By Dane Feldman
Photo by Ashley Rodriguez.
Growing up, I thought the towering compost heap in my backyard was something everyone had, but as I grew older and learned more about waste disposal and the environment, I realized my parents were living a bit differently than others around us.
Photo by Dane Feldman.
When we moved to our house, my mother bought a structure made specifically for composting for my father. No joke, the compost box was a Father’s Day gift. Both of my parents took to it, though, and we’ve been using it for almost 15 years to create our own mulch for the large home garden our family cultivates.
The overarching environmental benefits of composting are abundant, but for home gardeners, what it means on a small scale is perhaps equally important. First of all, creating your own soil at home is cheaper than purchasing it. Composting can also “help regenerate poor soils,” according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
What’s more, the EPA claims that “compost has also been shown to suppress plant diseases and pests, reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers,” which can aid those of us who farm at home in growing more natural crops.
So, how and when should you get started?
The best time is right now, frankly. All over the country, folks who garden at home have already done most of their planting. Some late spring fruits and vegetables may already be growing and it’s likely that you’re already consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables from your local stores.
First, what you’ll want to do is either designate a small plot of your land to starting a compost heap, or buy a box like we did. Home Depot, Lowe’s, or Costco should all have viable options.
Most fruits and vegetables are compostable, but not all compost well. Depending on what you eat, you’ll want to monitor how well these foods are decomposing. Banana peels, apple cores, rotting cucumbers, tomatoes, or berries, citrus peels, and melon rinds tend to do well, but mango skins, avocado skins, and peach or apricot pits do not.
Photo by Dane Feldman.
We keep a sealable container in the kitchen to dispose of the fruits and vegetables we want to compost and when it’s full, we dump it into the composting box.
At the end of the fall, or when it begins to freeze often, we’ll stop composting. We won’t start again in the spring until after the mulch from the previous season has been removed from the bin and added to our garden.
So, not only does this reduce the amount of waste we produce in the summer months, but it also aids us in growing our crops. We’ve even had cucumber, tomato, and squash plants growing out from the soil in the compost heap, so if you’re lucky you’ll wind up with new crops, too!