Compost: A rind is a terrible thing to waste

You know you are a compost wacko when you bring your friend’s kitchen scraps home to throw onto your compost pile.

I admit I have done that, but my husband isn’t too happy to be lugging home vegetable peelings after a dinner out — so now I control my urges.

Composting is an excellent way of producing the rich organic ‘black gold’ that our nutrient-deficient soil needs to grow healthy plants and produce.

I have been composting for several years, and my vegetable garden benefits from my compost. It has produced some fine-looking lettuce, collard greens, bell peppers, pole beans and my first cantaloupe. (The melon was not planned, and it probably resulted from some melon seeds in my compost. Nevertheless, it was thrilling to watch it grow into a 4-pound beauty.)

People have success with different composting techniques, but here’s what works for me:

I use a black plastic 4-sided composter with a removable lid, no floor and a sliding hatch door at the bottom.

It’s positioned where it gets afternoon sun.

Starting off, I placed thin branches in the bottom to create a 2-inch layer.

Then I threw in a layer of dead leaves. I have several green buttonwoods that shed their leaves constantly.

I added fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, eggshells and more dead leaves.

Try to keep a balance between the kitchen scraps and the garden litter.

I throw in handfuls of shredded paper if I don’t have enough leaves, or if the compost looks too wet.

If the compost looks too dry, I add some water.

Every week or so I use a large wooden pole to stir things around and get everything well mixed.

To avoid smells, I do not add any cooked food or anything oily.

After nine months, I had my first compost ready to add to my garden. Once it got started, the decomposing moved much faster.

In 2005, every man, woman, and child in the United States produced an average of 4.5 pounds of trash per day. Almost a third of that is yard and food waste.

Composting can use some of that waste and with very little effort will produce a cheap, nutrient-rich, organic supplement for your garden and plants —and maybe an occasional melon.

— 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