Is it too late to compost at home? And, if not, how do I get started?
It’s never too late to start composting at home! Compost is an organic fertilizer that can be made from everyday kitchen scraps, like fruits and veggies, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags, grass clippings, leaves, dead plants and paper products. If you grow your own food, then this is incredibly important—using an organic fertilizer means that you can feel good about the soil you use to grow your plants. If you don’t compost your kitchen scraps, it’s definitely time to start!
Composting is much easier than you might suspect, and it’s a terrific activity for children. The “gross” factor that puts off so many adults is exactly what attracts so many kids. Saving their “trash” and mixing it all together . . . watching earthworms sift through the food scraps . . . stirring up the “black gold”. . . they love it! They’ll learn the concept of recycling—and see the results right before their eyes.
It’s important to compost only whole foods for richer, healthier soil. Chips and candy just won’t do, because junky foods make for junky compost! If your kids get engaged enough in composting, they’ll be excited to eat more natural ingredients, so they have more to compost. The only real rules are to NOT use the following ingredients in your compost pile: meat, poultry, fish, dairy items, and processed/artificial foods that won’t break down well. Everything else is fair game!
And the great news is that you don’t need much gear to start composting. Simply toss scraps as you collect them into a covered crock or small pail on the kitchen counter, dumping them into a larger plastic or metal receptacle outside and letting time and nature do their work. At HealthBarn USA, we don’t even use a container—we put scraps straight into our compost pile in the ground, and regularly turn the compost with a pitchfork or shovel. If that’s too labor-intensive or if you don’t have the space or desire for a pile, there are compost bins available for purchase at many garden stores. The basic design is usually a plastic, animal-proof bin with some form of ventilation, sometimes with a crank that turns and “cooks” the compost. Scraps go into a secured opening on top, and an opening at the bottom of the bin allows you to remove the rich compost once it is ready and use it throughout your lawn and garden.
For those without much outdoor space, it’s also possible to compost indoors! All you need are some worms and a bin for them to live in. They’ll do what worms do best by breaking down your food scraps and churning out rich fertilizer. Manhattan’s Lower East Side Ecology Center offers plenty of advice on how to make composting happen just beneath your kitchen sink (without smelling up the place, I promise!).
Visit www.howtocompost.org for detailed information on this easy-to-do activity that will benefit the earth. It’s a hands-on lesson for kids of all ages, and it’s one more way to make each day a healthy day.
– Stacey Antine, M.S. R.D., author, Appetite for Life and founder, HealthBarn USA
What puzzles you about keeping your family healthy? Tell us what’s on your mind by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Stacey will answer those questions here weekly.