gardenphyllisophyBy Phyllis Galowitz

When we moved into our house in Andes 13 years ago, I knew nothing about composting, but the Larsons, the previous owners, had made a simple bin of cinder blocks, two blocks high and about 5 feet square, behind a screen of evergreens. Across from it was a larger bin, filled with felled branches and prunings from overgrown bushes or dead garden debris, too large to break down into compost but good for animal gymnastics, nests and firewood. Because the bin was there, I asked questions, read and learned from neighbors and my daughter, Amy, a great gardener, how to compost. It seemed like a useful way of disposing of kitchen scraps, without accumulating smelly garbage and dealing with messy receptacles, while doing something good for the environment.

The more I learned about it, the better I liked the idea. I keep a small, plastic compost bin, with a lid and a filter, on my sun porch, where all the daily vegetable and fruit peelings and cuttings go. It’s easy to empty onto the compost pile, where everything is turned under the soil with the handy shovel, kept nearby. In addition to the fruit and vegetable pieces, I add old flowerpot soil and discarded plants, fallen leaves, spent flowers, coffee grounds, used teabags, pinecones, wood chips and deadheaded flowers. Since it’s an open bin, it gets rained on and is heated by the sun. It seems to be a perfect environment. When all of these ingredients are mixed together, nature provides beneficial organisms and bacteria to break down the matter into a rich, wonderful soil, full of nutrients, which can then be used for planting next year’s garden! When the garden season is complete, all the debris left can be put on the compost pile again, along with fallen leaves, turned, and voila! More rich fertilizer is being made for the following year! It is truly amazing and better than any fertilizer you would buy.

zzPicture Easy CompostThere are a few things to remember that should not be added to the compost, such as: meat, dairy products or oils. Eggshells are fine but should be crushed. Do not add any diseased plants and be sure to turn the soil over rotting food scraps, so that rodents, maggots, or fruit flies are not attracted to it.

There is a wonderful book in the Andes Public Library, from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, called Easy Compost, which will answer all your questions in great detail. I hope I have spurred your interest though.

These last few days have been perfect for walking, early in the morning, before the sun gets too high. A special treat was seeing a great blue heron leap up and fly into the pond near Bryants Brook. How gorgeous! I’ve been admiring the abundance of wildflowers along Route 28, listening to the various bird songs, enjoying butterflies and the music of Bryants Brook, gurgling as it rushes over rocks and fallen trees. I always come home with a bouquet of flowers and a smile that lasts through the day. ~