by Callie

Making the Best Compost

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Composting is one of the greatest things you can do for the Earth and your plants, but gardeners must pay special attention to the ingredients they use and the process they follow if they want to make perfect black gold.

  • If you’re not actually turning that pile regularly, you’re adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
  • If you’re only composting food waste, your final product is probably lacking in both quality and structure.

Years ago, my parents had a friend, Philip, originally from Germany, who bought a house with the most horrible soil. He was having a really hard time getting grass to grow, but he wanted a vegetable garden.

Philip had tons of leaves dumped in the chosen area of the backyard. They were trucked in by a landscaping company every fall for four years. Just leaves. No yard waste or grass clippings.

He spread them out, let them sit over the winter, and tilled them in when warm weather returned. He worked the ground in spring, and again as fall approached, preparing for the next mountain to arrive.

In the end, that garden produced an incredible harvest. It was beautiful, rich soil. And I forgot all about that episode from childhood until this afternoon when I came across a YouTube video (see below):

Everything You Know About Compost is Wrong

What? And as I started watching it, the guy says…

“Every agricultural study ever done says that 2″ of yard waste compost made with the nutrient-rich energy harnessed by trees through their leaves is all that any plant needs to be fed, and protected from disease for an entire season.”

Is this true? Well, yes. They have a much higher nitrogen content than straw and sawdust, but not excessively high, like grass clippings. They also contain vitamins, and:

“Pound for pound, the leaves of most trees contain twice as many minerals as manure. For example, the mineral content of a sugar maple leaf is over five percent, while even common pine needles have 2.5 percent of their weight in calcium, magnesium, nitrogen and phosphorus, plus other trace elements.┬áSince most trees are deep-rooted, they absorb minerals from deep in the soil and a good portion of these minerals go into the leaves.” The Compost Guide

Excavation and bringing in topsoil was Dad’s preferred solution to poor soil quality. Fall leaves are incredibly valuable to people in Europe, and Americans quickly dispose of them.

So, the real reason that the forest can maintain itself without any assistance isn’t just compost, but composted leaves. To a homeowner, they’re the biggest nuisance, but the purpose is to create nutrition and immunity for the tree.

Imagine the number of nutrients and micronutrients it takes per year to sustain a tree of massive proportions. All you’re trying to keep going well are some shallow-rooted fruits, vegetables, and flowers. A tree’s root system is wider than the canopy and generally as deep as it is tall. It has access to important mineral deposits your garden inhabitants will never find.

How can they add that to your compost? And are you buying extra humus to make your compost a better soil amendment? If so, then it’s not the best compost after all.

All you really need is leaves and winter. Perhaps some nitrogen to break down what’s left come spring.

Let the worms handle the food waste, and nature take care of the rest.

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Last updated by Cathrine Sherriffs on 27/04/2020.

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Only strangers knock on the door at Callie's house. People who know her don't bother if the sun is shining - they know to look in the garden.