My dad made a wooden compost box, the size of a single bed, at the end of his vegetable garden. It was located at the back fence beside the garbage cans. This was way back in the 70′ s when it was optional to compost your yard waste, and yet I noticed several in our blue-collar neighborhood. My grandparents had one too. Now that we had one like they had, I asked my dad what it was for?
“It’s for spreading fertilizer over the garden,” he answered briefly. Dad did not give detailed answers if he was not in the mood, so I had to fill in the blanks. It was not until years later, when I read my first how to garden book, I realized that whatever Dad put in that box did not just magically spread throughout the vegetable plot, it was done manually.
It’s not that I have lost respect for compost now that I know it can involve strenuous work. It still appears to be almost magical when I compare the plants that grow in it to the ones that did not. Compost fed plants dwarf their counterparts in size, quality and production. Soil enriched with this magic substance holds moisture and fights disease better. When used as a top-dressing it suppresses weed growth, wards off soil erosion, and moderates soil temperature. I usually use it as mulch, rather than digging it in, since the worms will pull it under. It is great for putting in planting holes to add an extra nutrient boost.
I am a collector. I collect plants, books, buttons, fabric, antiques, seeds and more… So what I love about composting is that I can enjoy the collecting of leaves, grass clippings, dead headings etc. and use them to create black gold to feed my collection of plants. Even in the kitchen I can collect tea bags, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peels and egg shells all for the compost pile.
When I rented my grandparents’ basement suite, for a couple of years while I went to college, I observed some of my grandmother’s garden habits that helped explain why she always had a surplus of produce to share and a freezer full. She kept a bucket by her kitchen door. It was just inside her sun-room to hold all clean vegetable and fruit scraps. I noticed that as she got older she would simply bury these in between each garden row and allow the worms to transform them into castings on site.
Compost that a gardener has lovingly made from scratch, casts a spell over its owner. Recently, when we moved we took many loads of household items to the local Salvation Army to simplify our move; yet, we hauled a pickup load of our own finished compost and leaf mold to the new garden. Maybe it does have some magical powers after all.
He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment. Proverbs 12:11
This is one of my present day compost piles. My husband calls me the compost queen.