What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

17 June 2016

Making New Dirt

Have I mentioned seventeen or eighteen times that my staying with my grandmother has forced a few lifestyle changes on her--changes that she probably would have liked to live without, at the age of 83? No? Well, add another one to the tally.

My whole life, my grandma has put veggie peelings and other potentially smelly trash into an old bread bag that lives in the freezer until trash day. (Sometimes she also puts them down her disposal, but either way: trash.) The day I arrived, I put an empty plant pot outside, dumped some dirt in the bottom, and started throwing in veggie peels and eggshells. She got used to this in a hurry and now saves her own eggshells and veggie clippings for me to toss into the pot. Easy peasey, y'all.

This was a tomato plant growing in my compost
last summer. Those giant, non-tomato plant leaves?
Volunteer squash. I was on my way out to run one
morning when I saw it growing, thought "I'll pull that
out when I get back," and then forgot about it until it was
this size. It ended up giving up pretty quickly without
the tomato suffering any ill effects. But this is what
happens when you grow things in compost--volunteer
plants appear like magic.
(My old compost, by the way, the stuff I've been accumulating for planting season, went to a friend in Austin. The other day she posted a pic on Instagram of a volunteer something that sprung up from the compost. It's nice to know I'm not the only one that happens to. The term for those surprise plants is "volunteer" because they just show up without getting paid.)

Yes, I know I blog about composting a lot, but that's because it's something that seems a lot harder than it really is. Anyone can do it, but the thought of starting is pretty overwhelming. Here's all you need to do:

  1. Get a container. Outside? Get a plant pot with drainage, or a trash can with a lid and bang some nails in the bottom for drainage before you start using it. (Take the nails out. You just want the holes.) If you go the plant pot route, plan to regularly cover it with dirt so your eggshells don't blow away due to lack of something to hold them down. Inside? Get a good-sized container with a tight-fitting lid. I can't over-emphasize this: if your compost is sharing your living space, keep it covered to deter fruit flies and keep any smells from getting out of hand.
  2. Plan to regularly add either dead leaves or shredded paper. (Not the slick ads that come in your mail! Keep it un-slick. Regular newspaper works.) This keeps it from getting too heavy in nitrogen. You need a mix of carbon and nitrogen for everything to break down nicely without smelling horrible. Compost too smelly? Add more leaves.
  3. Start throwing things in. Potato peels? Yep. Strawberry tops? Absolutely. Seeds from your green peppers? That's how I get volunteer plants, y'all. Throw it in there. See a nice long list of compostable things here.
  4. Wait a bit. Soon it will break down and be nice and crumbly, ready to plant stuff in. FYI: I often plant stuff in the compost while there are still visible veggie peelings hanging out. It continues to break down, the new plant gets the benefit of the old stuff's nutrients, and I don't have to wait as long. Win-win-win.
What to do with the compost once it's composted? I plant things in it, to avoid trips to Home Depot for giant bags of potting soil. You can spread it directly on your outdoor garden, if container gardening isn't your thing. Give it to friends who garden but didn't have the foresight to compost their own veggies. Or sell it by the pound on Craigslist. Turning your old veggies into new cash-- now that's magic.

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