Pop Quiz: What can provide nutrients for your berry bushes, enhance soil moisture holding capacity and, over time, improve the structure of the soil in your fruit garden?
Bingo —- organic matter!
Organic matter is the foundation and backbone for a strong healthy fruit garden. Yet many forms of organic matter in their native state are not immediately suitable for use. Composting, nature’s ultimate recycling process, is what converts organic matter into it’s useful form. Many people view this process as mysterious, complicated, confusing to downright overwhelming. Fortunately, it need not be. Creating compost is something every gardener can do. In the next few weeks, you can enjoy a series of posts on compost. I’ll break the information down into simple principles to help you understand the compost process and learn what you can do to create “black gold” to enrich your garden.
For the composting process to work efficiently, 4 essential ingredients are needed:
- A nitrogen source to support growth of microorganisms that will oxidize or chemically breakdown the carbon material,
- A carbon source to fuel the oxidation process that creates heat within the compost pile,
- Water, in an appropriate amount, to maintain the carbon breakdown process, and
- Oxygen, a necessary element for the oxidization process to occur
One might argue that time is a fifth essential ingredient. How little or how much time you spend tending to your compost will have an effect on how quickly organic matter breaks down to usable compost. You can take the “dump it in a heap and let nature have at it” approach. This will take more time — 6 to 12 months or more depending on the particle size and original organic material — for compost to be generated. For faster compost, paying attention to what material you start with, keeping the pile sufficiently moist to encourage microbial action, and turning the pile to provide aeration will all speed the creation of high quality compost. It is often confusing to novice gardeners that there is no formula or “one right way” to make compost. The reality is, in nature compost will happen; even if you, the gardener, do nothing. If you would like to take advantage of all that compost can do for your garden, you can help the process along. Now is the perfect time to start composting if you don’t already do so. Upcoming posts will walk you through the “how-to and why.”
For more info see —
Compost Conundrums — Troubleshooting your compost pile