After a rather heated (mostly tongue in cheek) conversation on a discussion board about whether people should participate in the City Of Austin’s new composting program I was inspired to write yet another blog on why I believe it is so incredibly important to compost, use compost, make or buy compost, just to compost…getting the drift?
Seriously though, this is a very important topic for so many reasons, if you start by addressing the City Of Austin’s new program which you can learn more about it here , you will come to your own conclusions about whether is it right for you. I find that most people are of a certain opinion which is led by conviction or the lack thereof, their own personal experiences, how one was raised, fear of change, if one begins with a biased view only looking to back that up, etc. I am here to tell you that I am not pushing compost because I want you to think “my way”, I am here to share with you the many reasons I personally know it works, without a shadow of a doubt, scientifically, ecologically, unequivocally works far better than just about anything you could use on your trees, plants and lawn.
First of all I use it faithfully, have for the last 20 years and when I invite people into my yard, some from my own neighborhood with the same soil and the same plants but my plants are bigger and better in every way from color to production, the common denominator is the place and plantings, but the difference is the compost…I do and they do not. Composting is a sustainable gardening practice; “sustainable gardening” is the new garden buzz phrase and my next blog will cover the why’s, but for now I will simplify it by saying if you compost you are keeping all those scraps from a landfill and not further harming the environment. The idea is that if a product you use or buy does more harm than good to the environment it is not sustainable. Compost in a landfill creates methane gas which is a contributing factor to global warming, in fact more harmful than the effects of CO2. Now, one of you readers please correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that while composting by its very nature produces methane gas when it is decomposing, its benefits to the land afterwards is far greater than its ill effects as farmlands that have used compost have found that compost stabilizes the carbon in organic matter and binds the nitrogen in the soil which prevents it from leaching into our water streams. So if your landfills are not being used to harness methane for energy, you are better of composting. In fact, some studies have shown composting is better for the earth either way. Whether you believe in global warming or not, you can ask any Central Texas gardener what they think, and you will hear a resounding YES it is! It is getting hotter and drier in Central Texas, as it is markedly around the world. You can not exponentially increase the worlds populations and the use of our water supply while polluting it all with chemicals and not think there will be ramifications. Still, we can make small changes individually that can make a huge impact. The facts are that there is a tremendous amount of research that proves that composting is a sustainable, Eco friendly garden practice and moreover, your plants and planet will love you for it. So in the words of a proficient composter… Let’s break it down.
*Compost contains macro and micro nutrients typically not available in synthetic fertilizer (also not sustainable)
*Compost helps break down the clay and sand in our harsh Texas soil making it easier for your plants’ roots to navigate into the ground while making the soil easier to work for the gardener.
*Compost releases nutrients slowly over months, unlike synthetic fertilizers that can run into lakes and streams causing the growth of algal blooms and destruction of our water systems, unlike compost.
*Compost is a soil equalizer. With our high alkaline soils this is a huge benefit as this makes more nutrients available to your plants.
*Compost creates clusters of soil called “aggregates” that help the soil hold air and moisture making it a more hospitable environment for living beneficial organisms, something chemical fertilizers destroy over time.
* Compost holds nutrients and keeps them from washing away unlike chemicals that are buoyant and float away in our Texas rain bursts.
*Compost can clean up and repair contaminated soil, including soils that have been destroyed by prior pesticide and chemical fertilizer use.
*Compost makes an inviting home to earthworms and other beneficial creatures that add air and fertilizer (worm castings) to the soil.
Here is a demonstration video of my composter and how I use it, as well as the final product. The one thing I failed to mention in the video is that your compost should not smell bad. Mine smells earthy, like fallen leaves on a cool wet day. If your compost smells badly it has become abiotic and or anaerobic and you may need to do some homework online to see why that is happening. I think composting can not be easier, with so many new-fangled contraptions that have been developed for the suburbanite, or the old-fashioned (but not outdated) method of piles and pitch forks there is certainly a method and a container for you. If you are a “grab a bag” type, then good for you, try to make sure that is a local product whenever possible and always make sure it is organic. Finally, be sure to check out my blog “How to Use Compost” which explains in better detail how and when to compost.
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”
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