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Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Story of Compost

I feel obligated to tell the story of compost in my garden because too often new gardeners read about how to make compost and decide it is too complicated, too advanced for their level of gardening.

Yes, dear new gardener, it is so advanced that we have mounds and mounts of plant material stacking up all over because people have forgotten how to make compost.  

My apologies for that bit of sarcasm. We know that is not true.  The process of composting happens, even if you don't think you know how to make it happen.  It happens...

...No matter if you have the right proportions of green material and brown material in your compost piles.

...No matter how often it rains or doesn't rain.

...No matter if your compost bin is tiny or gigantic.

Compost just happens.  It may happen quickly, it may happen slowly, but eventually all the plant material is broken down by fathomable and unfathomable bacteria, fungi, insects, worms, microbes, and other assorted living organisms.

Other assorted living organisms in my garden include the members of the McGarden family of garden fairies who live down in the vegetable garden here at May Dreams Gardens.   The matriarch of the family is Granny Gus McGarden.

Granny Gus knows just about everything there is to know about vegetable gardens.  She uses her knowledge to help in many ways on the growing side of the garden, but she excels in her knowledge of how to make compost.  

Her son, the right reverened Hortus Augustus McGarden, Gus to his friends, is actually responsible for making the compost. Granny Gus taught Gus everything she knows so that he can carry on the tradition.

What she knows is that you pile up the over-sized cucumbers, the rotten tomatoes, the leaves that fall from the trees, the trimmings from all the perennials, the frost bitten annuals, weeds pulled from the garden and other bits of dead headed flowers... anything from a plant that isn't diseased or full of seeds that you don't want to self sow all over the garden.  You pile it all up.

You pile it all up and then the right reverend Hortus Augustus McGarden, Gus to his friends, gives a little homily about the virtues of composting. Granny plays a little song or two and everyone nods and smiles and sings along, everyone being all the fathomable and unfathomable bacteria, fungi, insects, worms, microbes, and other assorted living organisms.

Then, just as the sound of the last chorus fades into the wind and just before ol' Grandpa Gus McGarden falls asleep, they all shout hooray and tear into the plant material.

It is a sight.  They munch through the green material and the brown material.  They chew and spit and otherwise make their way through it all.  The pile begins to shrink.  The party continues. They beg for more.  Give them more!

Then one day you look at the compost pile and see that the party is almost over for that pile.  All that is left is rich, dark, loamy, beautiful compost.

It is a beautiful sight. You look at it in awe.  It is so beautiful, you could almost cry.  In the stillness of the garden as you stand there and look at the beautiful compost, you swear you hear a little hallelujah chorus.  You might actually hear it, because Granny Gus McGarden loves to play for an audience. 

Then it is all up to you to take that beautiful compost and spread it about the garden, where it will make plants grow better. And then when those plants' time has passed, when their leaves have fallen, you can gently pick up all their stems, flowers, branches, and leaves and take them back to the compost pile.

Pile it all up and leave it for Granny Gus McGarden and her son the right reverened Hortus Augustus McGarden, Gus to his friends, and all the fathomable and unfathomable bacteria, fungi, insects, worms, microbes, and other assorted living organisms.

They'll know what to do.

And that is the Story of Compost.  Please tell others about it.  We cannot let the story die.  We must let every gardener know the truth.  Do it for Granny Gus, for all the McGarden garden fairies who live down in the vegetable garden at May Dreams Gardens.


Dee Nash said...

Compost happens. Thank goodness it does. Great story and smart too.~~Dee

Leslie Kuss said...

It is a most wonderful thing!

Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams said...

The very first thing I did when we finally bought this house, was start a compost...and it's been rewarding me ever since.

I have a few spots set out as compost, the bugs, the bacteria, and in the winter, the deer all thank me for it.

Great post.


Debbie Teashon said...

Great sentiment on compost. It happens, you can help it along or leave it to its own devices.

chloris said...

Lovely, lovely stuff! It never ceases to amaze me that whatever you put on the compost heap the end result is always the same.Gorgeous, crumbly, rich and brown. Yum.

Helen Malandrakis said...

Compost is amazing! It never ceases to amaze me to see the result of that pile of "stuff" becoming that fabulous additive for my garden.

africanaussie said...

Can I borrow Granny Gus?

Rose said...

I'm a lazy composter who believes in just letting nature take its course over time. But I sure would like the Reverend Hortus McGarden to come say a few homilies here to speed up the process!

Indie said...

That's true that compost will keep happening whatever mix you put in there (thanks to a few good garden fairies!) I think the problem occurs when my dear husband wants the entire process to smell of roses.. Thankfully now we've got a fair amount of land so I can put the composter aways from the house, and I don't have to worry as much about it!