Sunday, May 2, 2010

What to Make with What’s Left: Compost

Many years ago, a pushy houseguest suggested I get a compost bin. I didn’t figure out until too late that she was pushy. The bin, I later understood, had not been a suggestion but a demand. Its installation encouraged her to new heights of imposition until finally I had to suggest she find other accommodations.

The overbearing guest is long gone, but the compost bin stuck around. We get along great! It stays out in the back yard near the alley and mostly keeps to itself. And on trash day, there’s not a whole lot for me to carry to the curb.

All spring, summer, and fall, every time I make fruit or vegetables, the compost bin gets to eat the scraps. Peels, trimmings, cores, and the occasional moldy crisper-drawer tragedy—everything goes in the bin. Good compost is a balance between these nitrogenous “green” materials and carbon-rich “browns,” things like grass clippings, fallen leaves, wood chips, last season’s mulch, and other yard waste. If it’s not rotting fast enough, it needs more green. If it’s too wet, it needs more browns. Eventually, any mix breaks down to a crumbly brown, earthy-smelling dirtlike substance.

Compost might not look like much of a treat to you, but try serving it to your garden. It makes clay soil drain better. It makes sandy soil retain water. Work it into the vegetable garden before planting, or spread it like mulch in your perennial garden, and you won’t need chemical fertilizer.

Here are some pictures of permanent houseguests who eat compost at Chez Boland.

Happy spring!

Wild ginger, Asarum canadensis

Pasque flower, Pulsatilla vulgaris

Blueberry, Vaccinium 'North Sky'

Lungwort, Pulmonaria and I forgot the cultivar.

Checkered lily, Fritillaria meleagris