Friday, October 7, 2011

Table Scrap Ecosystem

(originally posted September 25, 2011)

This spring, I purchased an Acme Cheap-O plastic compost box, so that I could do my part to reduce waste going into landfills. That and my garden could use all the help it can get since it is located beneath a dementor life-sucking life form called the Norway maple. I figured watching the decomposition process might be kind of neat (oooo! Look at all the mold spores!), but I had no idea just how fascinating it would be. Compost bins not only benefit our gardens and landfills, but they introduce an entirely new ecosystem into your yard.

If you don’t know much about composting, let me give you a brief run down. Composting is a process where you take your food waste and through the help of heat and nature’s decomposers, turns it into nutrient-rich soil. You can’t compost everything, dairy and meat are the two main categories of things that cannot be composted—they putrify and take too long to decompose, but there is a lot that you can compost. If it comes from a plant, it can be composted. Fruits, vegetables, leaves, twigs (though I wouldn’t put in twigs much bigger than your finger in diameter), and even tea bags can be composted. Some people even compost paper, but I recycle mine instead.

One of the very first things I learned about composting is if you compost it, they will come. You needn’t worry about adding critters like such as the exotic and invasive red wiggler worm to your compost pile; if you’re piling up tasty food scraps, the critters will come to you. My compost pile currently harbors a vast variety of life, including ants, more pill bugs (roly polys) than I’ve ever seen in my life, millipedes, and a few species of flies. I also have a few very intelligent and very well-fed spiders in my bin. The flies that live in my compost bin are mainly fruit flies and black saw flies; neither have any interest in humans, unlike the pesky house fly, deer fly, and horse fly. In fact, the black saw fly actually drives house flies away; any insect that can do that is welcome in my pile of refuse anytime.

All of these invertebrates live right there in my compost bin, their own micro habitat. They complete their life cycles and in the process, they turn what was once waste into valuable soil. If you have someone in your family that likes to look for insects and other creepy crawlies, a compost bin is a veritable gold mine. I have to wonder what my neighbors think though when they see me staring transfixed into my compost bin.

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