Time to break it down

Anyone who thinks having you around is simple really hasn’t gotten to know you very well

Dear compost,

I LOVE your work but please, help me out here. I feed and feed and feed but I can’t help feel you’re not as active as you could be.

For some time now you’ve occupied that precious space in the backyard in a specially designed black plastic bin.

That bin doesn’t appear to be hastening your efficiency however.

Sometimes it seems you are preserving the matter rather than breaking it down. I’m sure I threw that lettuce leaf in there two weeks ago. It looks in pristine condition. In fact it looks in better condition than when the entire lettuce was in the crisper.

Experts give varying commentary when it comes to exactly how to bolster your health.

Many speak about having the correct carbon to nitrogen ratio, or “greens” to “brown”. I noticed there was no “blues” to “yellows” ratio, so I dutifully took out the muffin wrappers and cellophane which somehow slipped through the careful rubbish filtering process.

Those same experts testify to the fact that a compost pile like yourself will give back as much as you put in.

You’re supposed to be generating some lovely, crumbly biodegradable matter with a chocolate cake consistency, ready to be spread across lawns, dug into the ground around trees or mulched into garden beds.

I am yet to make a withdrawal of such material.

Here’s the thing: if I’m constantly adding material to you, it doesn’t allow time for it all to break down.

So what does this mean? Am I supposed to have two of you on the go at once? One that I’m feeding and one that I’m letting decompose?

Anyone who thinks having you around is simple and no work, really hasn’t gotten to know you very well.

I’ll be straight - maintaining your health takes work.

My parents once created a version of you but I don’t think they got the concept of composting.

Whole palm leaves, rancid milk and ant-ridden dog food were all turfed into the “compost” pile (the term used very loosely) in the hope it would all break down into, well, something other than rubbish.

Not surprisingly, it stayed a pile of rubbish.

Maybe you could have a word to the microbes living within you and give them a pep talk. I’d hate to have to transfer you to that “other” bin; the one on wheels with a hinged lid.


Ashley Walmsley

is the editor of Good Fruit and Vegetables.
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