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A composter in every plot

  • Subject: [cg] A composter in every plot
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Sat, 1 Feb 2003 09:28:20 -0800 (PST)

Thanks, Dorene, for a lovely post. This guy Ray Weil
sounds great, hope I get to hear him one day.

> EVERY PLOT at the community garden will have its own
> composter.  Some of us 
> have always composted, but having a covered bin
> composter in each plot 
> should encourage everyone to amend their plots with
> the organic wastes from 
> their own households -- thus improving the soil for
> everyone in the long run.

For those of us interested in encouraging composting,
I think this is a great idea. I've seen it used very
effectively in Alameda County, California, which has
long had a model home composting program, at a
community garden on the shore of Lake Merritt in
downtown Oakland. Next to a composting display is a
community garden, each plot with a small plastic
composter. That sends an important message - besides,
any nutrients moving out the bin due to leaching end
up in the garden beds.

btw, you can introduce red worms into such bins quite
effectively, at least here in Zone 7.

> We also placed our perennial area (which is never
> rototilled) just past the 
> center of the garden which gives a safe haven to
> worms and microorganisms 
> when the rototiller comes through.

Again, great idea. Incorporating perennials and native
plants into borders, fence lines and even in beds is
pretty, provides homes for beneficials and opens
alliances with the environmental community, who
sometimes can be surprisingly blah about supporting
community gardens (surprising to me, anyway).

>   Tamsin Salehian wrote:
> >As vegetable gardens are constantly harvested, is
> there a
> >way with only a small amount of land to make them
> as self-sufficient as
> >possible in the community garden context or is it
> preferable to take
> >advantage of what others consider wastes and use
> them? I'd be interested in
> >hearing what other gardens do...

Very good question. Locally, we rely on a good
community-wide yard waste composting program for large
quantities of compost and mulch when starting or
renovating gardens, and, at least with the 'next
generation' now coming into being, we have composting
bins in the back corner that use mostly autumn leaf
drop. Older gardens, sadly, seem stuck on 10-10-10.
Changing minds (and habits) isn't easy.

In terms of agroecology, it seems to me that vegetable
growing developed in disturbed highly enriched soils
near human habitations. We (people) have also had a
profound effect on natural selection, consciously or
unconsciously, influencing vegetable characteristics.
For that reason, I think we have to include human
beings - at least all the way to the kitchen - in the
'garden circle' when we talk about sustainability.
Just as we take food from the garden, we need to bring
nutrients back in. The more we can take advantage of
'wastes', the better all around (taking care to
exclude stuff we don't want in the garden like heavy
metals, herbicides, nasty weed seeds...)

Anyway, 'sustainability' for the vegetable garden
isn't a simple matter of creating a pristine
undisturbed soil. Most of our vegetables are first
stage succession annuals and biennials, adapted to
disturbed soils (and in a very old dance with humans).
I think we have to think in a larger context when
seeking sustainable, humane and fair systems. Of
course, fruit trees and berries are great, too, which
is why we need to have secure land tenure arrangements
for community gardens - but that's another issue.

Don Boekelheide
Charlotte NC

btw, for those of you in Zone 7 interested in an
organic approach, I'm now Rodale's 'correspondent' for
Zone 7. I do a monthly calendar of things to do in the
garden, which you can get for free by going to
www.organicgardening.com and signing up for the
Almanac. I promise to put in as many plugs for
community gardening as I can.

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