Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Break It Down

Composting!  I'm so excited about it.  I finally re-potted the herbs from Whitney's wedding (poor things have been living in coffee mugs with no drainage for a month and a half.  The thyme might be beyond saving, and the oregano was threatening to die so I knew I had to do something.  I had some pots with dead basil and romaine lettuce that I dumped into a larger container and stirred around, thinking that it would be healthy to mix around the dirt to re-pot the herbs in.  After I replaced the dead plants with the little baby herbs, it occurred to me that this container full of dirt sits out in the open all day.  Little weeds pop up in it sometimes but I usually just use it as a dumping/stirring ground when I re-pot. 

I pruned my bouquet of Peruvian Lillies and most of the leaves were already starting to brown and crumple, and the parts of the stems that I trimmed off were well on their way to rotting, so I dumped them in the container, too.  I moved the container where it would get more sun and I'm hoping that I've started a nice little makeshift compost pile.  The bag of gardening soil that we bought seemed to be lacking nitrogen, despite the fact that we got the better stuff to start our patio garden with.  I read up a little on composting this morning, and it actually seems pretty easy.  After a while, I may even get some worms to throw in there to speed up the process. 

You can mail-order the red worms, 10,000 for about $40, but I'm wondering if I can go to my local bait and tackle shop and pick up like 20 night crawlers for a couple of bucks.  I am definitely going to try that first.  If I can make a little night crawler farm, it can double as my bait supply! (yes I love to fish, and with Spring coming up we're planning some camping/fishing excursions.  Night crawlers are my bait of choice, I've probably caught 20 fish with these worms for every 1 fish caught with perch.  I've never caught anything using lures of any kind.  Chicken liver works as well as worms though, too.)  I am still squeamish about putting my own worm on the hook, but Ryan doesn't seem to mind so I'm set!

The reason I think it will work well for us is that many of the ingredients that make a good compost pile are things we throw away all the time.  Coffee grounds are an excellent source of nitrogen and cause the pile to "heat up" with bacterial activity.  We don't have access to manure, but coffee grounds are actually very similar in the way they break down and what they provide.  Egg shells (which we use primarily for cleaning the blades on our disposal) are a great source of calcium and help to add texture to the soil.  Fruit/Vegetable cuttings (I don't have to feel as bad if a little bit of our produce goes bad anymore) speed up composting and are also a great nitrogen additive.  Shredded newspaper, cardboard, bills, coffee filters, paper towels, etc.  work great to aerate the soil and serve as "brown material."  And of course I can recycle the pruned pieces from my plants.  Just thinking about all of the trash we'd reduce is great!  Unfortunately, I don't think we've got the space to have a large enough compost pile to really be able to throw all of our organic waste in there, but maybe it's good enough to learn now so one day I'll know what I'm doing (c:

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