10 Oct 2013

There is much said and written about compost and its benefits to the garden, and I intend to weigh in on the issue since it relates to the “giving back” article I wrote earlier in these blogs.  It is not simply a case of ‘throw it in a pile” any more, it has become an exact science for some people. It is the very nature of the human animal to obsess about knowledge and once given a snippet of information we often cannot resist the need to know more.  I first learned about compost when I saw my dad throwing the used tea leave directly on the garden asking him why he did it, he simply answered, ”its food for it.” My dad was right, but what I learned later was that everything that comes from the garden is good for it after it’s done living.  In fact, everything that is in any way a living organism is eventually consumed by the earth and so aids in the regeneration process.

Personally, I have reintroduced my heaps of compost at least three times this summer, and I have incorporated, leaves, weeds, wood, stalks, stems, flowers and food.  All of these things have gone to build beautiful and productive soil.  The semi rotted stuff goes back into the heap or just simply on the top of the soil to form a mulch which keeps the moisture from leaving the soil in the hottest periods.  There are formulas that help the rotting process accelerate.  Activators are the parts of the material that are still very green or nitrogen rich and build heat.  Browns[as I call them] are the woody stems and such that provide open air and insects to the decaying compost, releasing gases as do the greens.  Microbial action is the living beings inside the compost that digest the decaying matter further, farting out gases that chemically react to turn matter into nutrients.

There is so much more to compost than meets the eye and the continuance of a healthy garden is reliant upon refeeding it with the nutrients used in the production of vegetation.  Compost is not solely for food crops, it can be used to nutrify ornamentals as well. The natural world composts by dropping its debris right back onto the floor to let the breakdown happen all around itself.  This can be best seen in forests.  The only real reason, as far as I can tell, that we do not allow our gardens to do this in their own manner: is for the sake of tidiness or the fear that our gardens will become rampant with pests like slugs, rats, fungi, lichens and mosses.  We have a duty to our neighbors to keep a tidy garden but the more rural and isolated we get the more we allow this type of composting to take place, unseen for the rest of the world’s eyes.

Derek Duffy

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