Compost Is Sexy

Think about it. You take a pile of kitchen scraps and mix them with some dead leaves. You throw them on the ground, and millions of bacteria start going at it almost immediately. They reproduce in a mad frenzy of carnality. They don’t give a fig for morals. You add more scraps to the pile and it just eggs them on. Meanwhile they’re eating like wealthy Romans. A whole bacteriological civilization is born, prospers, and dies.

A generation passes, then another, then another. A compost pile is nothing but sex, birth, and death. As a bonus, you get a lovely pile of soil at the end of it that may actually get your vegetables in the newspaper one day, if that sort of thing is important to you.

Gardener porn.
Gardener porn.

You’ll notice in the picture above that I’m using a kind of log cabin style of containment for my compost pile. I learned this from Helen and Scott Nearing, who are considered pioneers of the back-to-the-land movement in the US, and who wrote many books, including The Good Life, which I highly recommend. You can get a pile up to about six feet high using this method, although typically I stop at about four feet.

Every few weeks or couple of months you should dismantle your pile and turn it. Log cabin containment makes this very easy, unlike bins made of solid plastic or nailed-together boards.

Composting can be made to sound complicated, but really it’s the micro-organisms who do all the work. Here’s the end result:

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There is nothing more satisfying than making your own dirt. It’s dark, it’s rich, it retains moisture better than any soil you can buy. It’s full of minerals and nutrients, and, most importantly, worms. No garden can survive without worms, and no worms can survive without rich soil to feed in.

The beauty of a pile like this is that it doesn’t even smell if you have the proper mix of browns (carbon-rich dead things, like leaves) to greens (nitrogen-rich things like broccoli stems and coffee grounds). If your compost pile is stinky, add more browns. If it’s not decomposing, add more greens, or sprinkle it with water. Protect it from rain (too much rain slows decomposition and washes bacteria out of the pile) and remember to turn it every so often to add oxygen to the mix. Depending on a variety of factors, your compost should be giving you lots of beautiful black gold to work with for next season.