By Jane H Ware
Mix a little garden soil in your compost bin by sprinkling it over food scraps or leaves to make layers. With a little water, the mix will start decomposing and you will have nice nutrient rich soil to use in your potted plants and flowerbeds. If you don’t have garden soil, add a little ordinary soil from somewhere in your yard; you can replace what you remove with your new compost at a later time. Compost is perfect to use for starting seeds of vegetables or flowers, rooting cuttings of perennial flowers or shrubs, or top dressing any plants already growing in your landscape. If you have more compost than you can use (I don’t think this has ever happened!) give a big reusable container full of compost to a gardening friend of yours as a gift for any occasion. You will get a big, surprised smile in return.
If you want to start a compost bin without buying materials, you can do a really simple arrangement by investing only some work and imagination. First, pick your spot; on fairly level ground, well drained. Lay down a layer of small twigs, limbs, and old pieces of wood which have not been painted or treated, about five or six inches deep. The base of your compost pile should be kept to pieces of twigs and wood of a small size so it can be arranged in a compact layer. The main purpose of this bottom layer is to allow surplus water to drain away, and allow bugs and worms to get into the compost pile. Add leaves and food scraps to your pile in layers and pour on a small amount of water if it gets too dry. This compost pile can be just a pile on the ground, it can be surrounded with old wooden fencing, pallets, or anything else you can salvage. When your pile gets to a height that you like, spread something over the top, like a piece of plastic, an old rug, or anything else that will keep a heavy rain from leaching out your compost. It will take several weeks for the compost to make, depending on what is added to the pile. Don’t add meat scraps or dog or cat litter to the compost; that will cause trouble with small critters and dogs looking for the meat smell, and the dog and cat litter does not compost well. Next step, start your new compost pile.
If you want a compost bin that is critter proof, a large garbage can will work, or you can buy a compost bin. If you decide to try a garbage can, punch plenty of holes in the bottom and about six inches up the sides of the can. Fill the bottom with twigs, straw, leaves or anything that will make a filter to let the compost drain off excess water. Place the can on bricks or blocks of wood so it is two inches or more above the surface of your ground. Go ahead and start adding layers to the can, a little soil, a few food scraps, green lawn clippings; the usual. Keep the can moist and keep the lid on so small animals, cats and dogs will not be able to get inside. Anchor the can so it cannot be turned over by big dogs or strong winds. Keep a lookout at flea markets or yard sales for another can to add to your project when the first one gets full.
Composting is a way of life for many people. It takes only a little space and a little time and it returns valuable material at no cost. It keeps lots of household waste out of the local landfill and saves time and money which would be used to haul waste to a landfill where it is not composted. Landfills usually fill up deep holes with anything that comes in on a trash truck and cover it with soil and grass when the hole is full. The mixed materials then lay there taking up space and returning nothing for many, many years. The landfill may have old paint, automobile or machine oil, toxic chemicals or hazardous materials included in the mix that is dumped. These elements eventually drain into the ground water or leach into the soil; even though the landfills have barriers to prevent this happening. Surely we must be very careful about how we dispose of our household waste.
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