I love to look at gardens.  Driving in the country or walking on city streets each spring and summer, I’ve got to slow down and look over other peoples plantings, their rows, the quality of their soil.  And while many I see are rich and fertile with healthy, vigorous plants, too many have soil that’s poor and hard, even yellow clay or subsoil, and the vegetables are struggling to stay alive, let alone grow.  Gardens don’t have to be that way.

To make a good growing medium for those young plants, you’ve GOT to have a high humus, loose and friable garden soil, and one fine way to add tilth is to use a compost pile.  Most gardeners don’t have one, but right now is a good time to build one. and they have absolutely no odor so long as you don’t add meat products.  

I read a report recently that said nearly one sixth of our landfill space is going to lawn rubbish, grass clippings (rich in nitrogen), and dead leaves (rich in trace elements). In a landfill, they’re trash, but in a compost pile they’re the ingredients of a great garden.  After all, many of us recycle newspapers, plastic jugs, aluminum cans, and more.  Why not recycle those grass clippings, leaves, turnip tops, excess lettuce, green bean stalks, and more that are sitting in your garden turning yellow?  Not to mention the huge harvest of fallen leaves soon to come.

You can build a compost pile of four poles and a bit of chicken wire in some out of the way backyard spot, dress it up if you like with flowers and other decorations, then toss in just about everything, and that includes manure and straw hauled from the county fairground, or picked up from some friendly farmer.

 I add an occasional shovel full of garden soil to produce even more decay microorganisms, maybe a sprinkle of water in dry times, and that’s it.  The pile will break down gradually, and come spring you’ll be adding wheelbarrows of rich humus to those problem spots in the garden.

When I first moved to my current home the garden was so hard and clay filled that I nearly had to jackhammer in seeds.  But after years of adding sawdust, compost, animal manures, and mulching with hay (not straw) that breaks down and adds both nutrients and organic material, I’ve a garden to be proud of.  You can, too.


            It goes without saying that there are numerous different ways to make a compost pile, and if you’re a hurry up type, the various gardening and organic magazines offer some that are amazingly rapid.  They’re completely enclosed, generate surprising heat, and turn out compost sometimes once a month or even less.  If you’ve lots of garden wastes, grass, and leaves these machines will provide the makings quickly. 


            Some of us are in-between types who like our compost fairly fast, but don’t like to spend serious money for a composter.  If that’s your situation, build one with wooden sides, and a door that will open, then add material in layers.  I’ve more than once added a layer of dead leaves, then a layer of grass clippings, etc., and a layer of horse manure and straw.  Then three more layers and three more, all well moistened, though not completely soaked.  With so many bacteria from the manure, the pile breaks down fast, and you can spread the result several times a year, rather than once.  A good compromise

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