Convert your vegetable scraps to nutrient-rich compost using one of the composting methods described here.
Photo/Illustration: Scott Phillips
Everybody knows what happens to those large piles of autumn leaves we build on our lawns: If we don’t put them in bags right away, they get smaller and smaller until, after not too many months, there isn’t much left. No mystery here. The same thing happens in the woods when the leaves fall from the trees. When living things die, they decompose. As a gardener, it didn’t take me long to appreciate and adopt nature’s lesson of turning waste into sweet-smelling, rich brown compost.
Over time, adding good-quality compost to your garden provides nutrients in a form that plants can use; enriches soil health and enhances the soil food web; builds soil structure; improves drainage; creates more water-holding ability in soil, which means less watering; and acts as a buffer to toxins. Not to mention, it’s free plant food. With very little effort, just about anything can contribute to a mineral- and microbe-rich compost: fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds and filters, eggshells, and even dog hair. Time is the only other necessary ingredient.
Composting is easy, but with several options available, you will have to consider a few factors. You’ll want to pick a method based on your needs and the space available. But you don’t need to worry about filling the composter you choose. Because organic matter is constantly breaking down and changing in volume and you’re harvesting finished compost, you’ll most likely never fill the entire bin. If you’re an impatient person or want compost as soon as possible, you’ll need to choose a method that allows you to hot-compost. Perhaps the most important decision is considering how much time you’re able to invest. Once you choose the method that’s right for you and create the right conditions, you can let nature do the hard work of breaking down your organic matter and turning it into vibrant compost.