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Ashland Green Scene: Composting can help save the planet

Composting is something you can start doing today to help save the planet. And not only is it free to do, it will change the way you think about your food scraps and yard debris.

Food waste and yard waste are resources that can help you build your soil and get rid of your green yard-waste can.

To talk about composting, I sat down with Nancy Appling, a gardener who volunteers at North Mountain Park and Hanley Farms, is a member of the Talent Gardening Club, and is on the committee of Bee City Ashland.

If you rent a room or apartment and don’t have your own garden to compost in, you can still compost. I got two big, glass jars with lids from a friend to keep food scraps, cut flowers and coffee grounds. I placed them under my kitchen sink and fill them up.

Once full, I take the jars and dump them into the compost pile at a friends’ house, where they do have a garden. Then I rinse them out and repeat. I like jars with lids that tighten because it keeps the bugs out and the smells in. There are containers made specifically for indoor composting that have charcoal filters, but I find glass jars work just as well for free.

If you have a garden like Nancy does, you can compost in your yard. One easy way to compost is to get some 3- to 5-gallon black plastic gardening pots. Dig a hole in your yard where you want your compost to be and place the pot in the hole.

Place a planter saucer on top of your pot to deter flies. If you want to be extra creative, place small stones and water in the saucer for an impromptu bath for birds and other pollinators.

Put your yard and food waste in the pot, and after a few weeks, flip over the pot to reveal your worm-filled compost. Repeat this process anywhere in your yard. There are outdoor composting bins you can buy, but whatever you choose, make sure it has holes in the bottom and is in contact with the ground to make use of nature’s decomposers, such as worms and other organisms that live in the soil.

For weed suppression, to replace your lawn, or to expand your garden area, you can use a method called sheet composting, which uses a layer of newspapers, cardboard or — like the Talent Garden Club did at the historical society’s new garden — cotton sheets to cover the ground. Then pile on soil, compost, leaves, lawn clippings, comfrey, nettles and other nutrient-dense plant materials to finish it off. Yard “waste” is really not waste at all, but an often untapped or underutilized resource. You never need to haul anything away, because it can all go back into your yard to enrich and enhance your soil.

Healthy soil captures carbon and sequesters it in the ground, plus you save carbon by not getting your yard waste hauled off anymore. And all of those food scraps and yard debris are no longer going to the landfill, where they give off methane, which is 20- to 25-percent stronger as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Let me know what you are doing in your homes, neighborhoods and businesses to help the planet. It is something that is achievable with creativity and community involvement.

Email Kandy Williams at ashlandsgreenscene@gmail.com.

Composting is something you can start doing today to help save the planet.