When I first came to Washington, MO, almost four years ago, I knew no one. Not a very outgoing person by nature, I decided I needed to open up, otherwise I’d be utterly alone. One day, as I was walking on the Riverfront Trail and I stopped to take a picture of a turtle, I met a nice mom and her daughter, who ended up becoming one of my best friends. Jenny Conner, a mother of two beautiful and wise girls, and a wonderful person who cares about the Earth and living in harmony with nature, recently taught a composting class at Clearview Elementary School. She invited me to go along and take pictures, and naturally I said yes 🙂
My friend Jenny and her daughter Dottie. Dottie’s class was the first one to learn about the importance of composting.
Jenny read the kids a book on how garbage can help our garden grow, by the composing bin built for the school by her husband Greg. They conveniently live right across the street and grow a beautiful garden.
In order to start the composting pile, we need carbon, which can be found in leaves. The children were prepared and had already raked some leaves for the composing bin. As you can see, there were plenty of volunteers willing to bring them over.
Teamwork at its best.
“The compost pile is really a teeming microbial farm. Bacteria, the most numerous and effective composters, are the first to break down plant tissue. Anything growing in your yard is potential food for these tiny decomposers. Microorganisms use the CARBON in leaves or woodier wastes as an energy source.”
“NITROGEN from grass or green materials provides the microbes with the raw element of proteins needed to build their bodies and multiply.” Jenny had collected some fruit and vegetable scraps from her kitchen and the kids had also done their part collecting scraps from the school cafeteria.
“Materials with a higher carbon content include “brown” materials like dried leaves, dried weeds, straw, sawdust, wood chips, or sticks/branches. Materials that have a high nitrogen content include “green” items like fresh grass clippings, green weeds, cow or horse manures, and fruit and vegetable trimmings from the kitchen.”
Jenny, showing the kids how the garbage with time starts to turn into soil. “The more surface area the microorganisms have to work on, the faster the materials will decompose. Chopping, shredding, or chipping garden wastes before adding them to your compost pile will help speed up the decomposition process.”
With enough carbon, nitrogen, moisture and air the leaves, grass clippings, and fruit and vegetable scraps slowly turn into rich brown soil, which is perfect for gardening.
What else is essential for composting? Worms!!
“Fungi and protozoans soon join the bacteria and, somewhat later in the cycle, centipedes, millipedes, beetles and earthworms all do their parts.”
Jenny had brought some worms from her garden, and the kids had fun searching for them.
I remember when I was little and my brother made me touch a worm for the first time. He was digging for them to use them as fishing bait, and I felt so brave for helping him. The kids really had a blast with the worms.
It’s amazing how important a role such a small creature can play in the process of airing the soil, and how much more fascinating holding a worm can be than playing with any kind of a man-made toy.
“What’s the “best” recipe for compost? It depends! But a good rule of thumb is to build a pile that has about 50% green materials and 50% brown materials.”
“All living things on Earth, including the microbes in a compost pile, need a certain amount of water and air to sustain themselves. Microbes function best-and composting happens the fastest-when the compost heap is about as moist as a wrung out sponge. It is usually necessary to add water to the compost pile to keep the decomposition process going. The pile also needs to be turned periodically to get more air into the center of the pile.”
The more we compost, the less garbage we throw out, and less garbage ends up in the landfill. Composting is good for the Earth in more ways than one, and it’s a wonderful thing that Clearview Elementary is on board with that project and will hopefully put in a garden in fall!
One can make a difference, and it all starts with the young minds. Thank you, Jenny, for that inspirational class and for sparkling the interest in the little things we can do to keep our planet green 🙂
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
― Nelson Mandela
“Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow” by Linda Glaser
Do you compost and grow a garden? Please share in the comment section below!