Thursday, August 25, 2016

Simple Suggestion #256... Give back to the Earth

Our planet provides us with everything we need to live... but how often do we think about helping it out? We have the ability to return the favour, maybe not on a grand scale, but there are definitely things we can do...

Last week I spent several hours at my composter, good tunes playing through my headphones as I turned over unfinished compost and sifted out a full cubic metre of gorgeous black humus. It will be turned back into our garden this autumn to replenish the soil's nutrients for next year's plants. It's not that difficult, really -- and it's the least I can do to replenish the fine layer of soil that supports life on our planet, if only in my own back yard.

Composting requires a bit of space, plant-based kitchen and garden scraps for a nitrogen source, brown materials like leaves or wood chips to provide carbon, and air and water. Basically, I throw down a half bag of leaves, spread a bucket of kitchen/garden scraps on top, and cover with more leaves, repeating the cycle until a fair pile accumulates. I try to "stir" or "fluff" the pile every two weeks or so to give it enough air so that anaerobic bacteria can't make it too smelly, and keep it damp enough that everything will rot. I'm helping the earth by reusing the nutrients in plant leftovers to enrich the soil, and turning 55 bags of last fall's leaves into soil amendment right here instead of having it trucked away. Here's my stack of last year's garbage bags... with fall garden cleanup beginning, they'll soon be piled with organic garden waste in the other two bins of my three-bin composter, and I'll have more compost in the spring!

I realize that many people don't have the ability to make compost because of their living situations, but really, we give back to the Earth every time we make an effort to reduce our impact on its ecosystems. Edmonton's recycling and composting facilities ensure that the waste of those who can't compost at home goes to a process to either recycle glass, plastics, cardboard and metal from our blue bags, or to turn any compostable items that end up in the trash can into compost that is used by the City or sold to gardeners. So everyone is actually giving something back to our planet every time the City uses compost in our parks and gardens, or around road construction areas and boulevards.

Some other simple things we can do to help the Earth rejuvenate its life systems include grasscycling -- leaving our clippings on the lawn when we mow (the nitrogen from the clippings feeds and protects the roots of the grass), leaving our autumn cleanup until spring (so trees and plants can drop green nutrients into the soil), and avoiding the use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides so that toxic chemicals and salts aren't being absorbed into our food chain.

Everything we do to contribute to the organic health and wealth of our planet's soil is something we ultimately do for ourselves. So giving back to the earth only makes sense. Especially when I eat an heirloom tomato and cucumber sandwich!

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

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