Friday, May 11, 2012

Black gold

At the Slow the Flow grant workshop in March a very inspiring organic gardener spoke on compost and organic lawns. His name is Javier Gil and he grew up in Spain where he said everyone was an organic gardener but no one knew it, it's just how they did things there. It wasn't until he moved to the States that he saw home owners drag out their giant jugs of Round Up and spray everything that wasn't a blade of grass. He was confused and couldn't figure out why people were doing this over here. What was wrong with a few weeds? And why weren't people using compost?

At his J. Gil Organic Landscaping business not only does he use organic practices but he teaches his clients them as well. "In conventional landscaping you treat the plant," he tells the workshop, "in organic landscaping you treat the soil. Healthy soil, healthy plants." And to get healthy soil you need compost. A lot of compost. It's one of the only tools he uses.

I got lucky this fall in that the Town of Ipswich started a pilot curb-side compost program. For less than $2 a week your kitchen scraps get picked up from the handy little green bin the town provides, and you get access to the compost in return. Knowing I had big landscaping plans over the next few years, and knowing we eat a lot of veggies and produce a lot of food trash, our family of four signed up immediately. When we got the info on the program I learned you can throw a whole chicken in your bin! You can even compost left over cupcakes! Not that I can imagine ever having left over cupcakes, but you could send them off with your compost if you did. In backyard composting usually one sticks to vegetable matter, eggs shells and coffee grinds.

The program isn't free, but I can be certain that we've used at least enough of the return compost to make back our investment. Plus the program has shrunk our garbage output by at least 25 pounds a week. A win-win for everyone. And the stuff is wonderful: no seeds, no smell, and only the occasional apple or banana label someone forgot to take off their peel.

The last time I brought a carload of yew branches to the town transfer station with my kids I also squeezed in two empty 20 gallon plastic tubs and my kid's beach buckets. I threw the branches and leaves in their piles and headed over to the giant compost heap that gets delivered from Brick Ends Farm in Hamilton where our kitchen scraps end up and turn into black gold over the course of a year. I filled up the two tubs and my kids filled up their beach buckets. I brought home very very dirty kids and then we hit the garden and they got even more dirty.

Every single plant I'm planting as part of my native garden makeover is being planted in a base of this compost. So far everything looks amazing. This spinach to the left was planted in pure compost, I ran out of potting soil, it's the most healthy and greenest spinach I have ever grown. And it tastes just as good as it looks.

I really lucked out with the timing of this curbside compost program, a big thank you to the Town of Ipswich for going forward with it. So far the program has been a big success, with almost 200 households participating, and will be continued into next year. I have to say at little smile creeps onto my face every time I pass a house on pick-up day with a green compost tub sitting by their curb. I hope their gardens are as happy as mine.

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