Compost

Several years ago I stopped using peat moss for preparing new garden beds. You can read here about how it harms the environment. Fortunately we have the raw materials for a better substitute in abundant supply in nature. Compost is a great amendment to add to soils. It adds nutrients to the soil and makes it more friable, giving it better texture and drainage.

The most abundant raw materials around here are pine needles and leaves. In the fall, I rake up and gather the leaves and pine needles, and instead of putting them curbside for pickup, I dump them into a huge compost pile. The third ingredient I add are weeds, which are pulled up and added to the compost pile throughout the summer. My compost “bin” is very crudely built, but it works. It's simply an enclosure about 10 ft square fenced along three sides by chicken wire. I've also used those fancy compost tumblers in the past, but find that I don't get enough compost out of them for my needs. However, if all you're looking to put into your composter are kitchen scraps, then a compost tumbler can probably accommodate your needs. But if you need a place to dump several wheelbarrows' loads of yard waste, then you need to create a compost pile.

I'm not a very diligent composter, and I never tended to the pile very often, but I found that the key to making the pile work is to make sure it is big. Add all the materials you can get and make a huge pile. It’s not even necessary to turn or water the pile. I just let it sit and by next summer I have good compost inside the pile. The outside materials will have to be turned in after you harvest the inside. It’s amazing how dark the composted materials become, and the humus has a beautiful, earthy smell.

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And they say you can't turn straw into gold.

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A Long Island Rose Garden