compost bin

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Garbage to garden — composting is cool

Rasa Kaye
September 17, 2018 - 11:54 am
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — People who research refuse estimate that between a quarter and half of all our trash comes from organic waste grass clippings, leaves, leftovers from dinner, good food gone bad in the fridge, piles of produce trimmings left from prepping a meal. Instead of tossing it out to get compacted in a landfill, consider putting it out to be composted into plant food.

Compost is the ultimate soil conditioner. With the right balance of organic material and it ain’t rocket science beneficial bacteria break down your “green” (fresh trimmings) and “brown” (dried leaves, grass) scraps over time into nutrient rich humus that feeds healthy, vigorous plants in pots and gardens. Tim Bennett of Bennett Compost says laying a top dressing of compost into garden beds or containers will “juice up” the existing soil and even replace it in a pot. “People who are doing container gardening buy new soil each year, because the nutrients in the soil have been taken out by the plants,“ Bennett explains. “But the compost puts the nutrients back in there, so it’s a way to recharge and replenish the existing soil that you have, and you don’t have to keep buying new potting soil.”

In the big picture, composting keeps those biodegradable scraps out of landfills, where they’re compacted with other wastes to decompose much more slowly and release the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere. Using compost also replaces costly fertilizers and results in fewer chemicals released into the soil. At the smaller scale of your own household, composting means less waste to dispose of and the benefit of your own “black gold” for your gardening.

Bennett’s company makes it easy for Philly residents to get on the composting bandwagon. His company provides a weekly curbside collection of compostable materials from over 2,400 homes and apartments across Philadelphia. ”We give people a lidded bucket, they fill it with all their food scraps, they put it out on a pick-up day based on their neighborhood, we come by, we empty it, we compost it, and in the spring they get some compost for their gardens if they want it,” he says. “If you have a yard and lots of space you can do it on your own, but in the city it can be tough, so we’re a solution for that.”

The $18 monthly fee gets the pickups, two bags of compost in the spring and discounts on other products Bennett offers, including the coveted worm castings. "Worm castings are worm poop," per Bennett. “They eat the food waste, and their poop doesn’t have a smell, but it’s THE most nutrient rich amendment you can put on your soil.”

Finished, or “cooked” compost doesn’t stink either, according to Bennett. “I know it might sound funny, but it just smells like really good dirt!”

Fall is a great time to start composting if you have the space for it. While hot weather certainly speeds up the process, there are many designs available online for compost piles and pre-made units that can get the job done even if more slowly  to break down your kitchen scraps, shredded paper and fall cleanup debris into “really good dirt” for your spring flower beds. It can be a teachable earth-friendly activity for the kids to help with, too.

“Cooking” compost requires adding in the right proportions and occasional stirring to aerate the contents. But Zakee Rembert, a team member at MOM’s Organic market in `Center City, lets nature take its course when he composts all his fruit and vegetable leftovers in his West Philly yard:  “I just throw all my produce scraps into my garden  banana peels, apple cores, grape stems, whatever," he shrugs. “I just throw it out there, it breaks down, regardless. It probably gets buggy and attracts animals  but they gotta eat too!”