Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Let's talk dirt

That's right, I'm dedicating an entire post to dirt. Not just any dirt, though. Compost! We have been faithful composters for years now. I remember the day we got our bin. I had read all about the proper ratio of green to brown materials and was very careful for the first few months. But, that soon wore off and I just started chucking everything in there. Turns out, it's still working just fine. :)

In our house, we compost yard waste, all vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grinds and the filters, tea bags and occasionally egg shells. Living in Austin, we have a lot of limestone in our soil, so we don't really need the added calcium from the egg shells. In other parts of the country, you won't need the added acid of the coffee grinds. Check out your soil and talk to people around you. Also, egg shells take FOREVER to break down, and I kind of hate having little bits of egg shells in all my gardens.

As it turns out, Central Texas is an ideal climate for composting. A heap of veggie scraps and yard waste will compost a lot faster in the heat. And you will end up with a rich, black soil; black gold for your garden. My parents live near Chicago, so their compost pile isn't nearly as active during the winter months. They've found a way to work around it though. At last count, they had three compost bins going in order to hold all of their scraps that accumulate during the long winter months.

This leads me to the most amazing part of composting. Day after day, you throw scraps into the bin, and every time you open it, the contents of the bin seem to shrink! I'm not a scientist, so I'm just going to go ahead and chalk this up to magic. To me, it truly is magical to have a big pile of "waste" turn into a little pile of black gold.

Compost bins can be as simple or as fancy as you like. We have one that is a cylinder laying on it's side on a stand. It has a hinged lid on the top for dumping in the scraps. Then, you give it a spin and walk away to let it do its magic in peace. If you don't have a compost bin, that's okay too! You can just start a compost pile in your backyard. This may attract pests, so be aware.

There are some other "strange" things you can compost as well. If you're using the gDiaper disposable system, you can compost the disposable inserts as long as there is only urine on them. You can also compost dryer lint if you and your family wears mostly natural fabrics! Newspapers and paper bags can also go on the heap. And some food companies are now coming out with compostable packaging. Keep your eyes peeled!

I will leave you with a composting tip: While we have a bin we keep out on our counter for food scraps, I try to use paper bags as often as possible, especially when I'm cutting up and peeling a large quantity of fruits and veggies. You can just throw the whole paper bag full of scraps in your bin!

Happy composting!

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