Turning Garbage Into Gold (black gold that is)

May 18, 2012 | Tita

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So I’m hoping that everyone enjoyed International Compost Awareness Week and now understands more fully the importance of composting and its environmental benefits. No? You didn’t know that we recently celebrated the largest and most comprehensive educational initiative related to composting? Yes, composting is about dealing with one’s garbage responsibly, but it’s also about taking what you would ordinarily send to a landfill and turning it into black gold for your garden – so logically Compost Awareness Week is celebrated each year at the start of the gardening season, the first full week of May.

When you take out your trash every week, likely about a quarter of what you’re sending to the landfill could be turned into a valuable resource instead. Kitchen waste – everything from onion skins and tomato cores to mouldy bread and leftovers – can be placed in your green bin for the city to compost or in your backyard compost for you to reap the benefits after a season or two. Free nutrients for your garden, less garbage to haul to the curb and less waste going to the landfill site – it’s a win-win situation. Not sure how to compost or don’t have a backyard? Naturally the library is here to help.

We did NOT come up with this title (and once you start composting, you’ll marvel at how easy it really is) but The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting might just be a good place to start if you’re brand new to composting.

Once you learn the basics, you’ll find that there are ‘levels’ of composting, ranging from throwing your organic waste into a pile of leaves to coordinating a complicated system involving layers of various types of organic materials. Liz Ball’s book, aptly named Composting, takes you through the layers and helps you ensure that you’re balancing the nitrogen, carbon and moisture levels.

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No backyard? No need to abandon your dreams of lush gardens and next to empty landfill sites -- try worms! Not at all icky, a handful of worms in a covered bucket under your sink will take care of your organic wastes indefinitely. The practice is easier than you’d think -- vermicomposting (as it’s known) can be done by just about anyone, even people living in an apartment. Try Organic Growing with Worms: A Handbook for a Better Environment for a few hints. You don’t have to live on a farm to benefit from the book, Compost, Vermicompost, and Compost Tea: Feeding the Soil on the Organic Farm, you just have to want to grow beautiful, luscious plants using organic materials that otherwise would fill up our landfills.

Composting is only one part of creating a gorgeous, sustainable garden. Learn more about composting, but learn also about conserving water and attracting native wildlife to your garden through ‘naturescaping’. It doesn’t have to be crazy-making. Beth O’Donnell’s book, The Naturescaping Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide for Bringing Nature to your Backyard also offers photographs, checklists and projects for your home and garden.

 Enjoy the beautiful long weekend coming up by contemplating the beauty you can add to it by greening your garden, reducing your trash and turning your garbage into gold.

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