Guest Column: Composting, a Beginner’s Approach

Image by Manfred Antranias Zimmer from Pixabay

MEEKER I Hello gardeners! We can hardly wait to get our fingers in the soil this time of year, can we? As we approach a new season of hope for growing old favorites and new experiments, I encourage you to consider the advantages of creating your own compost.

Despite being a rank beginner, I think the idea of re-purposing leftover foods, leaves and the like is practical all the way around. Less stuff goes into our trash and thus our landfills. Less money is spent on soil enhancers. Plus, it is a more organic and natural way to approach gardening.
I got hooked on composting when we installed raised beds for our new vegetable gardens. A well-illustrated, down to earth book “Raised-bed Vegetable Gardening Made Simple” by Raymond Nones has been my guide. He wrote a very compelling chapter about composting, so I decided to give it a try.
The basics of composting are a combination of “brown” and “green” substances. Browns can include leaves, dried plants, wood chips, sawdust, and small twigs. Greens mean grass, plants, and kitchen wastes like coffee grounds, vegetable trimmings, tea bags and more. Do NOT compost pesticide-treated plants (such as grass sprayed with weed killer), meats, oils, or any dairy products.
Ideally, you want your compost pile to be near your garden, repellent to animals, and odor free. After a lot of research, I chose a commercial composter that is on wheels, thus I can keep it near the back door during the winter and roll it to the raised beds as needed. But, a simple on the ground spot can work well too. I rejected this approach in our yard because it seemed our year-round deer and squirrels would decimate it.
I stockpile bags of leaves to add over the winter and even cheat by adding a bit of soil if the in-progress compost seems too moist or vegetable laden. It won’t smell if air can flow through so churning the mix frequently is important. Gardening is a continuous experiment in progress and I am sure I have much more to learn about composting, but I do encourage you to give it a try.
It takes roughly three months for a compost mix to decompose and become ready to use. Ideally, we are adding compost this spring before we plant but I also add more at end of the growing season to enhance the soil for the following year. If you haven’t started composting, it is never too late to add to your gardening resources for future seasons.
In the larger world, many communities support composting in various ways. Some towns have a community “dump” site. Others drop off composting bags to residents that can be filled, picked up by the trash service, and delivered to community gardens. In Canada last year I even saw compost drop off sites along the sidewalks.
Composting is a growing focus for both individuals and communities. Plus, it is sublimely simple to accomplish. Not everyone gardens, but everyone could contribute to this form of recycling.

By KAYE SULLIVAN
Special to the Herald Times