Composting Made Easy
Good soil is the key to healthy fruits and vegetables, and compost is the key to fertile soil. Whether you make compost at home or purchase it from a reliable source, it will improve soil structure and aeration, increase the soil’s water-holding capacity, add beneficial microorganisms (which convert nutrients into a more available form for plants) and infuse soil with natural antibiotics.
If you make your own compost pile, it can be started any time of year. The basics are easy: Collect the organic matter (leaves, old mulch, animal manure, strips of newspapers, fresh lawn clippings, fruits, vegetables, kitchen scraps, etc.), pile it up and let it rot. Keep the microorganisms in the pile well supplied with food, air and water. Turn the pile at least once, but turning it too often is a waste of time and effort and upsets the natural process of decomposition. The rest is simple when you use sight, smell and touch.
Sight: Well-ripened compost is a black-brown crumbly material, colored somewhere between chocolate and spice cake.
Smell: When the sweet compost has completed its cycle, it will smell pleasantly earthy, like rich soil.
Touch: The soil should feel like a very damp sponge. If the heap is too hot, your hand will burn (to cool it, add hay).
The Woodchuck’s Guide to Gardening by Ron Krupp (Whetstone Books)