Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Internet Book Tour With Chris McLaughlin: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Composting

Chris McLaughlin, author of the newly-released The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting is passionate about compost. She’s been saving grass clippings and dead leaves for nearly 30 years and urges gardeners everywhere to do the same.

I posted my review of her book at my sister site, Gardening by the Book, but here it is for Our Little Acre readers:

This book could have been named “Everything You Wanted to Know About Compost But Were Afraid to Ask.” To some, compost might be scary stuff, but Chris McLaughlin allays those fears with her new book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting. In these days of eco-awareness, composting is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and rightly so.

In the usual Idiot’s format, the book is laid out in easy-to-understand manner, with sections on how it works, various ways on how to do it, and what to do with it once you’ve got it. McLaughlin eliminates the guesswork and shows how truly easy and beneficial composting can be.

It’s not rocket science, since all things decompose if left on their own, but McLaughlin guides readers in how to make the most of your kitchen and yard waste. In fact, she presents the ins and outs of composting in such an inviting way that even non-gardeners will be tempted to save those banana peels and grass clippings.

I recently spoke with Chris by phone and if anyone knows their compost, it’s Chris. As we discussed the book, the one topic that we delved into the most was what to put into the compost pile. That seems to be the most asked question by beginning composters.

For great compost, a balance of greens with browns is necessary.

Greens provide necessary nitrogen:

• green grass clippings
• kelp/seaweed
• coffee grounds and the filter
• green leaves
• alfalfa meal or hay
• green prunings
• weeds (without seeds)
• human and animal hair
• old flower bouquets
• algae
• aquarium water (freshwater)
• vegetable trimmings
• tea bags
• animal manure (herbivores only)
• houseplants
• citrus

Browns contribute carbon:

• dried leaves (shredded)
• straw
• wood ash
• 100% cotton fabrics
• chipped wood
• toilet paper rolls
• dried grasses
• wrapping paper
• shredded documents
• dryer lint
• cardboard
• newspaper
• sawdust
• aged hay
• cardboard egg cartons
• paper towels

That’s a lot of “stuff.” While it might appear that just about anything can go into the pile, there are things to avoid.

What NOT to put in your compost pile:

• dairy products
• fat and grease
• pest poisons
• coal ash
• diseased plants
• garden soil (not harmful, just not necessary)
• items that don’t biodegrade, such as plastic, rubber, and synthetic materials

Composting is something that Chris is passionate about, which is no doubt why she wrote her book about it. Gardenbookstore.net will be featuring her on Wednesday night at 6:00 EDT for the third in their series of interactive interviews with an author.  Be sure to join them, and ask your own questions about composting!


Diana said...

Kylee - Loved the review of the composting book. I composted at the last house, and despite my best efforts to learn it all, I was a miserable compost failure. But I really WANT to compost, so I might try again. You've given me hope!

Jennifer (4bratz2luv) said...

Great review! I am also reading her book and am looking forward to blogging all about it! Its been a great reference book and I have learned so much more about composting!

A Suburban Farmer said...

I had *such* a great time chatting with you, Kylee! Kindred spirits, you and I...



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