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Summer is probably my favorite season, but fall is what first made me fall in love with North Carolina.
I’m blessed to have several varieties of trees in my yard. The tops of my trees are starting to change from brilliant green to vibrant burgundy, yellow, orange and red. I tell all of my family and friends that North Carolina is a “must-see” in October. Each and every year I am awestruck with the beauty that surrounds us here, especially now.
While I love looking at the leaves when they are on the tress, once they start falling, I start to lose my enthusiasm for them. Fortunately, this year I will be able to use a lot of the fallen leaves in my composting. Composting is the ultimate up-cycle! What makes composting so amazing is that it’s easy sustainable, and it’s using stuff you plan on throwing away.
I discovered the miracle of composting when we were living in base housing. My neighbor had a beautiful, lush, productive garden. My feeble attempt, right next door, was yielding sparse, sickly, yellow cucumbers and a barren vine that should have had tomatoes. So, I had to ask what her secret was. I leaned in close to hear the gardening guru tell me, “I feed my dirt leftovers.” Her secret ingredient wasn’t love — it was compost!
Healthy soil is essential to have a bountiful garden. It’s easy to create a rich, nutritious home for your fruits and veggies simply by using what you’ve already used. Composting adds an abundant variety of nutrients that balances pH levels, prevents disease and reduces draining problems in soil.
Harnessing the superpowers of composting is easy. To compost, you trade your unwanted scraps — wait a bit; and then you have rich, nutrient-dense, loamy soil for your garden bed. One man’s trash is a plant’s treasure! Besides, imbalanced, insubstantial soil may be the death of your garden’s potential — think the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, sometimes called the “dirty thirties.”
So, let’s get started taking your apple cores, dog hair, eggshells, cardboard boxes and coffee grounds and put them to work for you!
First off, when done correctly, compost does not stink! You just need a balance of green and brown waste.
For a balanced compost, add a 1:1 ratio of organic matter and water for moisture.
Green material (nitrogen) may include:
• Egg and nut shells.
• Veggies and fruits.
• Weeds and grass clippings.
• Coffee grounds and tea bags.
• Lint from your vacuum (including pet hair).
Brown material (carbon) may include:
• Dead leaves, sticks, and branches.
• Paper and cardboard (ensure the majority is shredded).
• Napkins and paper towels.
• Hay and straw.
• Sawdust (avoid treated wood).
Tip: Place brown material such as sticks and wood at the bottom of your pile. This will aid in producing oxygen!
WHAT TO AVOID
Although you can add most scraps to your compost, you should avoid adding:
• Dairy products.
• Sick plants or diseased organic matter.
• Animal bones and meat.
• Oil/fatty material.
These products could upset your composts’ balance of nitrogen and carbon. And if it’s outdoors, it will be more likely to have pests scrounge in it and have funky odors.
My favorite method is to dig a hole, put in my scraps and wait. For a more methodical approach, you would set up two or three bins where the decomposing materials can be put into piles touching the ground and then be turned with a shovel every few weeks.
Either method produces fantastic, fertile soil, and best of all, the beautiful leaves, food waste, leftover cardboard packaging and things that would be taking up space in the landfill are able be used to renew and enrich your soil.
Sustainable gardening, repurposing and leaving the earth better than we found is what I feel the essence of the victory garden is meant to be. Happy planting!
DeeAnn Rivera is a Spring Hope resident who blogs at VictoryGardenGal.com.