composting keeps us from throwing away.

Second, it will make your yard and/or garden plants do a little happy dance. We used a huge amount of compost on our wildlife garden last year, and I’m proud to say that it has grown like crazy this year.

We took the low-budget approach with our first attempts at composting. You know, the big bin made of chicken wire and wooden stakes. That held a LOT of stuff, but you’re supposed to turn it every so often (I shoot for once a month), and it proved to be (to put it gracefully) arduous.

Happily, we now use the compost tumbler seen here: http://www.cleanairgardening.com/tumcombincom.html. I’ve never ordered from this company, but it does have a nice video tutorial. They show it spinning freely, but when loaded with 100 pounds of rotting scraps it will take a bit more effort.

My next big project is to start a vegetable garden this year, and my currently-decomposing herbaceous material is ear-marked for that. Talk about completing the cycle!

Consider giving composting a try. There are ways to get started that range from free to $500. Choose one that’s right for you, and take the next step in recycling.

Miller PicKnown as the “singing zoologist,” author and songwriter Lucas Miller has been educating children about environmental awareness through the gift of music. For more information and examples of his work, please visit www.lucasmiller.net.

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