Nothing tastes better than a homegrown tomato. Since becoming an “adult,” I have become aware of seizing the moment during tomato season – tomatoes during the off-season are not so tasty, delicious, or enjoyable. And I believe, nothing compares to a tomato grown in your own garden.

Though it seems obvious, gardens (urban or rural) need healthy soil to grow food – leading to a growing trend: making your own compost. Healthy compost is key: tomatoes have a deeper flavor, strawberries are sweeter, and cucumbers never tasted so fresh.

Compost is one of the best soil amendments in nature – it improves soil structure, aeration, texture, and the water-holding capacity, while never needing commercial fertilizers. Additionally, compost is cheap to make (and sometimes virtually free) and helps the planet – a win/win scenario.

Vegetative scraps (no meat, dairy or eggshells in backyard composting) and woody materials help to make the perfect compost. What better way to feel like an Eco-Star than knowing your banana peel turned into a healthy soil in your own backyard?

Alongside making compost, growing one’s own food in the backyard, front yard, or any urban space has become increasingly popular again. Urban gardens were common during World War I and World War II in the U.S., Australia, the U.K. and Germany. Known as “Victory Gardens,” almost 20 million Americans alone had gardens and worked in collaboration with neighbors and friends to form cooperatives and grow a variety of produce.

Limited transportation and labor shortages made it hard to get fruits and vegetables in stores. Thus, governments encouraged citizens to grow their own produce – turning urban dwellers into self-sufficient urban farmers. Victory Gardens faded away after WWII, but urban gardens are back due to increasing prices of fresh produce, a desire to know food origin, what chemicals and pesticides might be used and the recognition of the importance to be part of nature.

Are you interested in learning how to make your own compost? One would think that creating nutrient-rich soil would be easy, right? Well, it kind of is – you just need to know the right “ingredients” and “recipe” to make it.

Do a search for “how to make compost” and you will come across a litany of resources – from blogs, to YouTube, to university websites, and more – on how to make the perfect compost. If you’d prefer to learn in person (rather than digitally), the City of Napa, the UC Master Gardeners, the County of Napa, Napa Recycling and Waste Services, City of American Canyon and Upper Valley have partnered to offer six Home Composting workshops and two Worm Composting workshops over the next few months.

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More information can be found at: www.cityofnapa.org/compost. Classes are free and attendees have the option of purchasing a backyard-composting bin at a discounted price ($20) at the end of the workshop. There is a limit of one bin or rebate per household and the rebate is available only for Napa County residents.

Did you know that by throwing your food scraps and soiled paper products into the trash/landfill bin, you are creating methane gas? Food scraps and paper products rot anaerobically (without oxygen) in a landfill, which creates methane gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 70 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Landfills are considered the single largest human source of methane emissions in the world.

Want to do your part? Help reduce methane emissions from landfills by home composting or putting all food (meat, dairy, eggshells, EVERYTHING!) in your brown yard trimmings cart for City of Napa residents. Remember to add your paper towels, single-use hot coffee cup (without the lid), and coffee grinds, filter and teabags.

And don’t forget to send any questions about recycling/composting/landfill my way: kbruno@cityofnapa.org

Happy composting!

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