Composting is an essential lesson in our children’s book Three Green Rats, An Eco Tale. Tom, the eldest of the rat brothers, tends the most prolific garden in the province and his secret is…..you guessed it, compost! The simple process is an excellent project to share with kids.
You can put almost anything plant-based in your compost pile. Tom’s compost song from Three Green Rats offers a good example:
“Cantaloupe and melon rind,
Rotten veg and moldy grime,
Little twigs and dried up plants,
Wood chips and torn underpants.”
“New-mown grass and autumn leaves,
Magazines and plaid shirt sleeves
Wet cardboard and clipped toenails,
Crumpled napkins, shells from snails.”
“Everything will die one day.
There is no life without decay
So to the earth from whence you came
To rot, break down, and green again.”
To get started composting, you first need a container. Tom uses chicken wire to enclose four 8×8-foot bins, but smaller containers work just as well. You can even compost in a five- or ten-gallon bucket using red wriggler worms to bring air into the compost and nourish it with good bacteria. Each pound of worms will process half a pound of food scraps daily. You can buy worms at a good garden supply store, or on the web.
Most gardeners, however, compost in open bins in their backyard. First, evenly spread an inch of soil on the bottom of the bin with a shovel. Next, layer in a couple of inches of wet stuff: grass clippings, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps. (Don’t add meat or dairy products–only natural plant-based ingredients, please.) Follow with a few inches of brown stuff: leaves, fine wood chips, even shredded paper. Newspaper works well as long as you don’t use colored comics.
- Moisten with water.
- Add layers as ingredients become available.
- Sprinkle with water, keeping things moist but not soaking wet.
- Turn layers once a week.
- Sit back and wait.
You should have good compost in a month or two. It looks like soil but is more nutritious. Spread it on your garden.
About Three Green Rats, an Eco Tale
An excellent early reader for kids ages 7 to 11 is Three Green Rats, An Eco Tale by Linda Mason Hunter and Suzanne Summersgill. Set in the sooty city of Tintown, this urban fantasy teaches the importance of living in balance with nature, and gives tips on just how to do it (like storing root vegetables in sand to prolong their life, and putting apples in the same bin with potatoes to keep potatoes from sprouting).