Notes from a Fair-Weather Backyard Composter

Notes from a Fair-Weather Backyard Composter

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When Portland started collecting food scraps at the curbside, I was delighted to empty my kitchen compost container into the yard debris roll cart instead of my backyard compost pile.

What’s not to love?? Now I could compost grains, eggshells, cheese rinds -and that dreaded cottage cheese that hid in the back of the fridge until it turned green.

It was also easier. My driveway is closer and dryer than my backyard. I didn’t have to forge in the dark for my spade. The garden still got the compost from yard debris and grass clippings.

All seemed right in the food scrap world.

It didn’t take long to realize that my vegetable garden was starving for nutrients. Within a couple of years, snap peas succumbed to white mildew and cabbage aphids infested the broccoli. My beloved brussels sprouts were the size of marbles.

For the first time in 30 years of gardening, I was mixing soapy spray concoctions to fight off bugs and lugging bags of chicken poop to feed my soil. And it dawned on me: this is more work than taking my food scraps to the backyard.

So, I am going back (mostly). There is a new container under my sink. It is for eggshells, dairy and grains it goes out to the green Portland Composts! roll cart.

On Presidents’ Day (When i always start ramping up my backyard compost pile), I started using the old container to collect melon rinds, banana peels and the like. That’s been feeding my backyard pile.

In the fall, that second container will go dormant like my garden. I will be dry taking all my combined food scraps out to the city system through the cold and dark months.

It may take a few years to build up my soil again, but my compost pile is already teaming with worms and steaming hot. I forgot what an amazing thing a healthy compost pile can be.

So what are the lessons that I learned from this?

  • When at first something doesn’t work, tinker.
  • Make things work for you.
  • Sometimes change doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Seasonal is better than never.
  • All things rot. Why not take advantage of it?!