Untitled FASTPAGES: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Daily Idler Home | idleguy.com January 2024 | Page 18
Accidental Farmer
Composting For Tomorrow

As this article is being written, we're already a week into Winter, but that only means there's about 83 days until Spring, when we can get out into the garden and start to enjoy the fruits of the Earth once again. What better time to discuss composting than when we've got time on our side.

For the few unaware of what compost is or how compost improves almost everything, compost is basically made up of the things you would normally throw into the trash or simply discard: cucumber ends, tomato tops, potato peels, egg shells, generally any kind of food waste that can be set back toward the ground and decomposed. It's also garden waste, weeds, grass clippings, leaves, stalks, sticks, dirt, and trimmings.

All of this can be thrown into a heap or a bin or just about anywhere that our friend, Mother Nature, can turn back into nutrients and basic elements that plants crave.

A few basics when it comes to the art of composting are in order. Here's a few pointers I've learned from years of composting:

If you're throwing food scraps and such into an open container in your kitchen, you would be wise to remove them to the compost heap as soon as humanly possible. Food scraps attract bugs, mice, and pests of all varieties, things you don't want flying or crawling around near the most important room in the house - no, not the bedroom, dummy, your kitchen, where you eat, or at least prepare foods to eat, so that you can, like, say alive. The worst of these pests are maggots and, the worst, fruit flies. You want neither of them in your house. You may get away with food waste in a cupboard or on a counter for a day or two in winter, but in the summer, look out. These little flying pests will show up within hours, if not minutes, and they're a pain in the behind to get rid of.

If you have a bin or closed container outdoors, you're going to want to allow for some ventilation. What you don't want is a fungus blob full of harmful bacteria that can develop in closed environments. Bid for your plants and probably even worse for you.

Besides food scraps, the best things to put into a compost heap are grass clippings after you mow your lawn, and leaves, which are nature's recyclables. If you've ever been in a forest, you've probably noticed the amazing abundance of flora, even in the densest, darkest woods. It's because all those trees drop leaves onto the ground and through a process known as decomposition, which I'm assuming is some form of derivative of "compost," turns those leaves and everything else into what is commonly known as soil. Well, for those grammarians, out there, actually:

compost (n.)

late 14c., compote, "mixture of stewed fruits, a preserve," from Old French composte "mixture of leaves, manure, etc., for fertilizing land" (13c.), also "condiment," from Vulgar Latin *composita, noun use of fem. of Latin compositus, past participle of componere "to put together," from com "with, together" (see com-) + ponere "to place" (see position (n.)).

The fertilizer sense is attested in English from 1580s, and the French word in this sense is a 19th century borrowing from English. The condiment sense now goes with compote, a later borrowing from French.

Make sure to chop up your leaves if you can, with a mower or one of the relatively inexpensive leaf shredders available at big box home improvement centers or online, because chopped leaves allow for water to flow through more evenly and they will also decompose faster. We'll be doing an article on leaves as garden mulch or even base soil in February or March, but, word to the wise, if you've got piles of leaves around or in bags, don't discard them. Winter is a great time for leaves to get outdoors and start becoming soil and nutrients. My personal love affair with leaves started back in 2012 when I had a torn up back yard and lots of neighbors who didn't mind me hauling off their bags of leaves in October and November. By Springtime, I had those leaves chooped up to a fifth of their original mass and had the best garden I ever had that summer. Since then, I am a leaf devotee!

People who've been composting for a long time, like farmers out in the sticks, probably will tell you to turn and water your compost regularly, which is a solid idea, as turning the elements upside down and into and through each other speeds up the decomposition process. Watering prevents it from burning itself up, which it will do on its own. Don't try sticking your bare hand - or anything else - into a heap of composting material in mid-summer. It's hot in there.

When you actually have achieved compost, something you can meld into your garden, make sure to not overdo it and, especially with seedlings or start plants, don't get the compost too close to the plants in any concentrated manner. Like manure, it's volatile, and may damage young, developing root endings.

Essentially, composting is pretty easy once you've gotten it down to some kind of routine. Besides being good for the environment and your garden, it's also a great way to get moving or get the kids doing something other than staring blankly into their phones.

There are many manufacturers of compost bins, systems, and accesories to make composting either easier or just mor expensive. Finding the right system for your lifestyle, be it a pile in the back yard or the latest high tech composting system ( a couple of which are advertised at right), composting should be high on your list for home gardening.

A list of things that make for good compost:

  • Fruit and Vegetable Scraps: Peels, cores, seeds, and any leftover pieces from fruits and vegetables
  • Coffee Grounds: Used coffee grounds are excellent additions to compost, providing valuable nutrients.
  • Eggshells: Crushed eggshells decompose well and add beneficial minerals to the compost.
  • Bread and Grains: Stale bread, cooked rice, and other grains are useful.
  • Tea Bags: Remove any staples or non-compostable elements and toss used tea bags into the compost.
  • Nut Shells: Crushed nutshells break down over time, contributing organic matter.
  • Herb Trimmings: Stems and leaves from herbs can be included in your compost.
  • Non-Greasy Food Scraps: While greasy food waste might attract pests, non-greasy leftovers and scraps are generally acceptable.
  • Paper Napkins and Towels: Unbleached and compostable paper products are usually OK.

Here are a few references for more information:

Principles of Composting [PDF] - a serious beginner's guide from LSU Ag Center, delves deep into the science and provides lots of equations and formulas for mixing compost into soil and such, plus, a table showing the characteristics of differnet elements that typically go into a compost mixture.

Easiest way to start composting

How to use finished compost


Untitled FASTPAGES: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Daily Idler Home | idleguy.com January 2024 | Page 18