Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Random Thought on Composting materials

I've been reading a lot lately on how to get compost materials for your compost piles.
Suggestions are asking neighbors and municipalities organizing community piles where you can go get leaves, grass clippings etc.

These are great ideas. However, I want to tell a story as a little warning to make sure you find out the lawn/gardening practices of whomever you may be getting your materials from. I wrote this up some time ago for a newsletter for a CSA I belonged to once... but it's worth retelling:

Years ago (never mind how long :) ) when I was in Middle School my Dad went organic. We lived in the suburbs and pretty much became the laughing stock of the street. There are a lot of interesting story/lessons from back then besides the one I'm telling. (like getting grubs in the lawn and the neighbor with the perfect lawn telling Dad I told you so; only to have a family of skunks come through; eat the grubs and move on. We only had to fill in and reseed the holes they left. But we never had grubs again.)

Dads pride and joy was his compost pile. It was pretty simple; just throw stuff in, cover it under and turn it once in awhile. It made beautiful compost. The worms loved it.

And while we only had a 1/5 of an acre of lawn and gardens there was never enough.

So Dad asked the neighbors if they would bring him their leaves and grass clippings.

The guy with the perfect lawn was amused and said sure: you can have my clippings just come and get them when I put the bags on the street for the garbage men. So Dad went and got them and put them in the compost and turned them in.

Next day he came in at breakfast time, after going out to turn the compost.... I took one look at his face and asked what was wrong? He said... they're dead. All of them. Every single worm in the compost was dead.

Why? Because the neighbor with the perfect lawn used not only weed killer but pesticide on his lawn. It went directly into our compost and killed every single living thing.

So Dad had to dig out, bag up and throw out his compost and moved the pile. He never asked anyone for extra material again.

It was a great lesson for a young gardener (me) to learn (and an old one too) and really pointed out to me why going organic was so important for the long term (that and we were the only known garden on the street that had toads).

So, please, if you use other peoples lawn and garden materials in your compost; find out what they use in their own garden practices; otherwise whatever it is they use will be in your garden too.

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