When trying to come up with a post topic, someone suggested a “green” post. I’m more than happy to oblige because my blog seems to be going more and more towards a mommy blog. Don’t get me wrong. I love being a mom, especially Cecilia’s mom, but it feels like everything has become mommy related. One of my goals as a mom is to maintain a sense of self. I think this is good for me and good for Cecilia. But enough of that. This is supposed to be about the environment.
For several years, I have dreamed of having a compost pile. Unfortunately, apartment living isn’t exactly suitable for rotting plants and decomposing egg shells. Just a few weeks after we moved into our house, I started researching composting and planning my pile.A pile should be in a well drained location. (You don’t want standing water. Yuck.) Ideally, it shouldn’t be in direct sunlight or exposed to wind. The idea is to let the bacteria and enzymes regulate their own temperature. Also, most folks like to have it away from their house or play area. Technically, it shouldn’t smell (or smell like dirt), but why risk it? Just make sure that it’s not so far away that it’s inconvenient.
I chose to enclose my pile. It doesn’t have to be done, but I wanted to keep it limited to a specific space and didn’t want unwanted pests dragging food scraps around my yard. There are several containers on the market, or you can make your own. One day while driving around, Chris and I stumbled on some abandoned old pallets behind his office building. I had him grab a few on his way home one day. With some long screws and a couple brackets, he rigged up an enclosure for me. I know it’s not the most beautiful container, but it works. Plus we recycled the pallets!
There are two kinds of composting - active and passive. Active composting requires more work, as the name implies, and requires maintaining the right balance of browns and greens (or carbons and nitrogens, whatever you prefer to call it). (Here’s a list of what is considered brown, green, or an activator.) You have to frequently turn your pile, monitor your temperature, and sometimes add activators (like manure). When I started composting, I had high aspirations of an active pile. I had the right combination of brown to green (basically 1.5:1). I turned my pile weekly and watched the moisture levels. But then I got knocked up. (It always comes back to that, huh?) Then winter came (literally, not metaphorically) and traipsing out to the backyard got to be a real chore. (I told you a convenient location was important, and it is in a convenient location.) My compost pile quickly became a passive pile.
But wait, that’s okay. For me, the point was to reduce waste in our sewer system and landfills. Active piles produce more (free) gardening compost, but if it’s so overwhelming that I abandon ship, it’s not helping my garden or the environment. Nowadays, it gets all my kitchen scraps as long as they contain no animal products. Compost bins are vegan after all. (Chris gave me this awesome kitchen compost pail and biodegradable bags for Mother’s day. I guess he was tired of staring at the scraps sitting a colander in the sink.) When I dump the pail, I try to sweep up any dead clumps of grass that are laying in the yard from the last mow and put those in there too. It’s not maintaining the perfect ratio of browns and greens, but it’s not bad. If I really wanted to, I could attach the grass catcher to the mower, dry out the grass for a day, and then place it in the bin. I keep telling myself that I’m going to do it, but when it’s time to mow, I get lazy.
Early this spring, I was happy to discover a nice supply of sweet, wormy, free compost under the decomposing top layer. I spread it around my tomato and pepper plants. Admittedly, I was a little worried that it might kill them, but weeks later, they’re still thriving. I think it’s safe to say, my passive pile is a success!