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COMPOSTING TOOLS AND TIPS

Soil with good humus virtually pulsates in an orgy of eating,drinking, hot sex, birth, and death. There are protozoa, the smallestforms of animal life, and eel-like nematodes. There are yeasts, fungi,algae, bacteria, and actinomycetes. There can be more individualmicrobes in a handful of compost than the entire human population ofthe world.

Procreation is so furious that a single microbe reaching maturity anddividing within less than half an hour, can, in the course of a single day,grow into 300 million more individuals, and in another day amount tomore than the total number of human beings who have ever lived.Microbes are the kitchen cooks of the soil, making recipes, mixingingredients, and feeding the plants. They excrete a kind of soil glue,called humic acids or colloids, as they work, which helps to build thesoil structure. Microbes also store up soil food in their tiny bodies,releasing it to the plants slowly as they die and decompose. There issomething awesome in the harmony and cooperation that the life forcesbring to bear in creating living soil.

Compost helps build strong soil in nine different ways

There are many ways to make compost. Most methods try to makecompost as quickly as possible. To do that you must skillfully bring theinternal temperature of the compost pile to a certain degree of heat, soyou know that the feverish activity described above is really working tobreak down the materials fast. You also have to turn the pile overperiodically so that everything gets all mixed together and decomposescompletely, and you have to monitor the pile to make sure that it staysat a certain temperature and doesn't get too hot, or lose heat tooquickly.

Such bother!

What's all this hustle and bustle and attentiveness and sweat andstrain? I thought gardening was supposed to be a slow, gentle, relaxed,cultural experience. Too much fuss . . . too much attention to detail! Ihave enough of that at work!

When compared to the anal-retentive, micromanaged "quickcompost" technique, "cold" compost piles are absurdly simple. Theyare much easier to maintain, and provide more organic matter than"hot" piles, but they do take longer to produce. It's so easy to buildand maintain compost, it's a no-brainer. That'swhy we call them Gomer Piles (with sincere apologies to Jim Nabors).


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