Compost: Black Gold for Every Garden
by Don Trotter
Hello fellow Earthlings and welcome to the compost heap. In this discussion we will be touching on a few of the amazing things that compost can do for any gardener's success rate. So let's take a stroll out to that giant pile of leaves and envision a transformation into fertile, biologically active compost.
Composted organic matter is easy to make but it is also easy to find at the garden center if you are not inclined to make it or are pressed for space in the garden. Making compost can now be done in any number of tumblers, bins, and containers that are available at every home center and nursery. These compost makers vary in size from giant molded plastic monstrosities big enough for a farm to units no larger than a five-gallon bucket. The advent of several new types of composting has actually brought the manufacturing of fertilizer making indoors. The worm bin, a method of converting kitchen waste into "vermicompost" is becoming a very popular way to recycle organic matter. Several municipalities across North America have begun giving away worm bins to homeowners along with instructions. Worm composting or "vermicomposting" is now a very popular way to turn vegetable scraps, shredded newspaper, and a number of other materials into worm castings. Worm poop "castings" is quite possibly the most fertile material known in nature. And we can make it without doing any work. The worms do everything just by doing their business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No odor, no mess, and for you braver souls, the bins fit under the kitchen sink.
Composting is also a great way for your children to gain greater understanding of how nature recycles everything in order to remain sustainable. In our society of disposable everything, teaching our kids that nature has a better way of using trash to maintain her system. Your kids will be amazed at how waste is converted into fertilizer. You might even get them more interested in the garden this way as well.
Some things to think about when adding compost to the garden are the way it improves soil structure, enhances the health of beneficial biological organisms that live in soil, and helps to save you money on your water bill by forming the spongy organic substance known as humus. Compost has the ability to transform any soil type into a planting medium that will support the healthy and vigorous growth of your precious plants. Compost helps your soil to provide an abundance of essential minerals and nutrients to your plants continuously. Chemical fertilizers can't do half of the things that compost does to improve the quality of your garden. Many chemical fertilizer products are actually antagonistic to the beneficial organisms in your soil. These are the very organisms that help to convert minerals into substances your plants can use as well as the suppression of pathogenic organisms that can cause diseases in your plants.
Compost also insulates your soil from the heat of the sun and from extreme cold. Composted organic matter is very effective at keeping soils cool during hot weather and keeping them warm when the weather cools down. This feature benefit of composting or mulching with compost is very effective at keeping the roots of your plants insulated against the elements. A layer of compost on top of your garden soil will work as a sponge for moisture and will soak up excess moisture and store it for future use by plants. The activity of the organisms in the compost as it decomposes releases minute amounts of caloric heat that will protect the roots of your plants from freezing in light frosts. Compost can serve many purposes while it works to improve the quality of your soil.
There are many commercial brands of compost available today. Most of them are very good products. If your community has a yard waste-recycling program you may be able to obtain this type of compost called "greenwaste" for a very good price. These greenwaste composts are sometimes the best materials available to the home gardener due to their low price and good quality. Pesticide residues are no more of a problem in these greenwaste products than other commercial brands and are universally accepted by organic certification organizations.
So go out and get some compost for your garden or try your hand at home composting. Your soil and your plants will love you for it. Not to mention how much money you'll save by using less water and no chemicals. Next time we will be discussing the use of natural materials for pest control. See you in the Garden!
Got Questions? Email the Doc at Curly@mill.net Don Trotter's natural gardening columns appear nationally in environmentally sensitive publications. Check out Don's books The Complete Natural Gardener and Natural Gardening A-Z at your local bookstore or any on line bookseller for more helpful gardening tips. Both books are from Hay House Publishing www.hayhouse.com
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