The Vegetable Garden

Composting

  • Written by Jonathan White, Environmental Scientist
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For many people, composting is just an alternative way of dealing with rubbish.  It prevents the garbage bin from getting full and smelly.  It’s also a way of disposing of grass clippings and leaves, which saves many trips to the garbage depot. Whilst these things are valid, they are not giving compost the full credibility it deserves.  Compost can be very valuable when used in the right way.

 

I have a completely different way of looking at compost.  To me, composting is a way of building valuable nutrients that will, one day, feed me and my family.  I only use compost on my vegetable gardens.  The way I manage my vegetable gardens means that composting is an integral part of the whole food production system.  I create compost as a way of collecting nutrients in one form (waste), and turning them into another form (food).

The average person buys food from a shop, consumes it and then sends the waste away.  This is simply buying nutrients, taking what you need for that precise moment, and disregarding the remainder.  It’s a nutrient flow that only flows in one direction, like a fancy car roaring down the road.  You admire the car for a moment, but after a second or two, it’s gone.

My goal is to slow down the car and then get it to do a U-turn.  I want to keep the nutrients within my property where I can capitalize on them.  By doing this, I am able to use the nutrients again, so I don’t have to buy them for a second time.  Surely, that’s going to save me money.  It may seem strange to think of nutrients in this way when we can’t even physically see them.  However, all organic materials contain nutrients.  My goal is to get those nutrients out of the form they are in and into a form that is useful to me and my family.

To put it in a different way; composting is a vehicle in which we are able to create a nutrient cycle within our property.  We are part of that cycle because we consume the nutrients when they are, for a brief time, in a useful form.  Then they return to the compost and slowly make their way into another useful form where we consume them again.  This cycle can go on and on indefinitely.  Of course, there will be many lost nutrients that you will never see again, but with a little diligence, you will be surprised at how much compost you can create, and hence, how many valuable nutrients you can recycle.