...if you have a backyard and a kitchen, this blog might be for you!

a chronicle of tips and recipes on everything from gardening to canning and baking your produce, even if you're planted in suburbia...in fact, especially if you are planted in suburbia.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not...

Mmmm....look tasty?
It does to my friend, Mr. Compost Heap. Lots of his favorite kitchen scraps are available this time of year as garden vegetables are prepped for canning and freezing. I must, however, always remember when feeding him that he needs a balanced diet just like I do. He needs both carbon and nitrogen in his diet. Straw or hedge clippings make a good first course, followed by veggie waste and leaves, then some bush and tree prunings, and topped off with an accelerator for dessert. Don't get too concerned about the accelerator if you're feeding one of these guys, too. Cheap nitrogen-rich fertilizer works just as well. If you really want to pamper him, keep him watered in dry weather and covered with an old tarp or carpet to retain the moist, hot conditions that help him achieve his prime health.

What to feed him:
Soft prunings and hedge clippings, fallen leaves and flowers, straw and sawdust, torn newspaper and fiber egg boxes, tea leaves, coffee grounds, egg shells...see how versatile his tastes are?
What NOT to feed him: animal remains, unless you just like keeping a preserve for mice, rats and raccoons, cooked and greasy food, grass clippings unless just a thin layer--and certainly not after applying any type of herbicide, woody material unless shredded--gives him indigestion, badly diseased plants or ones infested with worms and nematodes.
(List compliments of Gardening Basics by Country Living.)

It feels good--in a recycling sort of way--knowing you're making better use of those scraps than just poking them down the garbage disposal, even if you don't have a hog to feed. However, don't feel bad if you composting efforts don't yield rich loamy stuff that fluffs in you hands. Maureen Gilmer in The Small Budget Gardener says this about her composting efforts:
I hate to admit it but I am a compost failure. In all my years of gardening I have never once created and maintained a functional compost pile. Perhaps it was due to the dry climate where I live or the fact that I just don't have enough stuff to feed it. More often than not I put what I could compost directly into my awful clay-and-rocks soil to keep it from cementing back together again. During those years of failure it was not a total loss because that heap consumed tons of leaves and rotten fruit and garden refuse. And maybe I'd get a few shovels full of the good stuff now and then. Its value was that I had some place to put all that excess organic matter from the garden and kitchen to avoid placing an added burden on the landfill. So if you aren't successful at composting, or if your yields, like mine, are too small to seemingly make much difference, just keep on gardening and composting, it all works out in the end.

Happy composting!

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