When I was young, our family had a mulch pit – a deep hole dug in the garden by my father into which
we children were tasked with placing the kitchen refuse collected throughout the day. The carrot tops
and peels, the egg shells, the trimmings from the spinach and beans – all of these were lovingly saved,
deposited daily in the mulch pit and covered with a sprinkling of soil. Sometimes Dad even had to
forsake his beloved newspaper to add some torn strips of paper to enrich the contents of the pit. Little
did we know at the time that we were recycling. In those days, it was more a case of “waste not, want
Slowly over the ensuing weeks and months the contents of the pit would degenerate and create a
nutrient rich compost which was then used to enhance the growth of my mother’s beloved Azaleas.
Times were very different then, but it was an introduction to composting that has never left me.
Every keen gardener knows the value of good compost to improve and enrich the soil in their gardens.
These days, most avid gardeners possess a three staged bin into which they can deposit the kitchen
scraps, the grass clippings and the raked up leaves, turning and turning the contents, hosing and
enriching them, to end up with wonderful compost in industrial quantities. And compost is wonderful.
Nitrogen from the vegetable matter provided from the kitchen and the carbon from deteriorating
newspapers, moisture and time all combine together to provide a gardener with his liquid gold. The
compost bin also attracts worms which aerate the soil and provide “power poop” to further enhance
and enrich the compost.
Successful gardeners know that the basis for their success is the quality of the soil in which they grow
their plants, be they shrubs, vegetables or flowers. By saving the organic matter that you trim from your
vegetables during the preparation of a meal, you too can have a thriving garden. Potato peelings, the
ends of the zucchini and asparagus, coffee grounds, cauliflower leaves, even a lettuce which might have
died in your refrigerator all provide the basis for successful compost.
However, there are some things which should not be composted. It used to be thought that citrus and
onion peel couldn’t be composted because they would deter worms, but when chopped up, the peelings
are subjected to the same internal temperature in the compost as everything else, and will deteriorate
without doing any harm.
Meat, bread and any of their associated products will attract vermin. It goes without saying that human
or animal faeces shouldn’t be a part of your compost bin; neither should waste kitchen oil, rice or
heavily coated magazine paper. These products attract either vermin or bacteria, or don’t break down
Unless you know exactly what type of timber your sawdust is derived from, you probably
shouldn’t use that either, but if you’re CERTAIN that it comes from a natural, chemically untreated
source, then by all means go ahead and use it. Weeds and stubborn garden plants should not be used in
your compost either, unless they have been allowed to totally die and dry out. Otherwise they might
look at your compost heap as a great place to regenerate.
Buying compost from the hardware store or nursery can be quite expensive. Consider making your own
by recycling your kitchen and garden waste and you’ll have your plants thriving in no time at all.