Organic gardening means seeing the garden as an interdependent living system whose elements work together. The soil produces the plant that produces the fruit or the flower. The soil needs compost to produce a healthy plant. Compost is organic material that has decayed and can enrich the soil. It is a way of recycling in the garden, just like in nature.
Organic gardening means seeing the garden as an interdependent living system whose elements work together. The soil produces the plant that produces the fruit or the flower. The soil needs compost to produce a healthy plant.
Compost is organic material that has decayed and can enrich the soil. It is a way of recycling in the garden, just like in nature. Compost releases nutrients into the soil slowly. Some people call compost “brown gold.” Compost, as a major player in the self-sustaining garden, provides a home for earthworms and other beneficial organisms.
Using a compost bin is an easy way to produce and store compost for the garden.
Jim Crockett, in his book “Crockett’s Victory Garden,” devotes a chapter to building a compost bin made up of three sections. The bin measures 9 feet long, and is made of three smaller separate bins, each 3 feet square.
Framing lumber treated with a good wood preservative, but not creosol, is what Crockett recommends for the wood. I used pine and it works fine. Wire fencing covers three sides of each compartment, while the front is made up of loose boards you can remove to add to or take out material from the bin. Each top, framed in wire, lifts so you can work with just that bin, as needed.
Compost needs to age before it can help the garden. The way that I use the bin is that one section takes the material from this year, the second stores last year’s material, and the third I use this season for the garden.
What goes in the bin to become compost is a mixture of green or wet material and brown or dry material. The green material includes garden clippings, discarded food from the kitchen table, materials from any deadheading of plants, flowers that have gone by, etc. But no meat products; you don’t want animals getting into the compost heap. You can put in coffee grounds and tea bags, also.
Have a container in your kitchen to store anything that winds up in the compost bin. The dry or brown material includes mostly leaves from your own garden, and perhaps old potting soil. You can include shredded newspapers as well, but not glossy magazine paper.
Think of lasagna as the image of how you fill the compost bin. Create 1- to 2-inch layers of both wet and dry kinds of materials. You start with dry, then wet, then dry and then more wet, and top it off with dry again. Keep the pile moist, especially during July and August.
Be sure there is a dip in the center of the bin so water does not wash away the nutrients from the pile. What’s neat about this three-section bin is that you are using compost from one section this year, and building up compost in another section for next season.
Just sit back and watch the pile become compost. You don’t have to do anything else.
Thomas Mickey is a master gardener from Quincy, Mass., and a professor at Bridgewater State College. You may reach him at email@example.com.