A Case For Compost

I was recently asked what I would suggest if someone were to attempt just one new thing in the garden. That took some thinking on my part. It finally came down to two things. To plant a tree or start a compost heap. And the winner is – a composter.


Composting is one of those practices whose benefits are many and far reaching. The initial effort of setting up a composting system is not difficult. Nor is it expensive. And once you get into the habit of adding kitchen and garden waste to the compost bin, it’ll dawn on you that this is perhaps the most rewarding experience you’ve ever had.


It seems the main hurdle is to accept that composting is very doable and quite the necessity. If you recycle your paper, plastics, glass and such, why then are you not composting? Humans have been composting from time immemorial. There really is nothing to it. So get started. Make it the one new thing you add to your increasingly healthy life style.


There is a glut of information on the Internet on the science and process of composting. So I’m not going to go into that. Just take a little time to get your information and make it happen. If you live in an apartment and you do not have the space for composting outdoors, worm bins are available. There is simply no excuse. Cities like San Francisco require it’s residents to set aside compostables along with recyclables. In my opinion, this should be mandate country wide.


Compost is in essence the result of decayed organic matter. It fertilizes, mulches and enriches the soil. The simplicity of it all is so brilliant that it’s a shame that we ever resorted to more costly and less effective alternatives. Imagine, the stuff you’d otherwise chuck out can be so rewarding. I can’t think of anything else with such returns. Once you start getting a regular supply of compost, you’ll never again use another product. Your garden will thank you by flourishing and your wallet will be pleasantly plump.. Is there anything more satisfying?


As I’ve said in previous articles, I maintain two compost piles. All garden waste is deposited in the woods at the rear end of the property. This is not a contained heap. We just keep adding leaves, plants and other garden waste throughout the year. The mature compost is ready for large scale use every spring. All kitchen scraps go into a smaller compost unit. It is monitored more closely as stuff is added on a daily basis. Regular stirring and frequent compost removal for immediate purposes keeps this bin busy. Vegetable and fruit scraps, tea leaves, coffee grounds and egg shells provide my garden with sweet smelling, rich compost. Each day, if the kitchen pail is not full enough, it means we are not eating enough of the good kinds of food. What a gentle but firm way to keep tabs on healthy eating!


I’ve found that composting has given me a heightened awareness of nature and how she operates. My relationship to my environment has strengthened. As a result, it has made me more mindful of everything else that I do. How and what I purchase, what I eat, wear or use, and not the least, understanding my place in the big picture. I’m appreciative of how we are all in this together. Microbes, fungi, worms and humans cooperating to keep nature in balance. Biology at it’s best. This sort of conscious living has huge physical and mental health benefits. You think I’m exaggerating? Give composting an honest try and get back to me in a year. We’ll talk then.


Once you’ve begun composting, you can then add tree planting to your objectives. The fun never ends.

(c) Shobha Vanchiswar 2013

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