snow on juniper
Curing the Gardening Phobia

1 New Habit for 2019

So, here we are falling back into our winter work routines after some holiday time. Deep winter is on its way, and you are schlepping every day to work in your puffy coat. Even the South has had some unpleasant, unseasonal winter weather surprises.  Florida has faced an ugly red tide on the Atlantic side, with another one coming on the Gulf side. California dreamin’ has turned into wildfire and mudslide nightmares.

All your gardening plans that didn’t quite get fulfilled are now behind you. You might be even a little relieved that winter is here, and you’re off the hook. 

Latest Climate Change Report

But did you squirm just a little when the latest scientific report on climate change came out? Feeling a little guilty at your gardening relief? 

Thinking that it’s up to the big corporations and government to get their act together to fix this? Or maybe those 6,000 reports that the study is based on still seem like a hoax to you.

glittering frost on potentilla
Early morning frost

But since you’re trapped in the work grind with its travel schedule, impossible deadlines, difficult bosses, inept vendors, bare bones staff, sleep deprivation…there really isn’t anything you can do…Really?

In fact, there is one quite easy habit that you can develop–even in the winter, and in the South’s cooler season. And you can start now.

Developing New Habits

According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, incorporating new behavior into our lives requires that we fit the desired change into already existing habits.

So even throughout the winter, do you still cut up vegetables and throw the waste into your garbage can? It’s a pretty routine procedure and would be pretty easy to add a small detour into your arm movement.

Still planning to peel potatoes? Still planning to roast peppers and skin them for your own hummus? Still eating a half-grapefruit with your breakfast? Still peeling an orange every night while you watch TV? Will you be cutting up onions for a winter-warm pot of chili, or celery for work-lunch tuna salad?

Even if all you have left on your lawn are the scattered remains of leaves…they are enough to start with.

Look Beyond the Daily Grind

My idea relieves work stress because it engages you in a long-term scheme to pay it forward, adding carbon to the soil that will remain for about 100 years. In my slow-rewards school, this is the kind of homework that I dish out.  It provides you with satisfaction deeper than the bright screen of your devices, slower to realize than that package from Amazon.

Yet it promises a peace in knowing that your grandchildren’s future is a bit more secure…comfort in walking on your lawn next Spring…and happy anticipation in looking toward all the good to come.

Deep purple irises mixed with Solomon's Seal
Deep purple irises mixed with Solomon’s Seal

A Simple Task…

I’m talking about winter composting…with a handy tumbler composter and smart-looking counter-top kitchen scrap bin, with carbon filter. Not glamorous…I know. But infinitely satisfying…

The picture here shows my compost bin. It’s the traditional kind on the ground. I go out and turn it with a pitchfork…great exercise! But you don’t have to do that. There are much easier ways for you to do it.

Straw bales surround a compost pile, covered in snow
Compost pile insulated with straw for the winter

Many of these tumbler-style bins that I mentioned above are on sale now. Sure you can get almost anything on Amazon, but gardensupply.com, hayneedle.com, and other direct-to-consumer sites have more to choose from. No…I’m not getting paid anything to mention these sites…I am naming them in case you are completely new to this idea and don’t have any idea at all where to look. They are a place to start.

Some experts recommend that tumbler-style compost bins are ideal for beginning composters because they can be easier to turn. And having them up off the ground allows you to start collecting scraps–even in winter.

8-sided tumbler style composter with 2 chambers
Dual chamber composter

Notice that I have to insulate my pile with straw bales. You won’t have to do that….And the fact that the tumblers are closed allows you to start your pile even though it’s cold outside.

Starting a pile directly on the ground in the winter doesn’t allow the internal temperature to get hot enough to start cooking the ingredients. But a bin allows you to start any time. gardeningknowhow.com/composting/basics/winter-composting.htm

You can start today with the remains of your leaves and kitchen scraps. As you gather up veggie scraps, your arm goes straight to the counter-top bin…instead of to the garbage can…or into the disposal. It’s an easy movement adaptation, just like James Clear recommends.

…That Makes a Big Difference…

You might think that saving your kitchen scraps would hardly make a dent in our climate problem…but you’d be wrong.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, in the U.S. during 2009, we “wasted more than one-quarter of the food available for consumption—a total of some 33 million tons of food, most of which generates methane gas in municipal landfills…”

Because….we’re putting it in our garbage cans instead of into a compost bin to create a natural fertilizer. In case you didn’t know…methane gas is even worse in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Methane gas “traps 25 times more heat per molecule in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, and landfills are among the largest contributors of methane to the atmosphere.” But don’t think that all this food waste happens only in restaurants…

This report also states that “60 percent of food waste occur[s] at the consumer level, meaning that individual actions can have a real impact on the total amount wasted.”

See? You can make a big difference…in fact, we are the ones creating the problem…and you can start even in the middle of winter to counteract the damage.

…That Stores Carbon in the Soil for Generations

The Union of Concerned Scientists also states that “…applying compost to soils can result in a net storage of carbon” that can last for 100 years. So the kitchen scraps you compost today will provide your grandchildren…and the next couple generations…with beautiful flowers and cooler summers.

For more science on the subject feel free to visit www.ucsusa.org and download “The Climate-Friendly Gardener: A Guide to Combating Global Warming from the Ground Up.” Learn how to “lock up” carbon into your soil!

And, by the way, you don’t have to be a gardener to compost. You can spread the finished compost anywhere on your lawn or under trees.

morning sun on frosty juniper in early winter
Morning sun on frosty juniper in early winter

You might even be able to surprise a friend, wife, or husband with a copper counter-top kitchen scrap bin with carbon filters for Valentine’s Day. The designs on these little scrap holders are numerous and fit into any kitchen design. Make sure to get one with carbon filters to trap odors.

Don’t let the frustration of the morning commute get to you. Ease the tension by knowing that your off-hours embrace meaningful, mindful activity.

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