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Natural Awakenings Boston

Unlock the Power of Soil: Composting Creates New Life

Apr 02, 2019 12:37AM ● By Adam Jankauskas

Every time a piece of food (or other compostable) is thrown away, the potential for future life is lost. When food scraps are thrown in the garbage, they end up in landfills where it is buried with all other discarded items. The trapped food rots without oxygen and produces potent greenhouse gases and water runoff, called leachate, that has the potential to contaminate surface and groundwater. Any potentially beneficial nutrients become locked away. At incinerators, food scraps are burned, and with food being 85 to 95 percent water, it burns rather inefficiently. Again, nutrients are lost as they are now mixed in with toxins and carcinogens from garbage, and the remaining poisonous ash is sent to landfills.

An all-too-often alternative is in-sink disposal. Many believe this to be a sustainable choice, however water is wasted and food material is sent to waste-water treatment facilities where it is mixed with material from all other drains in a city or town. The resulting material consistently tests positive for pharmaceuticals, flame-retardants, poly-fluorinated chemicals, and high concentrations of heavy metals. This material is then sold under the term “bio-solids” in a way that can appear safe for gardening. It is explicitly not allowed for use in organic growing applications and is controversial in other scenarios.

There is another choice. A choice that creates new life and benefits society.

When something that has the potential to compost is actually composted, we build new healthy soil. Compost contains organic matter, beneficial bacteria and fungi, and a vast amount of trace minerals, in addition to macro-nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and sulfur. Compost helps with water retention, improving drought resistance and grows stronger plants more resistant to disease and pests. Healthy soil has been shown to produce healthier plants as well with higher nutrient density. With compost added to stale dirt, dry sand and hard clay, it can be transformed into fertile, rich soil.

Healthy soil is the foundation of our entire world.

Plants grow from healthy soil, animals use these plants for food and homes, and humans can grow tools and shelter, and consume fresh healthy food. With fertile soil, the power of what to grow is in the hand of the individual.

Interested in helping preserve a rare variety of an heirloom vegetable? Connect with a seedbank to grow a black tomato, purple carrot, or brown pepper. Want to save on groceries? Grow grains on the north edge of your garden: wheat, spelt, farrow, kamut, barley, or rye. Have a gluten allergy? Grow amaranth, millet, oats, sorghum, flax, corn, buckwheat, or sunflowers instead.

Want to help end hunger? Plant a vegetable garden on a roof, balcony, porch or yard to support a local hunger relief center, create a small farm stand to provide affordable, healthy food for the community, or partner with a local convenience store that doesn’t stock fresh produce. In need of a garden trellis or stakes? Plant yellow grove bamboo (yes, here in New England) to provide structural support for the plants that benefit from such.

Want to expand your mind? Grow something you didn’t even know existed: tomatillo, pawpaw, Chinese snake bean, mangel beets, burdock, a yard-long Metki Serpent cucumber-melon, endive, cucuzzi, Chinese Shawo fruit radish, salsify, zucca melon, mizuna, or white snowbank blackberries.

In most scenarios, adding compost is all that is needed to transform the soil. No fertilizers or amendments required. Unlock the power of the soil and grow more food.

Adam Jankauskas is founder/owner of City Compost, offering weekly, biweekly and monthly composting services in the Greater Boston area. For more information, call 978-378-3078 or visit CityCompost.com.

Free Grow Your Own Food Classes

Every second Thursday of the month from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 7 to 8:30 p.m., Adam Jankauskas of City Compost teaches lessons on how to grow your own food inside and outside. Cut the cost of top-quality produce by growing fresh food right at your own home.

Cost: Free. Location: The Peoples Place of Gardner, 73 City Hall Ave., Gardner. For more information, call 978-378-3078, email [email protected] or visit CityCompost.com.

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