Making Compost with Kitchen Scraps

Your kitchen can be a primary provider of wonderful flowers and burgeoning vegetable harvests. Don't miss this source of gardening joy.

Our cooking generates a constant stream of vegetative wastes including peelings, spoiled food and fruit cores. Most folks consider this stuff garbage and toss it into the can. This way, it's a liability. You effortlessly can convert it into an asset-garden fertilizer.

Making compost with kitchen scraps is a great idea. It rots fast, even in winter, and jump-starts beneficial microorganisms. One lettuce leaf will grow millions of plant-enhancing bacteria.

Note that you should not compost meat scraps. Critters will dig it up, and it creates non-beneficial bacteria. These belong in the garbage can.

The star of your kitchen recycling is coffee grounds. They are brown gold that can convert even our urban clay into rich soil filled with humus. Small amounts around perennials work wonders.

Your source of grounds can be expanded beyond your coffeepot. Place a covered disposal container near the pots in your office, and ask your friends to use it instead of the wastebasket. The paper filters will compost, as will tea bags.

Some coffeehouses and restaurants will cooperate with your campaign. Some chains have company programs offering their mounds of grounds to gardeners who ask for them. Talk to the manager, bring a covered plastic bin with your name and phone number on it and arrange for a regular pickup. They'd rather see this waste go to a good purpose than pay to have it hauled to a landfill.

Grounds offer many advantages. They're already friable (loose) and will fluff hard-packed soil, readying it to accept the coming rains instead of running off.

Worms love grounds and all vegetative matter. If they are provided regularly, our friends will procreate more worms, and soon we'll have them all over the garden, digging holes for air and water, creating humus with their bathroom wastes and improving plants constantly.

Coffee beans are high in acid, not good for your soil. Brewing leaches this into the coffee, leaving little in the grounds.

If you compost major amounts of grounds, from a restaurant or caffeine-addicted office, it's a good idea to mix some leaves or manure with the stuff. This will neutralize any remaining acid.

Acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, yews, pines, firs and oaks will crave grounds straight from the pot.

Indoor gardeners can use grounds around their houseplants. They're substitute for plant food and won't pollute the soil with salt, that white stuff that forms on top of the potting soil. Salt eventually blocks nutrient uptake and can be fatal to plants confined in containers.

The economics of this make sense. You paid for the coffee. Why not use the grounds instead of paying more for commercial fertilizer? Your plants will love you for it and respond with healthy growth.

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