Plant More Plants

Digging In to Compost

Composting bins can be purchased or you can build your own. A pile in the backyard does the trick, too. Photo by Doro002 via Wikimedia Commons.

We’ve been composting at my house for close to two years. One corner of the kitchen is reserved for old coffee cans where food scraps await their trip to the backyard compost bin. Grass clippings and fallen leaves go in there, too.

I’d read up on composting — and how to build our bin — in the book, “Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City.”

For months, we kept piling on the detritus, not really sure what was happening inside our bin. It got the occasional stir, and sometimes we’d see the growth of some unidentifiable plant sprouting its way to the surface.

“We must be doing something right,” we thought.

It wasn’t until I shoveled my way to the bottom of the compost bin that I learned exactly what had become of those potato peelings, carrot tops and onion skins from months before. At the bottom was a layer of dark, rich humus. 
Earthworms and other soil-burrowing creatures had made it their home. The smell reminded me of walking deep into an old forest. That's the smell of composting success. 

Now that temperatures are warm, I’m using this brown gold to improve our soil gradually, digging it into spots where clay dominates. I never expected to be so excited about decomposed kitchen scraps and yard waste!

I’m proud to say we
are doing something right.

More tips:
The Chesapeake Bay Program: "How to Construct a Compost Pile"
This entry was posted in Gardens, Soil and tagged in compost, soil, julie buchanan.

Julie Buchanan is a public relations specialist for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and manager of the Plant More Plants social sites. She lives in Richmond.

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Julie Buchanan
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