Composting is one of the most misunderstood areas when it comes to growing an organic vegetable garden. I bet it’s safe to say that more vegetable gardeners duck composting than any other task in gardening (weeding is probably a darn close second).
I will confess – I felt the same way for years. Every time I would get around fellow vegetable gardeners we would chatter on about our big tomatoes, what insect is wrecking havoc on a particular plant, just on and on. Then…..
one of them would look at me and ask, “How do you make your compost?”.
I would lower my head and mumble, “I don’t compost.”
All of a sudden they would barrage me with all the reasons why I should compost, why it’s the best thing I could ever do for my vegetable garden, how it is “Gardener’s Gold”, and on and on. I would get the guilt trip from hell.
Still, I never liked the idea of composting, mainly because I believed all those composting myths.
I had no clue how to do it, or where to even start. I felt it was too much of a hassle, too much work, and just too expensive.
One of my gardening friends that gave me so much greif (well, I thought it was grief at the time), gave me a huge bag full of compost straight from her pile. I used it exclusively on three tomato plants that year.
Oh my goodness! Those three plants grew into the tallest, healthiest tomato plants I’d ever seen – so tall in fact I had to use a ladder to harvest the top tomatoes! They produced the best tomatoes ever.
To say the least, I was hooked on using compost, and was determined to start a compost pile myself.
After about a season of getting the hang of it (and asking my friend a million questions), I was making some nice compost.
I laughed at myself for all the excuses I had made previously. It really was easy, and all my inhibitions beforehand was stupid and frivolous.
So, if you are not composting now, and thinking the same things I thought before I started composting, here are seven common composting myths and how they are all full of poppycock.
A Compost Pile Will Stink
Out of all the composting myths, this is probably the most popular. Many people think that piling a bunch of refuge that is decaying will result in a huge stinky mess. This is really far from the truth.
Sure, if you put things in the compost pile that shouldn’t be there, like meat, dairy products, or oils, it may have a smell. If you put the appropriate itms in your compost pile it will have a smell similar to fresh earth.
Compost Piles Are an Eyesore
OK, if you have a huge pile of composting materials in the driveway it could be an eyesore. But if you put just a little thought into it, I’m sure you can find a great place, that’s out of the way a bit, for a compost pile.
Besides, who ever said it had to be a bare pile of refuge in your yard anyway?
There are several ways to easily dress up a compost pile. You can use old fence panels, chicken wire, or pallets as a bin. You can use a plastic garbage containers for small composting.
Plus, there are plenty of great looking commercial composters on the market. They can range in price from around $50 to over $500.
They are really nice, but not necessary at all.
Composting is Just Too Complicated
Yup, this is exactly what I said. I had read many articles and books on composting filled with ratios, formulas, theories, charts, and graphs that left me more confused than before I started.
The great thing is you really don’t need to worry about all that. You can just add whatever composting materials you have available to get started.
The stuff will decompose and give you compost. Sure, keeping the pile damp, turning it every now and then, and keeping it balanced will create compost faster, but even if you are slack at keeping up with those things Mother Nature will still do her part.
So throw out the slide rule and grab your garden fork!
Composting is Very Expensive
I mentioned the prices of some commercial composters that you can buy, and yes they can be expensive. The great thing about composting is you can spend as much, or as little as you want.
You don’t have to have the latest composter with the auto-cranking handle, CD player, and GPS system.
You can easily get started with a simple bin made from stuff already around your home most of the time. If you don’t have any building materials just pile it up, or simply put your composting materials in garbage bags, dampen it, and set it out in the sun.
Go out and turn the ingredients every now and then, and soon you’ll have useable compost.
I Need a Huge Backyard to Compost
This is another misconception about composting. It is totally false. Even people that live in apartments or condos can compost. The easiest ways to compost in a multi-family dwelling is vermicomposting, or composting with worms, or by using a very simple kitchen compost crock.
The bins are easy to make and will not smell (if properly maintained, which isn’t hard).
The thing is you don’t need a massive pile in order to compost. There is no maximum or minimum for composting – the size is completely adjustable to your situation.
I Don’t Have Time to Compost
Another common composting myth is that it takes gobs of time and effort to compost. Composting can be as simple as dumping grass clippings into a pile once a week, adding some dried leaves, dampening it with water, and coming back in a few weeks to turn the pile.
That’s it! I bet you can spend 30 minutes a week on your composting tasks and get very good results.
You don’t have to stand over the pile to make it happen. Remember, Mother Nature does the grunt work. You just coax her along every now and then.
Composting Will Attract Rodents and Other Unwanted Critters
Again, not true. As long as you use the right materials to your compost pile you won’t have any rodent issues. It’s important to never put any meats, fried foods, sweets, or dairy products in your compost pile.
These items can not only attract animals, but they aren’t good for composting at all.
When adding vegetable scraps to the compost, bury them deep in the pile, or simply take the opportunity to turn the pile to mix the items in.
Making sure you add the right materials and take a few seconds to mix them in well will keep the raccoons away.