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  • Grandma, How Does Your Garden Grow?
    Italian Memories

    by Cookie Curci

    Grandma's prolific vegetables were legend among family and friends, they grew to large and unusual sizes. And yet, she never used a commercial compost, fertilizer or bug repellent. She made compost from her kitchen scraps and garden debris; her garden bug repellent from stale beer.

    Kitchen scraps and yard clippings made up the ingredients of her nutritious compost. Grandma was a believer in the old saying, "Waste not, want not", and she proved it by using her kitchen scraps as a foundation for her flower and vegetable garden compost.

    Every compost mixture must contain these basic ingredients: nitrogen, carbon, water and air in order to transform yard waste and kitchen scraps into nutrient-filled compost. Grandma combined an equal amount of nitrogen rich plants such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps (any fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee ground, leftover pasta) with carbon rich plants such as fallen leaves, twigs, and garden clippings. Once she had the green (nitrogen) and brown (carbon) components assembled, she layered them intermittently or chopped the ingredients, which hastened decomposition. Grandma kept her compost heap behind the garage and made sure to water it every day, keeping it moist but not wet, and always well aerated.

    Compost heaps can heat up to 140°F and 160°F. At that heat, disease organisms and the seeds from added weeds are destroyed. Grandma used a garden hoe or rake to rotate the contents of the compost every other day, to make sure the leaves from the outside of the pile were moved toward the center. With-in three months Grandma's compost was ready to be spread throughout her garden.

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