“OK, Mom,” Bryce said as he grabbed the banana peel and practically danced across the kitchen floor. “Two points!” he shouted as he shot the peel into the trash and whisked out of the room.
“He’s got March Madness on the brain these days,” Diane said to Survival Sally. Late afternoon sun shone through to where they sat at the oak dining table.
“Pardon me for saying so, dear,” Sally said, “but madness is throwing banana peels in the trash.”
“Diane frowned. “Where else would they go?”
“A compost pile for your garden,” Sally said. “If you compost your kitchen waste, you can enrich your garden soil and have healthier plants.”
“I hadn’t thought about that. What should I put it in?”
“Well, you could just start an open pile near the garden outdoors, but that can get messy and smelly, and it’s an invitation to critters,” Sally said. “You could use any sort of large container, but you’d need to punch air holes in it. Then you have to turn your compost every so often and make sure you’re putting in the right amount of green and brown kinds of materials in the right layer combinations.”
Diane was starting to look stressed. “However, all of that’s work I don’t want to do,” Sally said, reaching over to lightly touch Diane’s hand. “So I’ll tell you the simplest way to compost in a minute, but we first need to talk about what to put in your compost.”
“I guess I’ll start with banana peels,” Diane laughed.
“And any other kitchen waste that doesn’t have dairy, egg, or meat waste,” Sally said. “Any fruit and vegetable waste, old tea bags, coffee grounds—that sort of thing. You don’t want to put bones, meat or grease in, since they smell and attract animals to your compost. They don’t break down as easily either.”
“What about yard waste?” Diane asked.
“Sure. Grass clippings, pine needles, and dead leaves are fine. Don’t put in diseased plants or weeds though. You can even put in paper, but you might want to shred it first. And don’t put in paper with a lot of colored ink, since it might have toxic chemicals in it. Also, don’t put in cat litter or manure from cats, dogs or birds. They might have parasites. However, if a farmer offers you horse or cow manure, take it. It’s OK for compost.”
“Do you compost to keep from filling landfills?” asked Diane. “I read once where some scientists found hot dogs after being in a landfill for 50 years! I mean, you know, are you composting to save the planet or something?”
“Oh, no, honey. Those are good reasons, but Sam and I aren’t that noble. We do it for selfish reasons. We like the rich, black, crumbly soil you get when you compost. It’s rich in nutrients for the garden and what we grow there.”
“OK, so what’s this simple way of composting you mentioned earlier?”
“Get a compost tumbler,” Sally said. “The wonderful thing is that you don’t have to mess with turning over compost to be sure it’s properly aerated, and you don’t have to worry about layering it with this or that kind of material. A tumbler helps make compost much faster, too. It’s done in weeks, rather than months.”
“That’s good,” said Diane. “I’m like you. I don’t want to have to work too hard at this, but I’m all for anything that will help our plants to grow naturally.”
Find composters and other resources on the Survival Gardening page in the Prep Mart.