Compost Mysteries: 3

Composting is the original recycling. Mother Nature started to recycle her own discarded plant matter more than a billion years ago. Little by little, her recycling of that which was born from the earth and given back to it created all the top soil on the planet. There is no other source of top soil. It can only come from plant matter being returned back to Mother Nature. She not only knows what to do with it, she knows how to do that with no waste, no pollution, no loss, and no harm to water, air, or life. Thus, once again, composting is a miracle and mystery of life that we can participate in.

How, you might ask? I suggest that we look to Mother Nature, the first recycler, for our answer. Does one need a special and expensive compost bin or a particular location or some sort of weird contrivance to begin to compost? No. Mother Nature does not use compost bins, does spend on dime on equipment, and accomplishes the goal of perfect new soil, alive with microbial life and worms every day. Following her time tested example, we can do the same.

forest floorIf we walk through a woods, we will see branches that have fallen, and leaves and pine needles that cover the ground. Unless it has just rained, all of this is dry. Then the rain or snow comes, and this fallen matter becomes wet. More dry leaves and branches fall, but now they fall on the wet ones. A layering begins to happen.

voleOn our walk through the woods, we will hear birds, chipmunks, moles and such rummaging about in the fallen leaves. As they do so, they find food for themselves and turn the composting matter for Mother Nature. The rich smells in the woods are just as much from the decomposing leaf litter as from the pine trees, flowers, and fruits. This is important. It tells us that compost is a natural smell because it is a natural process. Thus, we do not have to fear the smell of a compost pile. Instead, we simply need to mimic Mother Nature’s technique to ensure the smell of life instead of the smell of rot.

How do we do that?
If we have a yard (no matter its size), then there is dry plant matter to work with.This includes grass clippings, trimmings from the hedges and the weeding. And if we eat vegetables and fruits, we have wet kitchen scraps to work with. Perfect. This is the same layering that Mother Nature uses.

If we do not have a yard (apartment/flat dweller), we still have dry plant matter to work with. In fact, our choices now engage the process of recycling even more. We will use the inner rolls from paper towels, toilet paper, newsprint paper used for packing, card board from boxes, and such. All these came from trees (sadly so). You do not want to use cardboard or newspaper (or magazines either) that have much ink or print on them, unless you know that the ink is lead-free or toxic-free. Obviously, your compost is going to be used for your garden or veggie/herb pots. So, don’t poison yourself. Also, why would we knowingly put poisonous materials into Mother Earth? These dry paper and cardboard items are the dry compostables. Kitchen scrapes are the wet ones. We would help the composting process by ripping up these man-made items.

compost pileNow, chose a corner or spot where the compost pile will go. Containing it makes it look better. That can be done inexpensively with chicken wire, or a few discarded boards, or even bales of hay as the perimeter. Or, like Mother Nature, we can simply create a pile, free and simple.

Once a week, lay a dry layer on top of the wet layer. Mid-week give it a toss with a pitch fork or a shovel. If you want quickly produced useable compost for the soil, then after one month, stop adding new to that pile and start another. Keep turning the previous pile weekly for two months and you will have rough soil. Give it one more month and you will have loam.

photo-39Or, too many little piles to contend with? Then retire the pile after a season. Toss it vigorously one more time before the late Autumn freeze and know that come Spring your compost will be almost done. A couple of tosses over the first month of Spring, and the compost will be ready for your new garden or window boxes.

The mystery of it all is that it is so easy. Mother Nature does it every day and doesn’t spend a cent. Never did either. Remember, ALL the top soil on the planet came from this method of decomposition only. By not giving back that which we have taken in all the forms of produce for ourselves, animals, ethanol, in the form timber for paper as well as  lumber, and of fossil fuels, Mother Earth cannot replace all that we have stolen. Stolen, you say? Yes. That’s the only word for it. However, as we give back through composting, we give back in a currency that Mother Nature uses.

About Donna Mitchell-Moniak

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