One of the under-appreciated benefits of a raw food diet is the larger-than-average amount of organic waste you produce.
Healthy raw foodists eat tons of fruits and vegetables, which means lots of fruit rinds, skins, and vegetable peels which you’d normally throw out.
Dedicated organic gardeners and farmers seek this stuff out, and in some cases even pay for it. The finished compost, if made from good materials, often costs quite a bit of money on the open market.
With a bit of preparation, your food waste can be black gold capable of helping you grow cheap and delicious fruits and vegetables far superior to the low-quality stuff you find at most supermarkets.
The Hard Way To Compost
Many people imagine composting is a big pain because the techniques you find in books and in gardening columns are really time and planning intensive. I’ve used some of these techniques, and although they’re effective, they’re also a big headache.
One farm I worked on produced fantastic compost in just two weeks, but it took tons of labor. We had to haul large amounts of materials from all over the farm because big compost piles compost faster. We had to scrounge around to find materials to create an optimal ratio of nitrogen to carbon, which is often not easy.
After creating this huge pile, we’d have to wade in every day and turn the pile with a pitchfork, which was not pleasant work.
Frankly, I’m not in a desperate rush to get my compost finished, so I have a much more leisurely, but equally effective technique.
The Lazy Raw Foodist’s Composting System
Despite what gardening experts will insist, if you’re not in a hurry, composting does not have to be troublesome.
If you use this technique, you will not experience:
– Swarms of bugs
– Unpleasant odors
– Worries over nitrogen to carbon ratios
– Wasted time spent searching for and stockpiling materials to “prepare” to compost.
– Concerns over the small size of your pile
– Lots of time and labor spent turning the pile
– Worries about shielding the pile from rain
1) Find a patch of flat ground that won’t be flooded and is exposed to at least a few hours of direct sunlight. If you like, you can install a bin for neatness and better vertical stacking, but just throwing it on the ground is fine too.
2) Throw your fruit and vegetable scraps into a pile on your spot
3) Fully cover these scraps with one of the following.
Carbon-Rich-Materials: Leaves (they fall from trees for free every year, so just pile them next to your compost pile in fall and use them as needed), wood chips, wood shavings, sawdust, newspapers (non glossy), cardboard, bills and other scraps of paper, hay, straw.
Dirt: Any sort of dirt will do. You can just dig a hole next to your compost pile and shovel the dirt right on top. If you like, you can then fill that hole with your next compost pile after your current one is too big to add more.
4) If your pile smells or there’s a swarm of bugs around it, add more carbon-rich material or dirt. It’s amazing what a little carbon can do. I once used a composting toilet which was little more than a supped-up bucket where the urine and feces went. After every use, this was covered by a good layer of sawdust. This toilet didn’t smell at all, unlike a lot of Porta Potties and outhouses I’ve used.
I’ve even stood next to the bins where the compost toilet waste was dumped, and there was no smell or bugs at all just three feet away. If you’re doing a good job covering your material, there should be no smell.
5) Repeat steps two through four until you want to start a new pile.
6) When your pile is too big to add more conveniently, just throw on a bit more dirt or carbon-rich materials and leave it alone. Depending on where you live, how big your pile is, how much sun the spot gets, what’s in the pile, and what time of year it is, your pile will take two to eight months to completely turn in rich compost.
7) When it’s completely broken down, add it to your garden.
Getting Even Lazier
Composting is all about getting nutrients to your plants, but there’s no need to compost first.
If you want, you can put your food scraps around your fruit trees and bushes, or (although I’ve never done it personally) your annual vegetable beds.
Just throw some banana peels or other fruit scraps next to the plants, but make sure they’re not in direct contact. They should be away from the trunks of trees. Then, just pile on leaves, which, along with the fruit, will decompose and add nutrients to the soil. You should not have a problems with smells or bugs if the material is well covered.
However, this should be done in limitation. I do not suggest putting an entire compost pile around a tree, for instance. In some situations where the material is relatively dry, such as with the classic permaculture bananas circle, this may work, but too much wet food waste may cause problems for the tree.
Harvesting Black Gold
So now you’re responsibly turning your waste into a resource, so you should put it to use. Start organic gardening