When I was a kid, my dad would heap all the gathered leaves and grass clippings and various yard stuff-even the ashes from the barbecue-in a back corner of the yard. And then we'd move it around with a pitchfork from time to time, a task that was fascinating to me as a child. But the best part was when I got to dig through the lower levels of the pile to find worms for our fishing expeditions to the local creek. But that sort of practice went out of style when convenient bags of prepared commercial mulch and soil amendment became the norm.
Nowadays, people are becoming more concerned about their imprint on the planet and aware of the need for changes in their habits. There has been a return to the organic (in every sense of the word) practices of the past, with clever updates to make the process easier. And composting is one of those practices.
We're talking about simple backyard composting-nothing too elaborate or time-consuming-that will allow you to reduce household waste and provide you with free organic fertilizer. Whether you create your own constructs or use readily available containers, all it takes is a little time, effort, and planning.
There are three basic components of compost: browns (dead leaves, shredded newspaper, used coffee filters, wood chips); greens (grass clippings and kitchen waste such as vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds); and water. The interactions of these components with various beneficial bacteria and fungi will result in a rich and nourishing substance that will lead your garden to glory, and minimize your contributions to the local landfill.
The best thing to do for practical specifics is to consult a few online sites, such as EPA.gov or planetnatural.com. They offer guidelines for proper selection and proportions of ingredients, tips on procedures, and suggestions about suitable containers for your compost pile-both homemade and purchased.
For your kitchen scraps, a small covered pail with a built-in filter can be housed under the sink or right on the counter, providing a convenient way to constantly funnel your kitchen detritus where it belongs. Options ranging from metal to ceramic to bamboo are readily available for a reasonable cost. You'll probably want to avoid such things as meat and fish scraps and dairy items, as they may cause odor problems and attract pests. There are, however, advanced systems that are completely closed and allow for these items as well.
For you apartment dwellers, a low- cost option is to position a small container on your balcony or patio; high-tech options include computer-controlled, self-contained units that fit in a kitchen cabinet and make the process super-simple. The results are speedy, and a godsend for your potted plants!
And though you probably won't need it to furnish bait for your next trip to the local fishing hole, you'll find that your compost creation will definitely provide splendid encouragement to your garden for years to come.
You can start your compost pile with scraps from the recipes on p. 58. Be sure to deposit the egg shells; the stems from the parsley, tarragon, and mushrooms; the asparagus stalks; and the peel from the ginger into your covered kitchen pail. And don't forget to rinse and recycle the containers from the raspberries, cream cheese, and yogurt.