The Compost Post

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark!”

                                                ~ Hamlet by William Shakespeare

I’m not sure how I started composting. Maybe it was just a result of not wanting to have stinky things in the trash so I didn’t have to take it out so often. I also dislike the idea of raking up leaves or grass clippings and putting them in a plastic bag for the trash men to pick up. I’m sure that having a garden that would benefit from the free fertilizer played a role as well. Maybe it was just that it gave me a convenient way to dispose of all the coffee filters and grounds generated by my daily pot of coffee. At ant rate, I’ve been composting a long time. (I mean this in the context of our garden, but my wife might see it differently.)

Yard waste is a constant, whether it’s grass clippings and leaves in the fall or detritus from the flower beds, pots or vegetable garden. I started by standing up a four-foot square of fence wire and just dumped everything inside it. I put it where the sprinklers would hit it, so most of the time It doesn’t require extra watering.

I have always done a fair amount of cooking, and being somewhat cheap, tend to worry about wasting food, so composting gave me a better alternative to testing the limits of spoilage. Of course, I don’t compost dairy or meat, but there’s usually not much leftover in those categories anyway. It’s a little surprising how much food waste you generate that can be composted.  

I keep a plastic container on the counter where I can easily toss items for the compost. When it gets full, I can just run it out to the compost pile and bury the contents. I try to keep the fresher stuff deeper in the pile, so that the squirrels (or bears?) won’t get to it and spread it on the yard. Of course, I’m being silly to think that I can outsmart a squirrel, but I try nonetheless.

Horticulturist and journalist Alys Fowler writes, “The dictionary has it wrong. Gardening isn’t about plants, it’s about everything else: the soil, the insects, the birds, mammals and reptiles, and how you sit in this world … In a time when we are given so few opportunities to have meaningful relationships with the natural world, gardening is our route back, because it can be done anywhere: on a rooftop, on a windowsill, in your back garden or with a community.”

Every spring, I break open the pile and pull the unrotted materials off to one side, then dig into the rich, black mass of compost that has developed over the winter. Normally I share some with my neighbor, then spread it around on the vegetable garden and any left over goes to top dress the flower beds. Depending on when I plan to plant, I may mix the compost into the existing soil, or just let it melt in over time.

Fowler continues, “By embracing rot, you will start to see failure in a new light: that courgette that succumbed to mildew won’t have failed if it goes back to the compost. The bulky mass of courgette leaves will feed billions of microbes … By not being too tidy, you can create a sanctuary. Every pile of rotting wood or leaves, every seed head left over winter, every corner not cleared of weeds, every pond of rainwater unpolluted by runoff will provide a safe haven for some creature.”

I start my new pile in the late spring with any left overs from the prior year, topped off with grass clippings to keep the pile covered, and the spring rains help it to decompose. I should note that the pile is next to a shared fence and my neighbor is invited to put some yard waste in as well, so we usually have plenty of cover.

Writer, permaculture designer and green living consultant Elizabeth Waddington notes, “Soil is far more than just dirt. Treating soil like dirt is one of the worst things we can do … Soil is so much more than the material we see. Soil is a living ecosystem, teeming with life. Soil is made up of its mineral constituents, organic matter, air, water and living organisms — from earthworms and larvae to nematodes and microscopic bacteria and fungi.

Without the complex web of life in healthy soil, the world’s terrestrial ecosystems cannot survive.”

Additional information:

Alys Fowler, Gardening Can Help Save The Planet. How? Start With Your Soil, Sat 25 Sep 2021, Alys Fowler’s gardening column, Gardens, The Guardian

Elizabeth Waddington, Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Soil in a Garden, March 24, 2022, TreeHugger

One thought on “The Compost Post

  1. We just started a third compost pile, for larger pieces and weed that my husband will typically burn. When I go to someone’s house and I can’t make a little pile of my food waste to put into the compost I get disoriented fast!


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