Compost: An example of continuing lifeCompost is more than a fertilizer or a healing agent for the soil's wounds. It is a symbol of continuing life. Nature herself made compost before man first walked the earth and before the first dinosaur reared its head above a primeval swamp.
Leaves falling to the forest floor and slowly moldering are composting. The dead grass of the meadow seared by winters frost is being composted by the dampness of the earth beneath. Birds, insects and animals contribute their bodies to this vast and continuing soil rebuilding program of nature.
The compost heapThe compost heap in your garden is an intensified version of this process of death and rebuilding which is going on almost everywhere in nature. In the course of running a garden there is always an accumulation of organic wastes of different sortsleaves, grass clippings, weeds, twigsand since time immemorial gardeners have been accumulating this material in piles, eventually to spread it back on the soil as rich, dark humus.
In many parts of the world today, composting is practiced just as it was hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Farmers and householders in the less industrialized regions of Asia, Africa and Europe have no source of commercial fertilizer, and consequently make rough compost piles of cattle manure, garbage, human wastes, straw, and weeds.
These piles decay into humus, which is then used in soil preparation for the kitchen garden and farm fields. Such compost is not very rich in plant nutrients, but it is a manageable form of humus that maintains the tilth and general condition of soil that has been used for generations.
Garden waste material can be converted in many ways into a black, fragrant, crumbly, partially decomposed organic residue called compost. By composting your objective is to arrange organic waste material in such a way that soil bacteria and fungi can thrive and multiply as they break it down. The bacteria are the converters of the raw material and they must have a workable environment. They need moisture, air and food.
Creating a simple compost bin
Welded wire or fence, formed into a cylinder and sitting upright, creates a simple but effective compost bin. It will hold your organic refuse as it decompose into soil building humus.
After 3 months lift it off, when compost has formed, and set aside. This will provide a pile for easy turning and mixing of the contents. Once you have turned over the material then fork the mixture back in and continue to introduce new waste. By doing this you will have a steady supply of humus for mulch or as a soil amendment.
Computing compost needsOne bushel basket will hold 1 1/2 cubic feet (about 46 pounds) of compost. That's enough to cover 4 1/2 square feet of garden, 3 inches deep. And, one cubic yard of compost weighs about 1,000 pounds and will fill 21 1/2 bushels, or cover 100 square feet of garden to a depth of 3 inches.
It's difficult to pinpoint the exact amount of compost required for an individual garden. Your best bet is to begin with the amounts given above and watch the rate of germination and seedling emergence over time. The proper amount, for your garden, will become apparent in a season or two.