Burying the evidence

Composting—the process of breaking down our kitchen scraps, yard trimmings, and food-tainted paper into humus for the garden to improve soil structure and provide nutrients for plants—is almost a religion here in Northern California. That’s probably because composting is good for Mother Earth while it reduces the roughly 10 million tons of compostable organic materials that end up in California’s landfills each year.

Several years ago, I went to a class offered by my county. I bought a compost-making bin and started the process. I was excited as I filled the bin with my garden and vegetable cuttings. I followed the dos and don’ts—the proportion of green material to brown material, turning it all, and wetting it. I waited and waited … and … [drum roll] … nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. I was disheartened.

Then somehow I heard about another process:

  1. Select a spot in your garden at least 5 feet long where you want to plant in a few months or where you want to store your compost trove.
  2. Dig a hole on the edge of the area you’ve selected.
  3. Dump in food waste and chop it a bit with the shovel.
  4. Cover with soil.
  5. The next time, dig a hole next to the hole you dug previously.
  6. Dump in food waste and chop it a bit with the shovel.
  7. Cover with soil.
  8. Repeat until you reach the opposite edge of the area you’ve selected.
  9. Return to the spot where you dug your first hole and dig again in that spot, following the same procedure.

Every week, I followed the steps dutifully. When I returned to the spot where I dug my first hole and dug again, I found the most amazing transformation:  The carrot tops, eggshells, melon seeds, kale stems, coffee grounds, teabags, and so on had disappeared like magic and in their place was rich, dark, loamy humus. My jaw dropped. This is exactly what I was hoping for and what motivates me to bury my kitchen evidence in my backyard to this day. May you too be amazed.

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2 thoughts on “Burying the evidence

  1. Your Post gives me hope!
    I accepted our city recycling service’s offer of a free compost bin. Last February I assembled it, read the instructions carefully, followed them, and started composting…. or so I thought. The pile grew and the pile dwindled but it never warmed up….. I keep it covered and water and turn it over as per instructions. Last week I scooped out a small bucketful of ‘compost’ from the bottom, at least what would be considered compost according to the instructions. I have yet to try it, however it doesn’t look very loamy or ‘composty’.
    For years I had dug small holes in the soil, buried my bags of kitchen scraps all over the garden, not with the precision, nor as organized as your system of consecutive rows, but the peelings and scraps vanished and the soil seems to have improved. But I’m ready to revert to my old system…. in combination with your more organized method,

  2. I do composting in the county boxes and it has worked. Not sure what the difference could be. I collect and add leaves/grass chippings to the lot. Sometimes when I remember, I pick bags of used coffee beans from Starbucks. It has worked for me.

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