According to a National Gardening Association report, 35% of households in the US grow food either at home or in a community garden, an increase of 200% between 2008 and 2017. Now with people still struggling to find food in groceries stores due to the COVID 19 pandemic, there has been another surge in interest. In a recent NPR article on the subject, George Ball, executive chairman of the Burpee Seed Company, reported a flurry of seed orders.
Are you one of the millions of Americans growing their own food? If not, perhaps it’s time to get started. Everyone can start their own garden – whether in pots in your kitchen or on your patio, a patch or raised bed in your back yard, or a plot in a community garden.
- You’ll have healthier, more flavorful food in addition to reducing your carbon footprint.
- Eating fruits and vegetables straight from your garden means the vitamin content will be at its highest.
- You are reducing the risk of eating vegetables that contain harmful chemicals – you know exactly what you're eating.
- You can grow produce for a fraction of the cost to buy it from the store.
- Gardening is great exercise – you can burn up to 400 calories per hour.
Composting Is an Important Component of Any Garden
You can also compost your own kitchen waste to create rich soil where your plants can thrive. Composting has many benefits, including:
- Reducing the amount of material going to landfills. Municipal waste is composed of 13% yard wastes, 12% food waste, and 34% paper, most of which can be composted (U.S. EPA, Office of Solid Waste 2005).
- Compost is a valuable and free soil amendment that saves gardeners the money used to buy alternatives, such as peat moss, fertilizer, or vermiculite. Compost improves soil tilth, aeration, and water-holding capacity and contains a wide range of plant nutrients. All soils benefit from regular additions of compost.
- Compost suppresses some soil-borne diseases. Populations of some microbes in compost may out-compete pathogens for food and habitat while others attack or repel plant pathogens.
Get Started - Build Your Own Outdoor Compost Bin
- Recycle or buy a plastic bin with a tight fitting lid about 24 inches tall or taller. (It needs a lid to keep the soil moist and to keep critters out.) You can find bins at a big box store for less than $10.
- Drill or poke 8-10 holes in the bottom of the bin and in the lid for aeration purposes.
- Add a layer of leaves or newspaper on the bottom of the bin, then add a layer of dirt.
- Start adding your fruit & vegetable parings, or egg shells, etc. (See the full list of compostable items below.)
- Stir your compost so your scraps are covered with dirt.
- Slightly moisten the mixture and seal with the lid. Don’t add too much water – your nose will tell you in a few days if it’s too wet.
- As you add new material, try to maintain a ratio of 4:1 “brown” carbon-rich materials (dry and woody) to “green” nitrogen-rich materials (wet or recently growing materials).
- Once your bin is full and you stop adding new material, your compost will be ready to go in 2 – 9 weeks.
If you live in an apartment or have only a small outdoor space with no room for a bin, you can still compost indoors.
What Can I Compost?
- Fruits and vegetables
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Tea bags
- Nut shells
- Shredded newspaper
- Yard trimmings
- Grass clippings
- Hay and straw
- Wood chips
- Hair and fur
- Fireplace ashes
What Not to Compost and Why
- Black walnut tree leaves or twigs - Releases substances that might be harmful to plants
- Coal or charcoal ash - Might contain substances harmful to plants
- Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs* - Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
- Diseased or insect-ridden plants - Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants
- Fats, grease, lard, or oils* - Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
- Meat or fish bones and scraps* - Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
- Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)* - Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
- Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides - Might kill beneficial composting organisms
* Check with your local composting or recycling coordinator to see if these organics are accepted by your community curbside or drop-off composting program.
Help observe Learn about Composting Day and get started!
If you have questions, feel free to connect with us and request more information!