It’s natural. Healthy, even. It’s a little steamy and slightly dirty. And if you do it right, it will increase fertility.
Even the city kids are doing it.
And when you start composting, your garden will never be the same.
Wait. What did you think I was talking about? You dirty dog, you.
The average American throws away four pounds of garbage a day, and nearly half of it is compostable. When you start composting you’ll keep less garbage out of our landfills, use less garbage bags, and create an amazing soil to start your garden with. Soil that is full of nutrients, is disease-resistant, and can help turn your sandy soil into a jungle of fruits and vegetables. Not to mention the worms that will be living in the compost—they’ll help aerate the soil beneath your plants, and you’ll have your own private worm farm for fishing bait.
And while there may be some misconceptions that composting is complicated and messy, it really isn’t. All you need to get started is a bucket (even a leftover ice cream or yogurt tub will work), a shovel, and a corner in your yard dedicated to making hot, steamy, earthy lovin’. A compost bin (you can easily make one out of scrap wood and a few nails) helps keep the process contained and discourages animals from getting into it, but it isn’t necessary.
Keep your compost bucket somewhere on your kitchen counter and throw your food scraps into it instead of your garbage can. When the bucket gets full, take it outside and empty it into your compost pile. Once a week, take a shovel out there and give the compost a few good turns to get some air in there and to help spread out the decomposing goodness.
Eggshells, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps, leaves, grass cuttings, and tea bags are all great things to compost. You can even compost paper towels, cardboard, hair, sawdust, and dead plants or flowers.
AVOID composting cooked foods, meats, bones, feces (except from animals that don’t eat meat, like rabbits) diapers, diseased plants and weeds that have gone to seed. Not only will these things make your compost pile super stinky but they can pose a health threat as well.
How will you know you’re doing it right? After a few weeks your compost pile should start to look brown, oozy, and have a slight acidic smell, like vinegar. If it smells foul, like something crawled in there and died, check that a) something didn’t really crawl in there and die and b) make sure you turn your pile over more often to get air in there. You can also sprinkle some leaves or grass cuttings over the top to help balance things out and reduce the smell.
If you’re one of those city kids, check out FindaComposter.com to learn where you can drop off your weekly compost collection. Other options include a community or school garden.
Start composting today and this time next year you’ll have amazing soil to plant your garden, potted plants, yard or trees with.
Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a bee hive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.
Related: Let's Idle No More in the Garden