My grandfather was a great gardener, my Dad had a massive garden and my husband loved growing and harvesting untold vegetables. Peas, peppers, beans, lettuces, parsnips, potatoes, tomatoes and beetroot – they all arrived in my kitchen in bulk and shamefully, these gardening efforts weren’t always appreciated when a day of tennis or catching up with friends was suddenly replaced by a day of blanching, soup making, freezing or pickling vegetables.
These three generations of men knew how to make good compost and understood it was Nature’s way of recycling – nothing wasted and no chemicals in sight.
Why the compost gene missed me, I have no idea. All I know is, it wasn’t until my 50s that I suddenly had an urge to grow my own vegetables and make my own compost and wouldn’t you know it, no-one around to show me.
After a bit of research, compost making became clearer and I embarked on making an amazing compost pile – Epic fail!! My pile became a sludgy, dank, smelly mess which had to be razed and redone after a couple of months. More research, more attention to detail and my second compost attempt was surprisingly good, plus my collection of leaves, placed in black polythene bags and stored in a cool place for a couple of years, also yielded a pile of organic goodness for the garden.
This experience made me wish I had paid more attention to the gardeners in my family or that I had been shown how to make compost when I was young.
Thankfully today, schools, kindergartens and day care centres are making gardening, field trips, worm farms and compost making an integral part of our kids’ learnings. There’s even a National Learn About Composting Day – TODAY, May 29th!
Photo: Our Mikayla at Daycare learning about huhu grubs and the environment.
Today is the day to get out those gardening gloves and learn to make compost or teach your children to make compost.
We all want to do our part to conserve natural resources and reduce our carbon footprint. Composting is not only an environmentally safe, natural fertilizer, but it can help save water, energy, fuel and money! It also keeps noxious toxins from getting into our run-off and ground water, through the use of chemical based commercial fertilizers.
Compost keeps food scraps out of the landfill – it puts goodness back into the garden, helps create a richer soil structure and puts oxygen back into your plants which helps to produce better crops. AND the bonus is, fertiliser made from compost will make your garden more hospitable to nature’s helpers like bees and worms.
So, What is Compost?
Compost is organic matter that has decomposed. It can be made from kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, newspapers, leaves wood chips, coffee grinds…almost any food products except for processed foods, dairy, meat, citrus or fish products. Composting saves resources, and because of its high nutrient content, it adds to soil stability and reduces soil disease. It will help your garden grow lush and promote healthy growth in seedlings and plants. It’s for all these reasons gardeners call compost “black gold”.
Composting allows you to accomplish the big environmental three: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
How to Observe Learn About Composting Day
1. Visit a Farmers market
Speak with local farmers and gardeners about composting and their growing practices. Composting is one of the foundations of sustainable farming and you will find growers, particularly those who sell organic produce, are quite knowledgeable about compost. Then wander the farmers market and take in the colourful bounty of produce, the smell of fresh produce, flowers, and baked goods and score yourself some delicious and healthy food.
2. Make your own compost
Compost is ideally made with a mix that is two-thirds carbon based (that’s your organic kitchen scraps) and one-third nitrogen based (newspapers, cardboard, wood shavings). All you need to do is pick a section of the yard, lay down a foundation of twigs, and begin to layer your materials. If you cover it with a tarp it will help increase the heat to aid in decomposition. Once a week or so, use a shovel to mix up your compost pile and if it’s very dry, be sure to add some water as it should be kept damp. You can use this simple no-cost method, or invest in one of many compost bins to speed the process along.
3. Introduce a child to composting
Get your child excited about contributing to the conservation of natural resources through composting! First make them a snack of “worms in dirt”. In a clear glass put some chocolate pudding. Next put crushed chocolate wafers on top to form the “dirt” and finally, poke some gummy worms in to the mixture. Then tell your child you need help saving the planet. Explain about creating a compost pile and show them where they will need to throw out potato peels, egg shells, dry leaves, etc. As soon as your child sees the process at work (and don’t forget the worms!) you’ll have hooked them and created a lifelong conservationist.
Why Learn About Composting Day is Important
1. It’s free
To start your own compost pile will cost you nothing but a little effort, space, and time. Figure out the method you’d like to use to compost, and take items you may have thrown out or recycled and use them to create your compost pile! Once you’ve got the right mix of items, you only need to keep it slightly damp and turn it every once in a while and the process of decomposition will do all the work for you! Be patient and in few short weeks you can have your own black gold made from your household garbage. This is definitely a case of turning trash into treasure.
2. It’s environmentally friendly
By utilizing your household organic and paper trash, you reduce the amount of rubbish going to our landfill. When organic waste is put in the rubbish bin, the waste is driven to a disposal site where it can take years to decompose because it’s been encased in a plastic bag. Using compost in your garden or on a farm also reduces the amount of dangerous commercial fertilizers used to encourage growth in crops, and conserves water by improving the stability of the soil in which you’ve planted your fruits, vegetables, flowers, and shrubbery.
3. It’s fun
There is a feeling of total satisfaction when you take something that could have been put in the garbage and transform it into a usable substance. It’s like magic! Also the use of compost will increase the worm population and if you have children, you know worms are, in fact, fun to watch and have wiggle in your palm! You know the worms are doing the work of aerating the soil and increasing nutrients in the dirt, but your kids just think worms are cool.