A Bumper Crop

365/66 California Compost

365/66 California Compost (Photo credit: mjmonty)

Nine years ago, about this time, I bought my first house.  I moved in July and was able to benefit from the fruits of labor from the past Owners.  Behind the garage was an awesome vegetable garden full of cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, and even a watermelon.  Not having much of a green thumb myself, my garden in recent years has been quite lackluster.

All that changed in 2012.  My garden was INCREDIBLE.  I was eating my home grown tomatoes clear into November.  I even grew peanuts!  What changed?  While it could be a combination of factors including hot days and diligent watering, I believe the main difference was I added my own compost into the soil before planting the vegetables for the first time last spring.

Composting is defined as a mixture of decaying organic matter used to improve soil structure and provide nutrients. It is an incredible way to reduce your garbage.   It is fairly simple to do.  By saving items like banana peels, egg shells, watermelon rinds and mixing it with grass, leaves, and shredded newspaper, over time you will have incredible compost that you can use in your vegetable or flower gardens.

Many communities offer short seminars and offer the supplies at a discount if you attend a composting class.  I attended a class offered by the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District. In the beginning I was very overwhelmed by the balance of green and brown materials, what I could and could not put in, did I need to purchase expensive materials etc…  While it is a scientific process, you certainly don’t need a PhD to figure it out.

Check out these frequently asked questions about composting.

1.    What supplies do I need?  I have just two supplies.  A large outdoor bin and a smaller indoor container to collect the scraps.  There are many different styles and versions of compost bins.  I use the Suncast TCB6800.  The plus side to this bin is that it is easy to mix the compost and it is portable.  The downside is that it is pricier than other options and its lighter color does not generate as much heat as a darker bin.  This means it takes longer to generate compost.  In the house, I have a Sure-Close Kitchen Composter to collect the scraps each day.

2.    What can go in my compost container?  In general, leaves, grass clippings, nut shells, fruits, vegetables, egg shells, coffee grounds, and dryer lint are all safe for your compost.  Avoid meat, dairy, or oils.

3.    How long does it take to make compost?   This can vary depending on how often you add items and your weather conditions.  In my hometown of Cleveland, OH it takes about 6 months to turn my organic material into compost.  In the spring, I will dump my compost bin into my garden and rake up any material that is not yet broken down to return to my compost bin.

4.    Does it smell?  In the two years that I have been composting, my bin has only smelled mildly two times.  This was because I had added too much food material and not enough leaves and grass.

Am I a compost expert?  No!  But I have significantly reduced my garbage and have enhanced the nutrients in my soil with barely any time or effort.  Give it a shot!

Any products mentioned are not intended to be an endorsement.

Sources: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/composting, http://cuyahogaswd.org/en-US/Composting.aspx

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