The arrival of spring means beginning my gardening efforts in earnest. And none pleases me more than the renewed maintenance of the compost box.
This sturdy soldier stands guard over its precious cargo of high-grade compost — nectar for the gardens in their quest to grow and flourish. I’ve had my box for about three years now. It was a Christmas present from my husband (though a reluctant one, I must say; he saw it as the equivalent of me asking for a vacuum cleaner or some other practical gift, and therefore, not one he wanted to give), and the contents have built up steadily since then.
There is a bit of a science to composting. For example, you can’t just throw all your table scraps in and expect a miracle. No, you need a balance of brown to green, three to one. Otherwise, the compost will stink and it won’t break down as it should. “Browns” include fall leaves, shredded paper such as newspapers (soy ink!), paper towels, brown bags, and cardboard, sawdust, and pine needles. “Greens” include grass clippings (but not from treated grass), vegetable and fruit wastes, eggshells, coffee grounds and tea bags, and manure (but not from dogs or cats).
Don’t put in meats, dairy, oils or cooked foods, because that attracts bugs and animal predators, and they do not break down easily. And it goes without saying that weeds or diseased plants are a no-no as you don’t want to propagate this sort of thing in your gardens.
Otherwise, it’s a pretty simple process. Compost needs moisture, air, and heat to break down, so your best “growing” time is in the summer. I’ve been trekking out to my box all winter with table scraps and paper products, so I have a pretty full box ready to turn — you need to mix everything together — and let simmer come summer. I’ll do this after I take out the foot or so of brown gold that’s waiting at the bottom of the bin to be spread on the gardens.
Most gardeners will tell you that they love working in the garden because of its obvious connection to the earth; you have to get your hands dirty. And composting takes the process just one step further: in gardening you build up, and in composting you break down. It’s the circle of life at your fingertips (cue The Lion King soundtrack).
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some table scraps to recycle.
Photos: M.C. Kendzia