Thank you to those readers who contacted me following my recent composting article. It seems that there’s plenty of people who would like to compost but are still thinking about it so I thought it would be useful to share a few of the questions I received so that others may benefit from the information.
Question: Can I puree leftover fruit and vegetable peels and pour this onto my plants?
Answer: Good question, as it makes us delve into the purpose of compost and why would we bother to do it. Put simply, compost is decomposed organic material. The organic material can be plant material or animal matter.
Compost is great for the garden because it can be a soil amendment, improving the quality of soil); a fertilizer, providing vital nutrients to plants; and a natural pesticide for soil.
To have successful compost that does all of the above, you need a mixture of greens and browns. Green materials — typically kitchen scraps — are high in nitrogen. Brown materials- typically dry leaves and grass or shredded newspaper — are high in carbon. The green materials provide protein for the microorganisms that break down the matter, while the brown materials provide energy.
The final nutrient content of the finished product, the compost, includes a combination of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulfur. A pureed mixture without the added ‘brown’ materials and the breakdown of the green materials by the micro-organisms present in a compost pile is likely missing some of those nutrients.
I am not a biochemist, so I cannot say which ones are missing. The plants would get some benefit — definitely a boost of certain nutrients — but the puree won’t do as much to improve the soil structure as using fully decomposed compost.
Question: Where did you purchase your composter?
Answer: Online at www.gaiam.com. It is made of recycled plastic and has lasted eight years so far in the Keys.
Question: What if I have no room for a composter?
Answer: Some people successfully compost by using a very small container. Take a 5-gallon bucket, put some holes in it and layer food scraps, soil and leaves until full.
Here’s one of many websites that describes the use of a small plastic container: organicgardening.about.com/od/compost/ht/storagecompost.htm.
— Shirley Gun is a member of the Keyswide nonprofit Green Living & Energy Education. She writes about green living and the four R’s — reducing, reusing, recycling and rot (compost). She can be reached at email@example.com.