Feature Story

Compost Nature’s Fertilizer


Woman turns the soil of a compost pile

DEEP WITHIN THE heart of every compost heap, a transformation from life to death to rebirth is taking place. Life is leaving the living plants of yesterday, but in their death these leaves, stalks and grass clippings are passing on their vitality to the coming generations of future seasons. Here in a dank and moldy pile, the wheel of life is turning.

Compost is more than a fertilizer or a healing agent for the soil’s wounds. It is a symbol of continuing life. Nature herself made compost before man first walked the Earth. Leaves, twigs, branches and fruit falling to the forest floor and slowly decomposing is composting. The birds, the insects and the animals all contribute their bodies to the vast and continuous soil rebuilding program of nature.

Compost bins

Compost bins

The compost heap in your garden is an intensified version of this process of death and rebuilding which goes on everywhere in nature. In the course of having a garden, there is always an accumulation of organic wastes on hand: leaves, grass clippings, weeds, and twigs – and since time immemorial, gardeners have been accumulating this material in piles, eventually to work it back into the soil as rich, dark humus.

Because the compost heap is the symbol of nature’s best effort to build soil quality and because compost is the most efficient and practical fertilizer, it has become the heart of organic gardening. The compost heap is to the organic gardener what the pen is to a writer. It is the basic tool to do the job that is to be done. In the case of an organic gardener, the job is the creation of the finest garden soil he knows how to create, and compost has proven itself through thousands of years of use to be the best tool for the job.


A tree decomposes, returning life to the soil

Like everything else a tree decomposes, returning life to the soil in life, a garden will only yield in proportion to what you put into it. To have the most productive soil, a tree decomposes, returning life to the soil necessary to renew and restore the soil year after year. Remember your food quality will only be as good as your soil quality. So the best way to do this is by composting. Here are a few tips to get you started: Mark off an area of about 6 square feet (preferably next to your garden), you can enclose it with chicken wire, scrap wood or bricks. Inside this area, you want to put your dead leaves from last fall, your grass clippings from cutting your lawn, garden refuse like weeds and twigs and other organic matter like kitchen vegetable scraps. Cover this with about an inch of garden soil. You can also add some lime and/or garden fertilizer (optional). Keep adding new layers until the pile is several feet high, watering each layer as it is applied, this will hasten the decomposition process which will take from three months to three years to complete. Turn the pile with a pitchfork occasionally to admit air.

To give your garden “good till”, work in a few layers of compost from your pile every spring. Organic matter in the soil makes it easier for water, air and roots to penetrate; it also holds nutrients and moisture which your plants will eventually use.


Mushrooms growing on decomposing matter.


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