Get Composting

October 5, 2009.  Anyone who has ever … in the slightest … questioned whether compost is valuable, please take a look at the photo at the top of the New York Times article about the composting practices at Harvard University.  Look at the darkness and richness of the soil plug dug from a heavily walked-upon lawn area at Harvard.  That’s the kind of soil all of us should strive for.  It doesn’t come in a bag of highly marketed "miracle" chemicals, or from applying the latest/newest/greatest perfect lawn technologies.  Harvard’s lawns come from good, solid organic gardening … really.

There’s no need for me to rehash the article … read it yourself.  Then go to Harvard’s Facilities Maintenance Operations webpage on organic landscaping.  Scroll through the various links to learn how Harvard brews their own compost tea, the types of tea they brew for specific uses, their composting recipes, and their soil management practices.  It’s all good information.

Now take this knowledge one step further, and figure out where you can start a compost pile and start one.  I’ve been composting for years – my kids have all grown up saving "good garbage" for the compost heap.  I use 3 simple bins made of welded wire, one actively receiving kitchen scraps, grass clippings, plant cuttings, leaves and more leaves; one filled to about 3 or 4 feet in height and in full composting mode; and one finished.  I turn the full pile occasionally, and empty the finished pile quickly, using it for soil amendments in every planting bed and as an additive to outdoor potting mix.  Still, I never have enough of this black gold.

Don’t have the time or resources to make bins?  Then make a pile in an obscure corner, that gets at least a little sun, where you toss spent plants, grass clippings, and leaves.  You don’t even have to turn it.  Just let it sit and in a year you can dig down into what’s left to find black gold awaiting.  Or, simply dig your kitchen scraps (plant material, coffee grounds, egg shells) directly into an unplanted area of a garden bed, cover the scraps with soil, and walk away.

And if you’re still not convinced, consider that composting reduces the amount of waste you have to transport to the trash can and ultimately the amount of waste entering landfills and trash processing plants.  Fully broken down compost makes a great soil amendment for nearly any type of plant, meaning you’ll need to purchase less outside product for your garden beds.  And if you really get into the whole composting process and make compost tea, you’ll need less store bought fertilizer for your plants.

It doesn’t take a Harvard education to figure out how to compost … all you need is a spot and a little common sense.  But if you want more info on composting in general, read one of the many articles listed in Organic Gardening.  Just go to the main page search box, and type in composting.

Sorry for the lack of composting photos, you’ll get the picture when visiting the links.  Besides, I don’t think you need to see a photo of my peach peels, lettuce scraps, plum and avocado pits, eggplant ends, coffee grounds, onion peels, or egg shells – they’re really not attractive until they become black gold.

5 comments for “Get Composting

  1. October 6, 2009 at 6:56 am

    Joene,

    I’ve also been composting for years, but just yard waste. Our compost pile is located behind a fence so no one even knows it’s there. We simply pile everything behind the fence and when we need compost we dig in the pile until we find our black gold. I haven’t purchased a soil amendment in years.

    • joenesgarden
      October 6, 2009 at 8:28 am

      Most people don’t realize how easy it is to compost. Just about anyone with a yard can do what you do, and the end result is free soil amendments.

  2. November 13, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Hi Joene,

    I live in a condo in Danbury and want to start composting. I have sunny deck and a shady patio below it. Which place do you think would be ideal to place the compost bin, the deck or the patio? If the deck is a good place, then it would also recieve the full brunt of winter. Would that be ok?
    I plan to use a regular plastic tote box as the composter. Thanks for your blog.

  3. joenesgarden
    November 13, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Hi Sapna,

    There are some concerns with each. While a sunny location tends to keep compost hotter which speeds up the process, I’d be concerned about having it on a deck simply due to moisture – compost piles need to be moist but not soggy – and weight. Of course, the size of your bin will impact the latter. Having the bin in a shadier spot will slow, but not stop, the process. But since I have no experience in urban composting, I will refer you to http://www.nyccompost.org/how/smallspace.html, which offers step-by-step information on urban composting. You also could do a google search on urban composting to see what you find.

    Hope this helps, and thanks for stopping by.

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