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Everyday Environmentalist

Compost. Yes, Compost.

"My gardens are small. But this great little science project never fails to amaze me."

Patrick Doran, director of conservation science for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan

By Patrick Doran

This past summer, my family consumed dozens of watermelons and enough apples to fill a tree. These foods not only help my family grow; next year, they will help my garden grow.

I compost — I confess it. It wasn't always easy. I floundered for a couple of years. But now every bit of compostable material from my kitchen and yard makes its way through my pair of backyard compost bins — two black, recycled-plastic beauties, one of which I purchased through a local municipal waste facility for less than $40.

Here's how I do it:

  • When my kitchen countertop composter is full — which happens a few times a week — I take it out to the bin. I use a pitch fork, make a hole in the composting materials already in there, dump the stuff and cover it up.
  • I stir the bin once every week or two with the pitch fork. I also add leaves and grass at times.
  • In the fall, I put the rest of my yard's leaves in a small wooded garden in my backyard. About this time, I stop adding to one bin and start adding to the other. In the spring, I put the contents of the old one in the garden and add to the new one throughout the summer.
  • Mix and repeat.

Mind you, I live on a 1/4-acre suburban lot. My gardens are small. But this great little science project never fails to amaze me:

  • Less waste goes into the garbage stream.
  • I have no need for other fertilizers in my gardens.
  • My three-year-old loves dropping a banana peel into the kitchen compost bin and telling me it’s time to take the compost out.

Everyday. Environmental. And very simple.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not represent those of The Nature Conservancy.

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