What Works For You?
In the natural world around us, all of our resources are scrubbed, broken down and reused. Bacteria, fungi and invertebrates do the dirty work. They don't need us. Not one bit. In fact, sometimes we pesky humans just get in the way. But it doesn't have to be that way. With a little human intervention, a well oiled machine can be turbo charged! The key is composting.
Composting is the mechanism by which a gardener harnesses microbes, worms or creepy crawleys and puts them to work. You can throw a pile of leaves in the woods and they'll break down naturally. But if you shred them, increasing surface area, the process speeds up. If you mix in some nitrogen rich grass clippings, the microbes go crazy. And if you mix and turn your pile, aerating it, the aerobic bacteria get hotter. Before you know it, you have rich, deep black compost (better than anything you'll find at a big box store).
Sounds great doesn't it? Why doesn't everyone do it? "It's too much work." "I don't have the space." "Browns, greens, -the process is too complicated for me!" All of these obstacles can be easily overcome. They key is to select the right composting process for you. Yes, that's right, there's more than one way to get the result you're looking for. Let's look at a few and you'll quickly see the technique(s) that are best suited for your situation.
COMPOST PILES are free and simple to set up. They take up the most space, occupying a 3 foot by 3 foot area. Manually turning them is more work and less efficient than tumblers. But if you have a large volume of organic matter, then this is the way to go.
BIN COMPOSTING is similar to using piles, except the organic matter is contained within a raised bin. It's a little tidier than an open pile and it can be stacked taller, reducing the footprint requirement. An interesting variation is to use only leaves, resulting in the production of leaf mould or leaf humus.
TUMBLER COMPOSTING employs microbes to do all of the dirty work. A tumbler requires less space than conventional piles, and it is much easier to turn. The process is fast and efficient. Of course, buying a good tumbler is going to cost you.
VERMICOMPOSTING relies on red worms for composting. It requires virtually NO space. Even apartment dwellers can do it. The end product is a pile of rich worm castings, often referred to as "black gold".
Using one or more of these techniques will reduce your waste, and produce a free nutrient source for your garden. You'll create a cycle of sustainability. And you'll enjoy a greater level of self-sufficient independence! Let's take a closer look at each of these systems.