Break It Down

Back when I worked at a nature center, my botanist friend and colleague Alicia referred to us as “The Lazy Gardeners.” We planted lots of native flowers, not only because they’re better for local ecology, but because they tolerate drought, love crappy soil, and require very little maintenance. And if you were a chick working full-time, with family obligations and crack houses to restore, low-maintenance was a way of life.

That desire for simplicity has carried over to my composting. People think composting requires extraordinary measures — and there are plenty of ways to make it complicated — but at its very essence, you’re just tossing scraps into a pile and letting nature take its course.

A few years ago, we decided to take the plunge. But how? Since the next-door neighbors are literally ten feet away, we don’t have the luxury of a big, three-compartment bin. And we certainly didn’t want to subject them to a lovely view of rotting food waste. After a bit of research, we found the perfect solution: a solar composter made from a 50-gallon recycled olive drum.

The thing’s got a lid and spins easily on a metal rod. Throw in the veg (no oil, dairy or meats), and give it a good spin once a week. Done.

Through the magic of decomposition, slimy tomato peels and rotten lettuce turn into fluffy, brown fertilizer.

We give the composter a break during the winter, when there’s not enough heat — and there’s not much food waste anyway, since we’re eating our previously prepped and preserved stash.

Come spring, that stuff goes straight into the garden. Free, nutrient-rich fertilizer generated while keeping 480 pounds of food out of the landfill.

And you can’t beat that with a stick.

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