For years, I’ve known the value of rich compost. I grew up in Iowa, a landscape blessed with deep dressings of black topsoil watered frequently by rains. The poet Robert Frost once commented on the Iowa dirt, saying something to the effect that the soil looked good enough to eat without putting vegetables through it.
That’s not the case in Colorado. Here in Denver, we’re talking a semi-arid and mostly sunny climate with clay soil that bakes into the consistency of adobe. To support gardening, most soil needs amendment. Compost provides an ideal means.
The dirt resulting from composting is only one benefit. The process makes sense in terms of stewardship of the environment, too. Every time I crack an egg or cut the ends off a bunch of broccoli or wring out a tea bag, I throw those things in my compost container instead of the trash bag. I also add used paper towels, paper, cardboard, coffee grinds, and lots of other stuff. Composting cuts down considerably on the amount of trash I add to the landfill.
And every time I empty the sink-side compost container into one of my three bins on the north side of my house, composting suggests an allegory about the ability to change. To transform. I’m still astonished that eventually all the materials break down into a nutrient rich, water retaining substance that basically is like dessert for my garden.
Maybe we can take the garbage of our lives and turn it, too, into fertile ground. The regrets we harbor, the mistakes we’ve made, the moments we were small, and the times we forgot who we were—these are the melon rinds and apple cores, the skins of squash, the coffee grinds, egg shells, grass clippings.
Yet, we can’t just throw the stuff on the compost pile and expect miracles. Composting requires adding the right elements conductive to transformation. Likewise, we cannot expect our life’s shortcomings to miraculously transpire into wisdom. Conversion takes effort. But doesn’t it seem that life’s blows can lead to blossoms? Don’t we all reflect back on seemingly worthless, garbage times and realize they render us the people we are?
If you’re not composting, give it a try. There’s inherent reward in this green-minded, greenthumbed activity. Here, to help, are links to more information about composting:
Make the most of compost to benefit your garden, our planet
Apply compost in January? That’s right, according to landscape experts
Vermicomposting: Red-wiggler worms work wonders
Gardening 101: How do you brew compost tea?
••• “Cultivate your corner of the world. You grow your garden; your garden grows you.” •••
Colleen Smith’s debut novel Glass Halo, set in Denver, was a finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Prize and was praised in the latest issue of The Bloomsbury Review. The novel is available online and through your favorite bookstore.
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