Why Not Give Composting a Try?

Happy Easter today and Happy Earth Day tomorrow! While it’s tempting to write a column about how these two holidays can be tied together theologically, I won’t. Instead, this is a column about composting.

I’ve been doing it for years. It always seemed silly to me throw things into the garbage that could better go elsewhere. Recyclables, for starters. Table scraps for the dogs, for another. But what about egg shells and coffee grounds and banana peels and all that other stuff that rots and becomes dirt? Why add to the weight and volume of garbage when it’s so easy to dispose of waste in better ways?

For the quarter-century I lived on a farm, I tossed kitchen scraps (minus meat, fat and bones) into an old livestock feeding trough with a rusted-out bottom. Every now and then I added an armful of fallen leaves or a bucket of grass clippings. When the spirit moved me, I stirred the contents of the trough with a pitchfork.

You can guess what I always found at the bottom. The best soil imaginable. And lots and lots of earthworms. That soil was added to my vegetable garden and flowerbeds and potted plants. If I’d had a mind to enter the county fair, my harvest would almost certainly have won blue ribbons.

When I moved to the suburbs four years ago, I found myself without a feeding trough. The good news is that the previous owner of my house had left behind an ancient metal wheelbarrow with plenty of holes in it, perfect for draining rain water. That wheelbarrow immediately became my new compost container. Add in the fact that my back yard is heavily wooded and I again have the perfect way to dispose of kitchen waste.  Big stuff (watermelons rinds and rotten Halloween pumpkins, for instance) is thrown into the woods where it attracts desirable wildlife like tick-eating possums. I also toss avocado skins and pits into the woods because they’re slow to decay.

Until recently, everything else went into the ancient metal wheelbarrow.

I’m proud to say that my dirt grows some of the prettiest zinnias and tastiest cherry tomatoes around. I’m also proud to report that I have a brand new “real” compost barrel, a reward for attending an informational presentation about composting taught by my friend Lisa Luck at the Putnam County Solid Waste Department.

Here’s the thing. You can compost even if you don’t have a container. You can compost even if you don’t need or want fabulous soil. Just dig a hole in your yard and toss compostable food into it. Cover it with leaves or newspaper and start another layer. When that hole is full, dig a new one. You’ll help make our county richer because we pay by the pound to dump our garbage elsewhere. You’ll make our earth a little bit richer, too.

What’s not to like about that?

(April 21, 2019)