Gold, the shiny yellow metal that is sought the world over, affects our lives.

The word itself has an energy and power of its own, especially for Yukoners. We seek it, we wear it, we are in awe of those who have it. We want our own stash. We have the Gold Rush and the reminders of the excitement and heartbreak of that event all around us.

“Brown Gold” is more readily available, however, and easily within your grasp for minimal effort. Brown gold is compost. We all know we should compost. It is the right thing to do, even in bear country. Composting is the natural process of decay. Organic material is reduced over time by bacteria, fungi and worms to a nutrient-rich soil conditioner. Composting is giving back to the earth. It is recycling kitchen scraps and yard waste into food for your flowers and vegetables.

Unlike gold mining, where something is taken from the earth, composting is the process of returning organic material back to the earth. It is the magic of taking things you would otherwise throw away, letting them break down or decompose, and using the resulting “soil” in your garden or flower beds. Compost promotes plant growth like gas and a spark promote fire. This year we planted potatoes in a raised bed of what was almost pure compost. We had many potatoes that were twice as big as any you would see in a store.

You can turn your kitchen scraps, including onion peels, apple cores and carrot tops, as well as your yard waste (think grass clippings and leaves) into a rich soil enhancer. It is the ultimate recycling process. If you get a gardener talking about composting, their eyes will likely glaze over when they gush about the benefits of compost—how it promotes plant growth and how worm castings (aka poop) are worth their weight in gold.

The secret to compositing is the red wiggler. Red wigglers are the kings of composting worms. These little creatures, which twitch when uncovered and exposed to light (hence their name), can eat up to half of their weight in organic material each day. Imagine having an army of red wigglers reducing your waste into something not only useful, but desired.

Composting options range from elaborate indoor worm bins to casual outdoor piles in a corner of the garden. You can invest as much time and effort as you want. Expending very little effort can reap huge rewards. Red wigglers will help every type of compost operation. They work tirelessly, munching away at your unwanted organic items, turning them into brown gold.

Where do you get red wigglers? You can buy them, or you can seek out a composting friend who will give you some.
Here are some things to remember when composting, especially in bear country. Feel free to compost kitchen scraps consisting of fruit and vegetable matter, coffee grounds and tea bags. Egg shells are fine, but I rinse and crush mine before adding them to the compost pile. Garden waste is also fair game, including dry grass, leaves, garden plants, even weeds. Avoid meat, bones and fish. Don’t add cooking oil, dairy products or wet grass. Always try to cover new materials with a bit of soil when adding them to the bin.

Composting is the ultimate recycling program. It encourages the natural process of decomposition and creates a usable, magical substance your garden will love. Red wigglers, the unsung heroes of composting, will work tirelessly for you. That is the secret to successful composting.