By: Lisa Briggs | December 30th, 2019
Did you know that over eighty percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions? I make a few gardening resolutions every year and don’t manage to keep any of them. Life and weeds get in the way of our best intentions every time. So this spring, I’m going to try keeping just a couple of really good ones.
Given the interest in growing our own food, one resolution that many gardeners are considering is to start a compost pile. Not only will composting reduce your carbon footprint, but using the homegrown stuff will save you money. Everyone knows that you can grow plants without compost or fertilizer if you must, but using home-grown compost can double or triple your plant’s growth and harvest. Compost is absolutely the best soil amendment you can use to nourish your plants and improve the structure of the soil. And it will essentially cost nothing once you establish a bin to house the pile.
There are lots of options for containing your compost. Some gardeners choose to go bin-less, simply piling yard waste in a convenient, but out-of-sight spot. Others build bins from materials like recycled pallets, or two-by-fours and plywood. And, of course, there are pre-made bins available at the Garden Center.
Composting is not a new idea. In the natural world, it’s what happens when leaves pile up on the ground and begin to decay. Eventually, the rotting vegetation returns to the soil, where plant roots finish the recycling process by reclaiming the nutrients from the decomposed leaves. Composting may be at the root of agriculture as well. Some scientists have speculated that indigenous tribes dumped food waste in piles near their camps. Perhaps our gardening ancestors recognized that these dump heaps were good places for food crops to grow, and began to put seeds there intentionally.
You can start now by composting your food waste. Bits of vegetables and fruits, coffee grounds, eggshells, and tea bags are all on the easy-to-compost list. Scraps will compost more efficiently if they are chopped into smaller pieces. You can store everything in a covered container or resealable bags in the fridge until you’re ready to run them outside. When spring arrives, you’ll be ready to add leaves and grass clippings.
Composting your kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, and leaf litter will reduce your trash burden and add valuable micronutrients and microbes to the soil. Gardeners who want to make frugal decisions at this time of year can take heart that gardening is often a hobby of sharing. And a little effort will make us smarter gardeners in the long run and better eco-citizens in our communities. After all, growing a garden allows us to recreate the miracle of nature on a scale that we can care for and appreciate. And like compost, that’s worth its weight in gold.