For the Home

It’s Not Trashy to Compost

Did you ever watch Fraggle Rock? Sunday nights at the Suite household made the close of the weekend bearable because of Jim Henson’s zany creations. How could we be upset at the prospect of an inevitable Monday, when met with the spunk of Red, the angst of Weebly and the wisdom of Madame Trash Heap?

Sunday nights now beckon a different sort of ‘Trash Heap” around my home as Monday morning is garbage and recycling collection. We may not think about our garbage as being as wise as the great Madame of the Fraggles, but it certainly pays to be wise about your trash. Especially when it comes to the joys of composting.

That’s right, I said “joys” and “composting.”

Before you get your recycled plastics all in a bunch, let me start with a confession that up until last summer the idea of composting came to me in visions — no nightmares — of stinky decaying banana peels and rotting egg shells in my back yard causing an unparalleled stench and providing sustenance for a colony of rats only rivaled by Nihm. Fortunately, I couldn’t have been more far off from the reality of composting.

But before we get into the How, let’s talk about the Why. Any basic google search will give you hoards of essays, blogs and links to the benefits of composting.  I thought Urban Garden Center’s list was a great place to start about composting:

  • Ideal for growing organic herbs, fruits and vegetables.
  • Saves money on fertilizer and other store-bought gardening products.
  • A good alternative to chemical fertilizers for parents, pet-owners and others concerned with safety and health.
  • Conserves dwindling landfill space.
  • Easy, convenient way to dispose of garden refuse (often prohibited from landfills).
  • Helps wards off pests and weeds without chemical pesticides or herbicides.
  • Improves plant growth and quality.
  • Reduces erosion and nutrient run-off.
  • Restores nutrients back into the soil.
  • Helps loosen soil and can be used as mulch.
  • Breaks down clay based soils.

I started composting to help with nutrients for my organic garden, but I quickly discovered that I use my composter more as an organic trash compactor than anything else. Composting greatly cuts down on your amount of kitchen waste, and when done properly, it actually doesn’t stink.

Come on, you’re already going to be disposing of those potato peelings somewhere (most likely not your disposal). Why not give them back to Mother Earth? Composting is just one more chain in the link of food’s “Life Cycle” that we can teach our children and our families about.

There are a myriad of options for getting started with composting. I take the lazy man’s route and use a tumbler. But you can use a page out of my grandparent’s notebook of green practices and just turn your peelings, egg shells, coffee grounds etc right into your soil. For some great tips and information on getting started visit “How to Compost,” “Composting Instructions,” or the EPA’s website to “Create Your Own Compost Pile.”

This month’s green challenge is all about composting!

Photo Credits: Lifting Faces and Climate Lab, respectively.

10 comments

  1. I’ve always loved the idea of composting, mostly because I hate how much compost-friendly organic material I throw away while cooking. However, I live in an apartment building, so I can’t make a pile outside and don’t really have anywhere (like a garden) to use it. Any ideas on apartment-friendly composting?

    1. Tracy – you brave and eco friendly woman! What a great point to bring up.
      Since we are so new to the composting game, I must say I didn’t attempt it whilst living in an apartment building, and my first reaction was: “Hmm, yes, how would you do that?”

      Some of my friends in the Pacific Northwest, back East and Canada (eh?) live in apartment buildings where the city requires them to provide composting options (so awesome!) But I figure since you’re asking about it, that is not so much your case.

      So I was just about to tell you a good place to start was writing your congressmen, when I found this: http://tinyurl.com/577qv3 It’s a great little article from PlanetGreen.com. It’s got some great ideas for apartment composting… and while it does sound like it might take a little more work, I’m sure where there’s a green-will there’s a way! And it’s not like you have to do ALL your organic waste form the get go. Even just a little bit will reduce landfill waste and help out.

      Now it’s time to decide what container plants you want to reap the benefits!

      Please keep me updated. I am anxious to hear what you work out.

  2. Seattle actually collects compost and comes to get it like the garbage every week. But I really should keep my own in a bin in my garden to save as “black gold”!

    AND I think it might have been you who turned me on to Fraggle Rock, as we didn’t have cable to watch it! :) Love that show.

  3. We went the worm bin route and I’m not really sure who’s having more fun with it, my husband or the kids. No smell and a bunch of castings and new baby worms.

    1. Cindy – I love it! This route seemed overwhelming to me… but it sounds like it turned out to be overwhelmingly fun! I’m sure my little guy would get a kick out of it. I will have to add this to the green-to-do list!

  4. We’ve been composting for about two years now. We didn’t buy any fancy composter; my husband just built a box out of 2x4s and chicken wire, bottomless with a hinged top. It’s can open up, so when the box is full, we just open it up, move it a few feet to side, and start a new pile. I don’t necessarily do the mix right (correct proportions of “browns” and “greens”) so it usually takes a little longer for the compost to finish. I used our compost to amend the soil in a new planting bed that had very compacted, clay soil, and it worked great! Everything I planted is growing like crazy.

    1. Gail – I’m with you on the browns and green mixture. I threw all of our dead tomato plants in last year and they sat through the winter with not a whole lot of ‘breakdown.’ Slowly but surely with all of the spring and summer’s ‘green’ matter, they’re breaking down… but it’s taking a while to get our pile back to where it was last year.

      It also probably didn’t help that my husband was throwing entire egg cartons and brown paper bags in without shredding first. ha! It’s an education process all around. But bless his heart, he’s trying!

  5. I started composting last summer and bought a large compost bin this spring. I love it and am totally hooked! My garden is incredible thanks to my compost. It doesn’t smell, there are hardly any pests around (occasional fruit flies), and we actually like seeing all the critters crawling around inside – a mini ecosystem and insurance of healthy soil.

    1. Anne, thanks for sharing the success story! I think the more that people hear it is possible, not overwhelming and available to the masses, the easier people are inspired. I like you am continually amazed it doesn’t smell (and even when it does, I usually just need to add a few ‘browns’ and we’re back on track.)

      Thanks for reading, and even more so, THANKS for sharing!

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