|COMPOST – also known as BLACK GOLD|
It’s cold and the weather is frightful. Staying warm and cozy indoors is delightful. Sorry, it’s time to go back into the frozen or mushy garden and start a compost pile. Why? Because you will want to grow vegetables next year and for many years after that.
Put the compost where you won’t annoy your neighbors or yourself but keep it out of sight of the main garden spaces. You should already have a good start with a pile of leaves you raked up this past fall.
Now, add kitchen scraps every day. Don’t add bones or any meat products to the pile. If you add these things, you will draw some unwanted wildlife. Worse, your neighbors’ dogs and cats will make your heap a stop-off for foraging and fighting. Besides, meat and bone does not contribute to good compost any more than a tree limb would.
It isn’t necessary to buy expensive compost tumblers, although they will speed up production. It isn’t even necessary to build a large contained area with wire fencing or cast-off wooden pallets. A pile, although not as aesthetically pleasing as the containers, works just as well.
You should turn the pile occasionally and water it now and then, if there isn’t sufficient rainfall to wet it to the middle. Nevertheless, a lazy man or woman can still have compost just by piling. It will take longer, but it will break down into good earth, also known as Black Gold.
There are many sites on the internet with specific instructions on the layering of greens and browns, etc. One site is Clemson University’s page on how to compost. It has good information. Let’s face it, though, when you have just peeled ten potatoes for a hungry crowd, you don’t want to save the peelings until you have grass clippings or dry leaves to go with them.
You can obsess over the mixture, or you can relax and let it happen. I belong to the lazy woman, relax-and-let-it-happen group. This easy method definitely takes longer for compost to evolve.
Put your compost pile in a sunny spot, bury fresh garbage into the heap with leaves or clippings or snow on top. Next spring (or now if you are in a mild clime), throw a few shovels-full of dirt on it. If you are not all organic, throwing some 10-10-10 fertilizer on it will hasten the breakdown. To go organic, use blood meal.
Now, why is it so important for you to start this compost in the cold? It takes several months for the mix to break down. It won’t start to work until the sun heats it up next spring. You should have some viable soil amendment for your summer or fall crops.
If you wait until next spring to build the heap, you won’t have anything to enrich your vegetable garden for several more months after that, unless you pay good money for the bagged stuff (which you should do if your soil needs improving). Backyard compost is free, after all, and as good as or better than anything you can buy.
In an economy such as ours, the best hedge against going hungry is to have a backyard vegetable patch growing food. Growing your own can lower your grocery bills, make you healthier, and give you some peace of mind in trying times. All this begins with a lowly compost pile. A good gardener always starts with the earth.
Making compost is easy. And, it’s healthful. It gets you out of the kitchen and into the fresh air; even if only for the few minutes it takes to dump your scraps on the heap. Take this little bit of time to insure a good garden next year. You can cultivate black gold in the dead of winter.
---Posted by Anne K Moore, December 8 2008---
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