YUCK! What is that??
It’s my compost. That’s the bowl on my counter, super-imposed over the pile outside.
Week two of my Gardening Thrifty Thursday Frugal Friday tips (sorry, I just didn’t feel like writing yesterday) is about composting.
I was actually lobbying for a compost pile for a long time before we got one. A couple of years. Rick grew up thinking that they were smelly heaps of rotting food that attracted neighborhood cats, and provided little benefit, except for those hippies. He also grew up dusting baby tomato plants with pesticides and dousing them with chemical fertilizers.
I had to change his thinking! I wanted to compost to reduce the need for those pesticides and fertilizers. I wanted to foster a garden that could support and sustain it’s self! And, my dad was a “worm grower” (throwing coffee grounds and eggs shells in the garden, to grow big, fat, night crawlers to use for fishing bait), so I knew the compost bin/pile needn’t be complicated or smelly.
In order to compost, you need only a few basic things:
- Green material (like veggie scraps, coffee grounds, etc.)
- Brown Material (dried leaves, straw, dried grass clippings, etc.)
- Somewhere to let it do it’s thing (a bin or pile)
After showing Rick some of the facts about composting, and pointing out to him that he had been doing it every fall all along (digging holes and filling then with layers of leaves, dirt and water, and then leaving the to rot through the winter to improve the soil in the veggie garden), he did a little research of his own and jumped in with both feet.
Rick decided to save money by building his own bins, following a plan we found online, just by Googling it. So far, he has the layout done, and we’ve been composting without walls for the last year or so. He will eventually put in walls around the pile, where the steaks are, so we can transfer from one side to the other easily.
But why should you start composting? I mean, who wants a pile of rotting organic matter sitting around the outside of their house? Really? Here are a few reasons why (from earth911.com)….
Benefits of Using Compost
- Improves the soil structure, porosity, and density, thus creating a better plant root environment.
- Increases moisture infiltration and permeability of heavy soils, thus reducing erosion and runoff.
- Improves water-holding capacity, thus reducing water loss and leaching in sandy soils.
- Supplies a variety of macro and micronutrients.
- May control or suppress certain soil-borne plant pathogens.
- Supplies significant quantities of organic matter.
- Improves cation exchange capacity (CEC) of soils and growing media, thus improving their ability to hold nutrients for plant use.
- Supplies beneficial micro-organisms to soils and growing media.
- Improves and stabilizes soil pH.
- Can bind and degrade specific pollutants.
In other words, it’s good for your garden, your plants, and the Earth! This short list doesn’t even mention that the EPA estimates that 24% of what ends up in landfills is made up of yard trimmings and food residuals. All of which can go into your home compost pile/bin and be used to enhance your own soil for your own veggie and flower gardens.
Wait… I thought this was supposed to be a tip about saving money. How does composting do that? Well those points up there basically equate to this: Using compost reduces the amount of water, fertilizer, pesticides, and soil modification needed to grow a great garden. It also reduces the amount of garbage you send off to the landfill, and combined with diligent recycling, that could even lead to eliminating the trash bill completely! So what, exactly, is the savings? Well, I don’t have that broken down. It all depends on what you grow, and what you need to make it grow. But I can tell you this. We don’t need to buy fertilizer, peat moss (for soil modification), manure, or pesticides any more. We haven’t bought those things in a long time.
It’s easy to do. We just keep a bowl on the kitchen counter to collect our food scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds & filters, veggie peeling, etc. We dump that into the pile when ever we fill it up (once or twice a week). This accounts for most of the “green matter” in the pile. We add grass trimmings and dried leaves, the used pine shavings from the chicken house and paper from our shredder to account for the “brown materials.” The only other things needed are water and time.
Be sure to check out these helpful sites for more reasons to compost, details on what should and should not be composted, compost uses, and methods of composting:
U.S. Environment Protection Agency
Washington State University County Extension
Also, before I wrap this up I wanted to share a link to KGI’s post about the Obama’s first planting in their new garden! Check it out! http://www.kitchengardeners.org/
Be sure to check around for other Thrifty Thursday tips this week. Katie Jean posted about the Value of Memberships! Check also with Tracy, Crystal and Genny(though I know Genny is taking a break to prepare for the home birth of their baby!, and some of the others have been busy with other life things as well).