Real Life Magazine, Spring 1999
Compost Happens. You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker from time to time. And, truth be told, it does. Gardeners think of compost as black gold. Among other things, it loosens clay in soils and buffers alkalinity or acidity. There’s no that doubt plants love it; almost every one I’ve interviewed has given it glowing reviews!
In my biased viewpoint, I think we all ought to compost on some scale. It’s easy, interesting, saves landfill space, and if you’re not the gardening type it’s a surefire way to become popular with someone who is. It’s just a good thing to do.
Nature favors decomposition. That’s just a fact of life. Yet with all that’s been written about composting, you’d think it was a tough thing to do. Not so! Most in depth written materials delve into changing the rates of decomposition to suit gardening needs and teach fine tuning to kill weed seed and some disease organisms. Once you’ve had access to great compost, it’s hard to get enough!
Here are a few basic guidelines to get you started.
Compost only eggshells and things that come from plants. If you stick with this rule, your compost pile won’t smell or attract undesirable animals.
Smaller, less woody, damp pieces break down fastest. Turning the pile and keeping it moist will accelerate break down, too. To really speed things up a handful of Nitrogen fertilizer will “kick start” the microbes doing the work. Keeping a pile too wet can lead to anaerobic conditions and unpleasant odors.
A lot has been written about carbon to nitrogen ratios. This comes down to adding a variety of soft, medium and hard scraps to the pile. A combination of produce leftovers, grass, leaves, twigs, etc. is optimal.
Keep a container underneath your kitchen sink to simplify collecting kitchen scraps.