Adding kitchen waste to your garden without composting – should you do it?

We’ve seen many people skip the compost process and place their kitchen waste directly into their garden. While this won’t kill your plants, there’s some things to consider when taking this approach.

Among other things, one of composts’ benefits is providing nitrogen (N) to the plants in your garden. The process of composting is actually one of micro-organisms breaking down the decaying material. Here’s the thing – these micro-organisms require nitrogen for this process. Until the process is finished, the composting process will TAKE nitrogen. If this is happening in your garden rather than a properly constructed compost pile, your plants will suffer from a lack of nitrogen to the decaying waste in the soil rather than receive from it. This must be overcome with additional nitrogen. What value then is there in doing this? Personally, we think it’s best not to put non-composted material onto your garden unless it’s mulch which will not have this same effect. Unless you generate a LOT of kitchen waste, it’s not likely that it’s really acting as mulch.

That doesn’t mean you cannot add this waste to the garden before it’s composted, but one would wonder what is the benefit since you’ll need additional nitrogen to compensate for what’s used in the break down process? Until it’s composted, the waste will not provide many benefits. Rather, it will take longer to decompose into valuable nutrients than if it were in a compost pile and could also attract all manner of undesirable pests and critters to your garden – not to mention it will likely smell. Not to mention, who knows if things like Salmonella would easily transfer from kitchen waste onto your otherwise fresh veggies 😉

Save yourself the trouble and build a compost heap or pile. You’ll be able to receive benefits faster this way and with far less hassle.

Why I love Junkmail!

Like most people, I used to spend much time cursing the senders of junk mail under my breath as I journey back from my mailbox. That is, until I realized the value of junk mail as a gardener.

Junk mail is primarily paper. Paper is a carbon, and carbon my friend is a key ingredient to good compost! Paper fulfills the same role as dead brown leaves in a compost pile. In my opinion and estimation, there is no more earth-friendly way of using waste paper than composting it. Even paper recycling uses immense amounts of energy to transport the paper to recycling centers and onward to those who recycle the materials into new products.

So why not use it to produce rich, fertile compost that will benefit your garden with essential nutrients?

We have both traditional compost and also vermicompost (worm composting). The worms make pretty quick work of the shredded paper and cardboard!

Some people try to make a case for this not being a good idea usually because of antiquated understanding of the ingredients of the ink used in printing. It is highly unlikely that you’ll find heavy metals in inks used to print your junk mail. Had this been 1950, I can understand the alarm, but today, most inks are soy-based and completely safe for composting!

You don’t have to stop at junk mail! We also shred and compost our cereal, snack bar, pasta boxes etc. Pretty much anything that can go through the shredder is headed toward the compost piles. Yes, the shredding does use electricity, and therefore fossil fuels, but the amount of energy used to shred household junk mail is far, far less than the energy required to recycle it otherwise.

We tend not to shred “waxy”types of papers since they would seem to take longer to break down. Further, we rip the plastic out of all the windo envelopes prior to shredding them.

So stop cursing your mailbox and start making wise use of your junkmail as compost. Your gardens will thank you!