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Composting Made Easy
By Jay North

Whether we grow our own food and seek to be more self-sufficient, or shop at our local neighborhood grocer, we all eat off the land. What we feed Mother Earth affects what we have to eat, so understanding what she needs to stay healthy is essential. The best way I’ve found to keep Mother Earth healthy is to feed her exactly what she craves. Food for the earth consists of the components that it requires to give back quality, consumable produce, herbs and beautiful fruits and flowers.

Nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, potash and calcium are all essential to growing quality organic crops in the garden and in the field. Each of these components either can be drawn from a compost bin, thereby re-using quality products, or from a bag or box from a chemical company, thereby introducing harsh chemicals to the earth. The choice is ours to make.

Modern science has developed chemicals that appear to be simpler than composting or using natural fertilizers, but remember the earth responds better and much more long term with exactly what it craves. Most organic gardeners and farmers elect natural products, rather than risk introducing harsh chemicals into the food chain.

Composting is the simple act of recycling and it’s as easy to do as taking out the garbage! Not everyone wants to grow their own garden, not everyone CAN grow their own food. But everyone can seek out organically grown products at the grocer. Those of us who do garden, or farm, know the pure joy of growing one’s own food and the pleasure of beautiful landscapes that we’ve created for ourselves, not to mention the exercise and extra vitamins we get from it.

Composting is an important ingredient to a successful organic garden and is done by simply creating a box or a space for table scraps of vegetables and fruits and adding whatever you can find in the neighborhood to add nutrients. If you live near where livestock in raised, sold, bred or kept, ask the owner of the property if you can collect some of the manure. Cows, horses, chickens, pigeons, doves, rabbits, pigs all create material tailor-made for your compost heap. Add all the organic matter you can to your compost bin.

Here are a few tips for composting:
Yes, it smells and attracts flies. By hanging non toxic pest strips nearby, you can reduce infestation and once compost breaks down, pests are no longer a major problem.
Be sure to place your compost bin as far away from the house as possible.
Turn the material in your compost bin to allow for air circulation and to heat what may be too low or too high in the bin to break down quickly.
Building the bin is easily done with recycled chain link fence, wooden pallets, or a plastic barrel.

If you must, you can purchase ready-made compost such as Bumper Crop from your local garden shop. Whether you buy it or make it yourself, add compost to your garden area in spring and winter.

When you add the compost, also consider adding decomposing pine needles, straw, wood chips, fish guts, fallen leaves, fireplace ashes and decomposed seaweed. Many of these contain essential minerals that actually create the flavor of the foods, or add color to the pretty things that we’re growing.

Large scale growers should first gather all the free compost materials possible, then seek low cost items next.

I remember living near the polo fields in Santa Barbara, California. The management there was always happy to see our truck leave every week with a fresh load from the horse stalls. You will be surprised how people will help you, by providing composting materials, if you ask.

The circle of life begins by feeding the earth. I hope you remember to give Mother Earth what she craves ... the natural goodness from compost.

Jay North is a pioneer in the organic farming industry. He authored 'Getting Started In Organic Gardening for Fun And Profit', as a means of sharing his philosophy of renewal and self-sustained living. He is an internationally recognized authority in organic produce. His book is available on his website.
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This article Copyright ©2004 - Jay North. Reproduced with  permission